'Masters of European glass' exhibition. Ekofilm 2002 festival of films on the environment

The Cat by Pavel Hlava

A new exhibition has opened at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, called Masters of European Glass. It is the first part of a whole series of exhibitions that will present works by renowned Czech glass artists. The first one is Pavel Hlava, who turned 74 earlier this year and is mostly known for his glass of everyday use - mostly glasses for all kinds of beverages that one can still see in many restaurants and many people also use at home. Many people use glasses and cannot see their creator, and the present exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts has a special accompanying programme for visitors of the exhibition - half a play, half a competition, with glass of everyday use as the main theme.

I spoke with the director of the Museum, dr. Helena Koenigsmarkova, who told me more about the main idea behind organizing this series of exhibitions:

"I think our country is famous for its glass, the so-called Bohemian glass, but the artists who started in the second half of the 20th century, mostly became being important for the development of artistic glass not only in the Czech Lands but also in Europe and we can proudly say that some were important even for the world glass creation, or the development of glass in the world scale."

What will the whole project look like?

"We don't have an exact schedule who will be represented in the years to come, it depends on the work of curators to prepare, collect and study the works of important glass artists, but after the death of Stanislav Libensky, who was really a world-famous artist, we realized that Mr. Pavel Hlava is also very well known in the world, especially in the United States and in Japan, but lately a little bit forgotten in our country. His importance for the development of Czech glass has more sides, because he designed the best of use-glass which was produced in the automatic production in Czech glassworks in the 1970s and 80s. People can still use it in restaurants and buy in shops. But his artistic works from the last fifteen years - because since 1985 he's focussed only on his own artistic glasswork - I think it will be a bit of surprise even for the Czech public to see what he did recently."

In your museum - is there a collection of 20th century glass as well?

"Yes, we collect 20th century glass continuously in fact, because our museum was quite involved in collecting, even somehow supporting the development of Czech glass with exhibitions, with organizing competitions in the past - and we try to do it also today."

So you have Mr. Hlava's glass, too...

"Yes, we collect his works- and what we can see at this exhibition is also his early work, for instance his wonderful 'vases for one flower' as they were called, which were very famous in the 1960s as well as his glass of everyday use, which I have mentioned already."

In the early 1980s Mr. Hlava designed several sets which are still in use. He told me why his main interest was focussed on glass of everyday use:

"I was employed at the Institute of Interior and Clothes Design and I was assigned concrete tasks which I had - and liked to - fulfill. I myself was seeking orders which I felt would suit my style. Some time I worked free-lance, but then I realized it would be more convenient for me to get a permanent job. And it was at that institute that I started creating glass for everyday use, which I later developed a great love for."

Mr. Hlava explained that he, together with a friend who was employed at the CEDOK travel agency, visited restaurants and gave glassware samples to waiters for testing. Since Mr. Hlava knew that his glasses would be produced automatically, not by blowing each piece individually, he had to find out whether they were easy to make by machine, but the waiters also tested their functions - whether they were not too heavy, whether they were easy to wash etc. Only after thorough tests did Mr. Hlava send his designs to the glass-producing factory.

The exhibition of his works - mostly from recent years, which includes richly coloured glass objects - will last till November 17th.

Next week, an international festival on environmental films, called Ekofilm, starts in the south Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov. The festival first opened in the year 1974 as a contribution to the World Environmental Day declared back then for the first time by the United Nations. The first 22 festivals were held in the north Moravian city of Ostrava, and as environmental issues were a sphere highly neglected by the Communist regime - Czechoslovakia in the 1980s was one of the most polluted countries in Europe -Ekofilm at those times was a kind of annual meeting of experts and the broader public in what was the only discussion platform for environmental problems.

Ekofilm's director, Frantisek Urban, told me more about this year's event:

"The festival is organized every year in the first week of October, and this year it' the 28th year, and it is organized in Cesky Krumlov which is a relatively small but ancient town in south Bohemia which is protected as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO . The festival is very popular and we can say that it is probably the oldest film festival on the environment and natural and cultural heritage held in the world."

Ekofilm has recently become a member of an international 'festival of festivals' on the environment, called ECOmove, which was established last year in Berlin. Frantisek Urban explained that there were not many such festivals:

"There are just a few festivals in Europe on the same theme and this is one of them. The other festivals, and there are now only six in the world - one in Japan and five in Europe - formed last year an international federation which is called ECOmove International, it is registered in Germany, and it is a federation which promotes film festivals throughout the world and it is rather popular. This year we participated at the Johannesburg world summit, there was a Jossi film festival as they called that, and the ECOmove International sent some films and presented itself as a new international federation of festivals on environment and natural and cultural heritage."

Ekofilm is an international competition of new Czech and foreign films and videos concerning not only the environment but life style and natural and cultural heritage as well. Mr. Frantisek Urban again:

"This year we received 135 films, we have a pre-selection committee because it is not possible to put all the 135 films into the competition. So the pre-selection committee had a hard work to do, because they can accept only some 55 to 60 films, no more. The films come from 27countries not only from Europe, but from all over the world, for example from the United States, New Zealand, India, the Philippines and other countries. So the programme is very rich and I'm sure that it will be successful. I would like to say that we show those films -not only the films that are in the competition but also some other films for information - at free screenings that are held at the castle of Cesky Krumlov and is open to the public free of charge."

This year's Ekofilm festival will take place in Cesky Krumlov between October 2nd and 6th.