The Jiri Svestka Gallery presents a major work by Siah Armajani

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The Jiri Svestka Gallery in the centre of Prague is currently presenting an exhibition of the major works of the contemporary American artist Siah Armajani. On Saturday, journalists were invited to the official opening. Alena Skodova was there and has this report:

Siah Armajani was born in Persia in 1939 and has lived in Minneapolis since 1960. Having designed and built bridges for pedestrians since 1967 he started producing art that - according to the exhibition catalogue - seeks aesthetic, social and communicative significance. I asked the owner of the gallery, Dr. Jiri Svestka, if he knew the artist personally:

"Yes I know Siah Armajani for about 15 years, I met him together with another artist, Scott Burton, they were at that time artistic advisors at the Battery Park in New York downtown. I was very impressed by the work of Armajani which is on the border between architecture, design and art, and his art is public art, so I invited him to have an exhibition in Prague, and we became friends and now we are his representative gallery in Europe, so our collaboration is more extensive than only his latest exhibition here in Prague."

Mr. Svestka then described the major exhibit, which bears the name 'Glass Front Porch for Walter Benjamin':

"The main art work at the exhibition is a large sculpture, you can walk in, called Glass Front Porch for Walter Benjamin. Armajani delivered us a list of quotations from Nietzsche to Benjamin about Paul Klee, and the sculpture is devoted to this German-Jewish philosopher, who was a very important part of philosophy of the first half of the 20th century, whose philosophy was pre-existentialism and whose work was re-discovered in the 1960s. The sculpture has glass walls and a veranda - you can step in - and that is a kind of house where one must feel unpleasant because it is a transparent house, and it is something quite opposite to a normal house where a person can hide from danger."

Given that the art work has such a complicated background, is it possible for Czech visitors to understand it?

"I'm really surprised over positive attention from the Czech audience how I could see in the beginning of the exhibition. I surprised me because there's really no context in Czech art and Czech culture for this kind of public art. But it seems that the symbolic values and the many possibilities of interpretation are very close to Czech culture and Czech understanding of art."