Curatorial History of Contemporary Art

Olga Malá´s activities as a curator are closely linked with the City Gallery Prague where she organized together with Karel Srp  many exhibitions of Czech and foreign art in the 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century.
Among the most significant activities of the pair Malá – Srp was the foundation of the Czech Young Art Biennale ZVON. They organized the first shows in 1994, 1996 and 1999, the following ones were realized by external curators. Among the artists who displayed their work in the 1990s were artists who gradually began to play a key role in Czech art – let us name among others e.g. Milena Dopitová, Krištof Kintera, Federico Diaz, Veronika Bromová, Markéta Othová or Jiří Černický. The first exhibitions of the Czech Young Art Biennale were also connected with purchases for the collections of the City Gallery of Prague. Olga Malá and Karel Srp were also the first to attempt to define art of the 1990s through a longterm exhibition of contemporary art (Současné umění; Dům U Zlatého prstenu, 1998-2000) , which included works by artists who took part in the first biennales. Olga Malá claimed that art of this period showed strong „shared visuality“. This visual compactness was to become a key to sucessful interception of period tendencies within the framework of exhibitions and purchases for the collection of the City Gallery Prague.
In the 1990s the pair of curators Srp – Malá prepared several exhibitions introducing foreign art. In 1998 their project entitled Close Echoes – Public Body & Artificial Space displayed in the Municipal Library raised controversial reactions also due to the sexually explicit and openly drastic nature of some exhibits. Czech artists were confronted with a variety of foreign artists – e.g. Douglas Gordon, Richard Billingham or Mona Hatoum. In her presentation Olga Malá focused mainly on describing all the organizational problems connected with the negotiations of a local Czech institution with the global world of art.
In the new millenium, in 2003, again co-operating with Karl Srp, Malá organized the exhibition dealing with painting called Perfect tense – Painting today in the Riding School at the Prague Castle. This grand-scale exhibition presenting contemporary examples of the classical medium raised also negative reactions, from artists whose work communicated with current non-painting manifestations and was regularly exhibited within their context (e.g. Jan Šerých). These artists felt inadequately equalized with those artists who regarded their tendency towards painting as a gesture of both passive and active resistence towards non-painting „trends“. Independently Olga Malá prepared the exhibition of Ivan Kafka for the Czechoslovak pavillion at the Venice Bienalle in 1997.

Josef Ledvina

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