National Gallery Prague looks at beloved Czech sport through the lens of art

Opening today, Get on the Ice! Hockey and Ice Skating in Art features nearly 100 hockey- and ice-skating themed works from Old Masters to contemporary art. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 26.04.2024 11:30:00 (updated on 26.04.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

The National Gallery Prague (NGP) is taking an artistic look at two beloved Czech winter traditions – hockey and ice skating – in a new exhibition opening on April 26.

Get on the Ice! Hockey and Ice Skating in Art will feature nearly 100 works from Czech institutional and private collections across various media. Spanning centuries from Old Masters to contemporary pieces, the exhibit examines how these popular pastimes became indelible part the of Czech culture and national identity.

How does a folksy pasttime become art?

“We will show visitors how paintings of Old Masters such as Pieter Brueghel II and works by top 19th-century Czech artists like August Bedřich Piepenhagen captured the emotion and life of skating and the early days of hockey,” said NGP director Alicja Knast at the exhibit's opening. The show also displays 20th-century pieces on the theme and new works created specifically for NGP by contemporary Czech artists.

NGP's new exhibit, Get on the Ice! Hockey and Ice Skating in Art, shows how skating and hockey, much-loved sports in Bohemia, began to be perceived as part of the national identity. Ice skating began on frozen canals, lakes, and rivers in the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries, gradually making its way to the Czech lands. At the beginning of the 20th century, real hockey began to be played in the country, with the first ice rink in the territory of Czechoslovakia built in the center of Prague: Štvanice Winter Stadium was the first to boast an artificial ice surface.

Among the highlights are Marcel Niederle’s drawings, which provide glimpses into the world of early hockey matches and victories, photographs recording pivotal moments, and experimental approaches by Jiří Kolář and others. The 1990s ushered in more critical and ironic perspectives, represented by works from Krištof Kintera, Jiří Surůvka, and Ondřej Kohout.

"We’ve collaborated with the gallery to commission new hockey-themed pieces by Alena Anderlová, Pavel Jestřáb, Laura Limbourg, and others specifically for this exhibition,” said Petr Volf of the Sport in Art platform, which partnered with NGP on the show.

Vlastimil Beneš, S.K. Orion
Vlastimil Beneš, S.K. Orion, 1965.

Ice Hockey World Championship was inspiration

The exhibition’s opening coincides fortuitously with Prague hosting the 2024 Ice Hockey World Championship. Komerční Banka, the show's general partner, highlighted the significance.

“On our 10th anniversary of collaborating with the National Gallery Prague, we gave each other this unique gift combining hockey and art in the year the national team plays worlds at home," said Hana Kovářová, the bank’s executive director for brand strategy and communication. “I invite everyone to explore how this fundamental Czech passion is reflected in art.”

On the Ice! will be on display until Oct. 27 at the Kinský Palace on Old Town Square, a fitting venue linked to hockey history and achievements. The exhibition has an accompanying Czech and English catalog.

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