Poster columns bring Masaryk's life to the streets in new exhibition
Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, the founding father of the first Czechoslovak Republic, is a real icon to many Czechs. Now a new project is bringing the country's first president to the streets of the Czech capital - in an exhibition in the form of a series of poster columns. Organisers say they are hoping the people of Prague become "accidental" visitors to the five-part street exhibition.
The first column is outside Masaryk train station just on the corner of Na Florenci and Havlickova. The posters there concern Masaryk's early life. There are some pictures of him as a child and as a young man, and moving round the column there's a map guiding chance visitors to the next column, with more information about the life of the founder of Czechoslovakia. Finally there is a small patch where there is no poster but daubed there is a famous quotation from Masaryk, 'nebat se a nekrast!', which means 'don't be afraid and don't steal!'
The idea for this street exhibition came from Zuzana Brikciusova:
"I was convinced that it worked well in Vienna two years ago when there was a similar exhibition about Sigmund Freud. That was in conjunction with the Vienna city authorities, just as this is in conjunction with the Prague City Hall. The idea is actually not to force people who don't always have the desire to go to permanent galleries. I want people to come across the work of Masaryk in the streets, so that people will be accidental visitors. There's a map, so if people want to, they can travel. This is only one of five parts of the exhibition, so they can go and look at the others as well."
The columns follow a route through the centre of the city, finishing up at Krizovnicke, outside the entrance to the School of Dance. With such prominent positions in the very heart of Prague, the columns should attract plenty of attention, but are they necessarily better than permanent museums? Zuzana Brikciusova again:
"I don't think that this is better, but it's something different, and that means that it has a sort of attraction for people who simply don't go to museums and galleries, because they have are in a way ashamed of that space, but here they aren't, because the columns offer a journey. So it's not better but it's a different possibility which is completely user-friendly and safe."
Masaryk is certainly a pivotal figure in Czech national consciousness and history, but according to Eugen Brikcius, the co-organiser of the exhibition, his words are even more poignant today:
"Masaryk is important to us because he said things that today are more relevant than in the past. Perhaps as early as 1929 he was already telling the people to behave as Europeans, and I will repeat this for him, whether we consider ourselves so or not, we should behave as Europeans."