Curatorial History of Contemporary Art

Tomáš Svoboda (1974) is an active conceptual artist that belongs to generation emerging at the art scene at the beginning of the new millennium. Besides his own free output, he devotes himself to exhibition installations. In his contribution he presents particularly his own participation in the foundation and subsequent administration of Display Gallery in Prague Holešovice.

He founded Display Gallery together with his schoolmate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague – Zbyněk Baladrán and two other friends, art historians Ondřej Chrobák and David Kulhánek. He mentioned they had been motivated by generally unsatisfactory institutional background for contemporary art. As against present days, at that time there was not a single offspace, so the Display foundation was a pioneering act. According to Svoboda, they did not have any specific conception of what type of contemporary art they were going to display there. The only resolution was to exhibit exclusively foreign artists which they managed to accomplish in most cases.
Conceptual artists positively predominated in the gallery programme – conceptual in a very free meaning of the word – usually non painters and non sculptors which was not result of any explicitly formulated conception but of the founders’ similar tastes. Besides exhibitions, also varied lectures, discussions and projections took place there. They named this integral part of the progamme „sublabel“.
In 2006 was Display terminated a lease from the former shop in Prague Holešovice and the following year due to its merger with Tranzit initiative, TranzitDisplay originated and it is in existence up to the present time. The merger with financially well supported Tranzit was according to Svoboda a move motivated by their total exhaution from the demanding gallery operation. Moreover their lifestyle also started to change, they began as eager students, now they were all over thirty and some of them started families. Before they sorted out the situation by the merger, they tried to turn Display into a commercial gallery. They followed example of the Warsaw Raster Gallery which also began as a student offspace and then it, unlike Dispay, very successfully transformed into a commercial institution (representing for example Wilhelm Sasnal). Display was called on to take part in early Vienna Art Fair so Svoboda with his team set out with works they expected to sell like hot cakes. But awaited success did not turn up. The only successful sale was mediated by their friends from Raster. This should have proved they do not have any commercial skills unlike their colleagues from Warsaw. In 2006 they reduced their involvement at the Vienna Fair by presenting a non-tradeable artistic gesture of Dominik Lang. He painted a booth at the fair white, subsequently he took it apart and on the floor remained only the booth’s outline created by the paint that flowed off.

Josef Ledvina

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