Major Mucha exhibit to open in Prague, but Slav Epic plans see another setback

Some 200 works from the Mucha family collection will be on display this summer to coincide with the Czech presidency of the EU.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 15.06.2022 16:15:00 (updated on 15.06.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

The never-ending saga of where to display Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic has hit another stumbling block. The plans to renovate the Savarin Palace near Prague’s Wenceslas Square, where the Slav Epic was to have been housed, have been rejected by the Czech Ministry of Culture.

But there is also good news for fans of Art Nouveau artist Mucha. Some 200 mostly never-before-seen works will be displayed this summer at the National Gallery in Prague’s Wallenstein Riding School venue. These works will come from the Mucha family’s own private collections.

The Culture Ministry has rejected the plan for renovating the late Baroque-style Savarin Palace as it would endanger the monument reserve. All of Prague’s city center is protected cultural heritage. Crestyl, the firm planning to develop the historic palace buildings into a multi-use complex, is appealing the decision and has asked Culture Minister Martin Baxa for a review.

The complex would have an area of 1.7 hectares and would connect Wenceslas Square with Na Příkopě, Jindřišská, and Panská Streets. The courtyard would hold a market, a restaurant, and a space for social and cultural events.

Crestyl said that it has addressed the concerns previously expressed by the Culture Ministry in 2017. These objections were taken into account in new designs by British architect Thomas Heatherwick, which were unveiled in 2019.

The new plan received positive opinions from the city’s monument care department, the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ), the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR), and the Prague 1 Town Hall.

An agreement to house and display the 20 large-scale paintings of the Slavic Epic in Savarin Palace was signed in February this year by representatives of Prague City Hall, the Mucha Foundation, and Crestyl. The draft agreement was approved by Prague councilors on Jan. 31.

This seemingly ended years of dispute over the ownership of the canvases. The fate and final location of the paintings are now up in the air again until the situation with renovating Savarin Palace is resolved.

The 20 canvases of the Slav Epic are now on display at the chateau in Moravský Krumlov until the end of 2026.

Mucha: Family Collection will mark the Czech EU presidency

But Mucha fans will be able to see a cross-section of the artist’s work at the Wallenstein Riding School (Valdštejnská jízdárna) from July 15 to Oct. 31. The show called Mucha: Family Collection is presented by the Mucha Foundation in cooperation with the Czech Senate.

The 200 mostly never-before-seen works will expose an unknown side of the artist, who while he is closely associated with Art Nouveau, also dabbled in other styles. "For example, we will show his pastels, which are stylistically somewhere between symbolism and expressionism," Mucha’s grandson John Mucha said.

The works, which will include paintings, sculptures, photographs, and advertising items, will map various phases of the artist’s career and travels including his time in Paris and America.

The exhibition is timed to coincide with the Czech Republic holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which starts on July 1. More information can be found on the exhibit website.  

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