Curatorial History of Contemporary Art

The gallerist and curator Jaroslav Krbůšek has been dealing with Czech art operation since the 1980ies. He founded the Opatov Gallery in 1984 where he arranged before the gallery closed down in 1992, for 111 exhibitions.Between 1994 and 1997 he ran the Ruce Gallery, from 1995 to 2002 he worked as a curator of the Václav Špála Gallery. In his report he focuses on his activities in the Opatov Gallery.

As an initiatory moment of his curator and gallery work he mentions his involvement in the Minisalon preparation. Joska Skalník organized this event in 1984 within his activity in the Jazz Section of the Czech Musicians’ Union. Wooden boxes of 15x15x15 cm were distributed to distinguished Czech artists who were expelled from the official exhibition sphere for political reasons and they were asked to create a miniature artwork inside them. Krbůšek distributed the boxes to the artists. The same year the Home Office decided to abolish the Jazz Section. The Opatov Gallery foundation on the Prague outskirts was an attempt to fill the incurred vacuum. The dramaturgy of – according to general standards – an unattractive expositional place which was located in a community centre in the middle of prefabricated housing estate on the Prague periphery, was not generation defined nor it preferred any specific creative movement or ideology.

Krbůšek mentions that the only one criterion while deciding whether to display or not was „the quality“. Opatov would exhibit artwork that could only be presented with difficulties if ever in the political conditions at that time. Therefore the gallery also served a social function of a place where the art community meet. Presented were pivotal figures of the 1960 generation such as Karel Nepraš, Adriena Šimotová or Karel Malich or the representatives of the 70ies such as Jiří Sozanský, Václav Bláha or Michael Rittstein and eventually the youngest proponents of the coming „post-modern“ generation – among others for example Jiří David, Jaroslav Róna or Stanislav Diviš. Exhibition preparations were practical, in the sense of „making exhibition“ rather than autonomously sensed role of the curator and they were usually determined by a dialogue with the exhibited artist. The only exhibitions that stepped out this scheme were the ones prepared by Jana and Jiří Ševčík – theoreticians of the nascent Czech post-modernism. They were regarded as an original authorial performance to a certain extent.

Jaroslav Krbůšek approached his role practically and organizationally which he demonstrates in his report were he principally describes all the peripeteias with the gallery organization in the late normalization conditions – negotiations with administrative workers who had to give a seal of approval to the gallery programme or cases when exhibitions were banned of political reasons.

Josef Ledvina

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