“Golden-donut” gallery for Slav Epic sparks emotions

Visualisation: Arpema / Neovisual.cz

The city of Prague has stepped up the search for a suitable space to house the famous Slav Epic, a cycle of 20 large paintings by Alfons Mucha. After years of inactivity, various Prague districts are putting forward suggestions of where the famous cycle would be displayed to the best advantage. Among the most flamboyant ideas is a plan for a golden oval- shaped gallery which would stand on the riverbank.

Visualisation: Arpema / Neovisual.cz
Alfons Mucha, who regarded the Slav epic as his lifetime achievement, dedicated the series of paintings to Prague in 1928 on condition that a suitable place in the capital was found to exhibit them. To this day, however, Prague City Hall has not been able to reach a decision on where to display the series of monumental canvases and for many years, the paintings resided at the castle of Moravský Krumlov.

While Prague City Hall recently recommended a spot at the former Těšnov railway station where a new building could be erected, two other sites still remain in question. Prague 3 would like to display the cycle of paintings in the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill and Prague 1 has just unveiled a proposal for a striking, golden oval-shaped gallery to be built in a vacant spot next to Prague’s Štefánik Bridge.

The mayor of Prague 1, Oldřich Lomecký, says it’s not up to the city council to decide about the new space for the Slav Epic, arguing that a wider public debate should be raised:

“It is a well-known fact that tourists have been coming to Prague because of its history but apart from the Dancing House, no interesting buildings have been built in the city since the Velvet Revolution. We have proposed this project in order to open up a public debate. It is a design that some will love and others will hate, but such projects always raise emotions.”

The oval-shaped building, raised on three legs, is covered by glass plates coated on the inside, with golden spikes protruding from its roof. The architect Petr Malinský says it’s like a sun rising above the Vltava River.

His proposal for the new gallery has already raised emotions on the social media. Art historian Richard Biegel called it a joke.

Visualisation: Arpema / Neovisual.cz
“For me it is something unbelievable: not just the golden donut situated in the centre of the city but also the fact that the city council wants to build it without a competition. It is a strange design that I can imagine somewhere in Eastern Europe but not in a historical city like Prague, a place which needs good architecture. So I hope this is just a PR stunt and a real debate about a suitable space for Mucha’s paintings will eventually unfold.”

The “golden-donut” is not the first gallery designed for the area in question. In 2004, a Salvador Dalí museum designed by the famous architect Daniel Libeskind was proposed.

In the meantime, The Slav Epic is being prepared for shipment to Asia where it is due to leave on a two-year travelling exhibition, a decision that has been criticized by a number of people, including the painters’ grandson John Mucha.