Slav Epic finally on display
National Gallery renovations complete; Mucha work unveiled
Posted: May 16, 2012
After a two-year tug-of-war over Alfons Mucha's Slav Epic between Prague and the Moravian town of Moravský Krumlov, the renowned cycle of 20 monumental canvases depicting Slavic mythology is now on display at the National Gallery's Veletržní Palace and will be for the next two years.
It is a return to the place where the works were first shown to the public in 1928 but still fails to live up to Mucha's dying wish in bequeathing the works to the City of Prague. He had hoped a new home, specifically designed to house the works, would be built.
While visitors to Prague may be happy to finally see the paintings, the mayor of Moravský Krumlov and others from the town, which has hosted the works from 1963 through last year, are angry they were not invited to the exhibition opening May 10.
"It's rather arrogant behavior toward the people who have taken care of the Epic for such a long time," said Mayor Tomáš Třetina, adding the loss of the masterpieces means the town will lose some 30,000 tourist visits a year.
Prague officials, backed by a court ruling, seized the paintings last year, citing the declining state of the Moravský Krumlov chateau where the works were on display.
"We are still in the process of seeking resources for renovation of our chateau, so far having gathered 5 million Kč for this year's renovations and 6 million Kč for next year," Třetina said.
Veletržní Palace itself underwent renovations to prepare for housing the famed artwork. City Hall chipped in some 15 million Kč, but the overall renovation bill topped 20 million Kč, according to city officials. The changes included installing a new heating system and new lighting. Milan Bufka, director of the Prague City Gallery - which is officially charged with caring for the Slav Epic -- hopes to make up the difference with admissions proceeds over the next five years, although the National Gallery is only slated to display the paintings for the next two.
Mucha's grandson continues to lobby for the Art Nouveau works to eventually go on display in Prague's main train station, once renovations to the Art Nouveau portions of that building are complete in 2014. But the viability of that plan remain in question with City Councilor for Culture Václav Novotný (TOP 09), who rejects the idea as too costly.
"The financial demands for placing the Slav Epic in the building of the main train station are exaggerated, and at this point it seems rather surreal," he said. "We are still in touch with the descendants of the painter, but it will be rather difficult to meet all their requests."
Novotný added that the current conditions of the Moravian chateau also remain unsatisfactory.
The Slav Epic can be viewed Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Admission is 180 Kč for adults and 60 Kč for students and children over 6. Entrance for senior citizens is 90 Kč.
Klára Jiřičná can be reached at
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