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Malé náměstí 1, CZ 256 01 Benešov, T: +420 317 729 113, E: recepce@muzeum-umeni-benesov.cz, URL: www.muzeum-umeni-benesov.cz
A LABORATORY OF COLOUR AND SHAPE. Art museums have a tendency to be perceived as quiet temples to the Muses, places we enter in order to pay tribute to the Masters. It seems we do not necessarily have to understand what they contain. In fact, an exaggerated sense of respect can create obstacles to a spontaneous grasp of art. If this happens to be the case, the ideas communicated remain illegible, emotions fail to be transmitted. In our museum, we therefore invite you, before venturing on to the exhibitions, to an encounter with colours and shapes through interactive exhibits helping unveil the secrets of a visual art composition. You can test, for example, the feelings that result from combining different colours, see how tonality affects the perception of perspective, compare impressions from visual and haptic perceptions of the same object, enter a mirror space that stimulates creative imagination, experience a friend effortlessly hovering above the ground with the aid of a mirror, contemplate how various frame types influence the content of a painting, get acquainted with the more substantial meanings of the words mobile and icon, and finally to consider the relationship between image and word that plays an interesting part, for example, in titles. On request, you may borrow an audiovisual relaxation device that will swiftly release everyday tension, enabling you to immerse yourself freely in the world of lines, colours and shapes in our permanent exhibitions.

CZECH PAINTING TODAY. Painting, perhaps the most traditional of art disciplines, is the first exhibition to welcome you on your exploration of the museum. When artists reached the point of maximum abstraction in the 1950’s, many predicted the end of the technique’s development, and not for the first time, either. Some photographers envisaged the death of painting as early as the 19th century. However, reality has shown that people cannot abandon this traditional medium, either as creators or as viewers. In the midst of the electronic civilisation, we are drawn to contact with genuine, non-virtual material, as well as by the chance to trace direct records of the movements of the living hand of an artist. Again and again, painting at the turn of the 20th century has the capacity to surprise through its spontaneous vitality. We have selected specimens of contemporary Czech art presenting, in a broad spectrum of styles and subject matter, the coruscating versatility of the medium. Visitors can view the work of the most renowned Czech artists including, among the older generation, Jiří and Daisy Mrázek, Benešov-born Miloslav Chlupáč and Vladimír Jarcovják. The middle and younger generations are represented by Tomáš Císařovský, Martin Kuriš, Petr Kvíčala, Aleš Lamr, Ivana Lomová, Petr Nikl, Ivan Ouhel, Michael Rittstein and Zorka Ságlová. The exhibition also features interesting works by lesser-known young artists such as Tereza Pavlíková-Smiljanić and Martina Riedlbauchová.
CONTEMPORARY CZECH SCULPTURE. A spacial expression of the human vision is irreplaceable in art, since it works with the natural dimensions of the environment. Although electronic virtual reality now enables 3-D visual experience, this will not be complemented by the haptic, in a convincing manner, for some while to come. Many contemporary exhibitions of sculpture provide visitors with both visual and haptic experiences. In our museum you are allowed to touch the majority of wooden, metal and stone sculptures, and thus experience the artist’s message far more vividly. The first part of the exhibition, situated outside the museum, comprises works by A. Kašpar (Pylon for Three Airships) and P. Opočenský (The Matter of a Hole). There is a great chance that these will stimulate your imagination. The main series of sculptures is located in the courtyard. The corner containing a piece by Jasan Zoubek is reminiscent of the heyday of the quaint yards and places of Prague’s Malá Strana. From the windows of the upper floors you are observed by Kurt Gebauer’s laminate nudes, and from the lawn by reclining figure, the work of Miloslav Chlupáč. You may wish to shake hands with a pair of “walking” statues by Karel Nepraš, and picture a man walking through a wall at Zdeněk Hůla’s gate. The whole space is enlivened by the colours in the work of Aleš Lamr and Olbram Zoubek. Smaller items are to be found in the museum interiors. Among them, Věra Janoušková’s stele appears the most prominent. Another captivating piece is Eva Mixánová’s conceptual-art Paperweight, a witty response to the traditions of the town of Benešov. Even the most qualified of art connoisseurs could testify that some of the cream of Czech art is present here. We will also gladly provide you with information on the 20th-century sculptures in the streets of the town, as well as on the sculptural decoration of the Konopiště chateau park.
CZECH AND SLOVAK PHOTOGRAPHY. It took over a century for photography to persuade lay viewers of the specific sophistication that secures its place among acknowledged art disciplines. Some art museums have been quick to incorporate it into their collections, others are about to do so. The permanent photography exhibition in Benešov was the first to be installed in the Czech Republic, and has remained the most comprehensive, as far as the development of the medium in this country is concerned. It is regularly expanded, and some of the initially less well-represented historical periods are thus complemented. Photography from the 19th century is represented by specimens of the period techniques and genres such as visiting cards, cabinet photographs, landscape stereo-photographs, and many more. The 20th century is captured through the works of some of its photographic luminaries. The exhibition introduces visitors to photo-chemical positives as well as to the whole range of techniques that make the world of photography so rich. One special feature is a room of large-format photographs, characteristic of the latest period. The exhibition also includes The Electronic Museum of Photography, a Scheufler project, with collections of 19th century photographs prevailing. The museum follows in the footsteps of this with its own series (The Photographer’s World) as well as those on loan (Ateliér Šechtl, L. Postupa and others). A sample of the photographic techniques collection is installed separately. The section dedicated to a most prominent Czech teacher of photography Prof. Ján Šmok will be soon enriched by a series of interactive instructional devices enabling visitors to attempt a still-life composition on the screen of a large-format camera, or the lighting of a self-portrait in a mirror.
DRAWING AND GRAPHICS BY MASTERS OF 20TH-CENTURY CZECH ART. Few museums introduce the public to the majority of the most prominent 20th-century Czech artists through original paintings and sculptures. Nevertheless, all regional museum institutions building their own collections should address the issue. An optimum solution might be an exhibition of drawings, graphics and other works on paper, relatively easy to assemble, from works by many painters and sculptors. Our museum has put together such a small exhibition, and we regularly expand it with new items. It is worth noting that the exhibition includes almost everybody to make a name in the Czech 20th century art. Artists from the first half of the 20th century are perhaps better-known: Bílek, Čapek, Kotík, Kupka, Lada, Rabas, Štýrský, Švabinský, Teige, Toyen, Váchal, Zrzavý… Post-war art is characterised by works of J. Bauch, V. Boštík, D. Chatrný, M. Grygar, J. Istler, J. John, O. Karlíková, E. Kmentová, J. Kolář, S. Kolíbal, R. Kratina, K. Lhoták, K. Malich, M. Moucha, K. Pacovská, N. Plíšková, B. Reynek, Z. Seydl, J. Sůra, Z. Sýkora, J. Šalamoun, A. Šimotová, J. Šindler, F. Tichý, J. and K. Válová, K. Valtr, A. Veselý, as well as M. Cihlář, J. David, J. Hampl, J. Hísek, M. Jirák, V. Kokolia, M. Maixner, J. Róna, A. Střížek and others. Furthermore, an exhibition of works on paper might provide impetus for future art collectors. Prints, in particular, can be obtained from second-hand bookshops and at auctions at reasonable prices.
GRAPHIC DESIGN. Graphic design makes up an important part of our museum collections. Unlike other disciplines, the collection is of a comprehensive character, which means that it comprises both works by leading exponents as well as more common pieces and also, on a smaller scale, folk art and kitsch, which are necessary to make the picture complete. A valuable part of the graphic design collection is a large social advertising series presented on the internet (http://muzeum-umeni-benesov.cz/starestranky/jina-priorita). A small exhibition along the museum staircase introduces well-known Czech graphic symbols, signs and logos of the 20th century. Visitors learn who created the famous Baťa logo, the Škoda symbol and the Archa theatre sign. In another section of the exhibition you can view, through minimised reproductions, the complete history of the Czech poster through the late 19th and the 20th centuries. There may be some surprises there: the names of major Czech painters such as Hynais, Stretti, Kupka, Váchal, Bílek, Lada and Špála all appear. The exhibition is enhanced by text profiles and photographs of 24 luminaries of Czech graphic design. The space is symbolically enriched by a small poster wall and a “tower of stupidity”, assembled by children from needless double food wrappings concealing the real amount and character of the goods and generating yet more waste.This exhibition will be followed through by adding interactive exhibits intended for visitors to learn the basics of working with type and the graphic design of printed matter.

ŠUMNÉ BENEŠOVSKO [THE SPRUCE BENEŠOV REGION]. This flagship of the TV director Lipus and the architect Vávra indicates clearly that architecture and 20th-century design are involved. The shooting of the Šumné Benešovsko programme stimulated an exhibition, to be installed as permanent later. In the museum, the visitor may watch the film and browse specialist literature and
photographs drawing the attention to the works of major modern and post-modern architects. The 20th century opens with buildings designed by J. Fanta (Ondřejov observatory) and J. Kotěra (the villa of the writer Herben in Hostišov), followed by constructions by local architects O. Novotný (Benešov) and K. Roškot (Vlašim). The former is known for, among other buildings, the municipal savings bank and a house in Benešov, while the latter is associated with the Vltava dams in Vrané and Štěchovice, as well as with a number of technological and residential facilities. The highlight, and not just for specialists, is a series of summer villas in Nespeky by J. Fragner. The execution of the planning-architectural layout of Zruč nad Sázavou, in the spirit of Baťa’s Zlín designed by renowned 1930’s Czech architects Karfík and Gahura, is no less interesting. Among post-war architecture, a series of recreational constructions by Le Corbusier’s last Czech student, J. Vaculík (Nová Živohošť, Ždáň, Nespeky), stands out. In Sedlčany, one finds a community house designed by J. Hrubý, the architect of the Czechoslovak pavilion at the Brussels Expo 1957. Architects who made their marks in the region in the last quarter of the 20th century include T. Turek, P. Kovář, J. Pleskot, J. Línek, L. Lábus, M. Cajthamlová, and others. Their constructions make up a “live” exhibition in terrain where visitors can assess the utility qualities of the buildings and their synergy with the town, greenery and countryside.

VISUAL LITERACY. In modern times, literacy is associated with two communication systems: the verbal and the pictorial. While the former functions with different languages for national and international communication (e.g. Czech and English), the latter operates within a common international language. Just as verbal communication has rules essential to its function, so the language of “speaking” through colours, signs and graphic symbols has its grammar and “syntax”. International conventions securing the practicality of functional (i.e. non-artistic) visual communication only developed in the last quarter of the 20th century. Therefore, unlike verbal grammar and syntax, it is little taught in schools, and non-systematically. Collaboration with the International Institute for Information Design enables our museum access to quality vocabularies and textbooks of “pictorial language”, and we have thus prepared an exhibition that will introduce the visitor to the basic principles of global visual literacy. The museum “mediatec” contains textbooks and dictionaries for further study. It is also possible to book visual grammar courses designed for different age groups, from kindergarten to various professional categories. We are prepared to provide the information necessary for the building of your own visual information systems. Furthermore, a basic visual literacy overview can be found on the internet, at www.institut-informacniho-designu.cz.

THE MEDIATEC AND THE COLLECTION OF ELECTRONIC ART. In the past, art museums created traditional specialist libraries, most of which were available to the general public. Today there are chiefly mediatecs gathering, apart from written documents, slides, soundtracks, videotapes and various digital carriers of audio-visual records. The museum mediatec includes common, particularly Czech, books and journals on arts and the humanities. This staple base is complemented by exhibition catalogues and a small specialist information design library. The museum also houses an extensive slide collection featuring several thousand reproductions of
20th-century art, and a video library with dozens of art films. However, these are only accessible to qualified experts, including teachers and professors assembling visual accompaniments to lectures. As one of the main exhibition programmes of the museum explores the relationship between art and nature, the video section contains a large ecology-oriented collection intended for schools and civic groups, put together with the collaboration of the Ministry of the Environment. In the study room, you can watch, on request, tens of art and design CD-ROMs. Also available to view are specimens from our (so far rather sparse) collection of electronic art. The study room is designed for individual visitors as well as for the presentation of audio-visual programmes to school groups of under 25 participants.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. People of various social groups take an interest in art and visual communication for different reasons. The museum’s objective is to prepare a rich range of programmes from which visitors can choose according to taste and inclination. Individual cycles of the exhibition programme are dedicated not only to art per se but also to its relations to the most important phenomena of everyday life: the relationship between man and society (social art); artificially created environments (design); nature and the spiritual aspects of life. In the museum, visitors encounter visual art alongside music, dance, literature and theatre. Individual disciplines complement one another not just in content, style and the effect they have on people, but also in the study of their peculiarities. In our museum art can be perceived, as well as lessons given in how to produce it. The attic houses a studio of the local art school, which trains artists-beginners of all age groups. The museum experts can advise more advanced art students as to how to progress – which Czech or international, secondary school or university to select. The institution also provides or mediates specialist consultations for the public in other branches associated with art. Are you buying a painting or a sculpture, are you furnishing a flat, are you choosing a house design or considering a new layout of your garden? Visit us, and we will gladly be of service. Moreover, the museum is happy to incorporate in its collections certain artistic estates or libraries, or purchase them, with our sponsors’ consent. A visit to the Benešov Museum of Art and Design is an experience for your eyes, hands and ears, and more. On the ground floor there is also a tea room and a café where visitors can contemplate the world in its further dimensions.

CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL CENTRES OF THE REGION. The Genius loci of every area is moulded, in particular, by outstanding personalities (). In Benešov and its surroundings, these include the architect Jaroslav Fragner (Nespeky), the founders of the Ondřejov observatory Josef and Jan Frič (Ondřejov), the sculptor Miloslav Chlupáč, the artist Josef Lada (Hrusice), the dancer Milča Mayerová (Nespeky), Baroness Sidonie Nádherná (Vrchotovy Janovice), the poet Vítězslav Nezval (Nespeky), the architect and art theoretician Otakar Novotný, the architect Kamil Roškot (Vlašim), the composer Bedřich Smetana (Růžkovy Lhotice), the palaeontologist and founder of the National Museum Kašpar Sternberg (Český Šternberk), the composer Josef Suk (Křečovice), the mystic Eduard Tomáš (Kamenný Přívoz), the playwright Josef Topol (Poříčí nad Sázavou), the writer Vladislav Vančura, comedians Voskovec and Werich (Sázava), the composer Jan Dismas Zelenka (Louňovice pod Blaníkem), and many others. The spiritual dimension of the region is demarcated by monasteries (), lorettos (), pilgrimage sites () as well as places of alternative spiritual activities () in the dawning multicultural age.