Loss of Mucha art work likely to hit small Moravian town hard

The Slav Epic in Moravský Krumlov

Parts of Czech painter Alphonse Mucha’s work the Slav Epic will be carefully crated up on Monday as movers start taking it from its current home in the town of Moravský Krumlov to Prague. The late artist’s family is against this step, and is still fighting a legal battle in an effort to block it. But what significance does the loss of the 20-canvass masterpiece have for the small town of Moravský Krumlov, which has housed it since the 1950s?

Despite repeated attempts, the Mucha family has not been able to prevent the move of the Slav Epic to the Czech capital’s Veletržni Palác. It is to start on Monday with the removal of the first five of the painting’s 20 canvasses from Moravský Krumlov castle, where the work has been on display for nearly 60 years. Officials of the city of Prague, which is the legal owner of the work, argue that the move has to happen immediately due to the poor state of its current exhibition space.

Much attention has been paid to the two main players in the ongoing legal dispute surrounding Mucha’s masterpiece. But what does the loss of this huge attraction mean for the town that has been housing the Slav Epic for decades? Jaroslav Mokrý is the town’s mayor.

“Mucha’s Slav Epic has an irrefutable and boundless significance for the town of Moravský Krumlov, because it is the only great attraction and historical piece that makes a visit to our town worthwhile. Remember, Moravský Krumlov was bombed by the Soviets in the last two days of the Second World War, and nothing was left here, just two historical buildings. And luckily, the Slav Epic was exhibited in our castle. Some 20,000 visitors came to see it each year, and with all the media attention recently, there were even up to 35,000 visitors a year.”

The Mucha family opposes the move of the Slav Epic to Prague’s Veletržni Palác on the grounds that it would only be a temporary solution rather than provide a permanent home for the masterpiece, one of the painter’s conditions when he donated it to the city in 1928.

For the town of Moravský Krumlov, the move of its main attraction will most likely have harsh financial consequences. Mayor Mokrý again.

“If there are between 20,000 to 35,000 visitors a year, then they do not just spend money on the entry fee to see the Slav Epic. Two thirds of them will also eat lunch in our local restaurants, which also opened precisely because of those tourists. If we no longer have these visitors, those restaurants will have to close down.”

Students' protest in Moravský Krumlov,  photo: CTK
Students in the small Moravian town have organized a protest against the move of the Slav Epic, to take place on Sunday. Meanwhile, Prague’s Municipal Gallery has pledged to support Moravský Krumlov by loaning out works by other famous Czech artists for display in its castle, an offer that local officials are currently discussing.