Czech artist David Černý opens his 'Musoleum' in a former distillery this weekend

The artist says the new space is meant to be both a museum and mausoleum for his older works that have been in storage.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 31.03.2023 10:22:00 (updated on 31.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech sculptor David Černý is opening a new art gallery on April 1 in Prague’s Smíchov district in the historical part of a former distillery. The five-story building will feature a permanent exhibition of Černý’s own work plus one room for guest artists. The name of the new gallery, Musoleum, is a pun, mixing the words “museum” and “mausoleum.”

The Lihovar distillery closed at the turn of the millennium and partly collapsed in 2013. The gallery is in the main building, named Varna, which held boilers for distilling. Developer Trigema is creating a residential neighborhood on the site, with the Varna building as its visual symbol. The first apartments in the complex should open by the end of the year.

"The building is a listed monument, so it was not possible to knock it down and build a normal house here. So we decided to preserve it, and finally the decision was made to make it a cultural institution. Somehow, over time, it became the David Černý museum. Then I found out that it is not a museum, but more like a mausoleum," Černý told ČTK. The exhibition brings together works that have been scattered around the world or stored away.

Černý is known for his sculptures such as the babies climbing up Prague's Žižkov TV Tower, the pink tank, the walking Trabant car, and the London booster – a double-decker bus that does pushups. Musoleum will have models of many of these large works plus his original smaller-scale collages and installations. The first guest artist to exhibit will be Dan Materna, with pictures of the distillery complex.

Musoleum’s 1,200 square meters of space include a bar and cafe with many historical industrial elements preserved. Visitors will also be able to stop on two outdoor terraces with views of the city.

The Varna building. Photo: Trigema
The Varna building. Photo: Trigema

Not a fan of bureaucracy

Černý said that a few years ago he was approached by the National Gallery to do an exhibition. "But the agreement with that institution was so terribly inflexible, and it was postponed twice. I finally decided that I no longer wanted anything to do with a state institution. That was the driving force," he said.

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The new gallery is located close to MeetFactory, art and cultural center run by Černý and a group of his friends. Meet Factory is another pun, as the original location was in a former slaughterhouse. It moved to a railway building after the 2003 floods but kept the original name.

Černý's massive works are a part of the cityscape

Černý has been working together with Trigema and other developers to add art to new construction projects. His massive standing woman named Lilith was recently completed in Prague’s Karlín district on the site of another residential complex. His most ambitious plan is for a crashed ship fused into the side of a high-rise residential tower in Prague’s Nové Butovice neighborhood.

This is not the only former industrial space to be turned into a museum recently. In September 2022, a former electrical substation in Prague’s Malá Strana district opened as Kunsthalle Praha, a showcase for 20th and 21st-century art.

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