Creative power | Kunsthalle Praha, Czech Republic - Museums Association

Creative power | Kunsthalle Praha, Czech Republic

Simon Stephens explores Prague’s new contemporary art space with its director Ivana Goossen
Refik Anadol’s Infinity Room, which was part of the venue’s opening exhibition, Kinetismus: 100 Years of Electricity in Art

Kunsthalle Praha opened early last year as the first major space dedicated to art to be created in the capital of the Czech Republic in almost 100 years.

The venue has three large galleries, a shop, a bistro and a cafe with a terrace. Kunsthalle Praha has been created in the former Zenger Transformer Station, which used to supply the city with electricity.

Developed to profile modern and contemporary Czech and central European art, the gallery offers a range of educational activities that support its exhibitions.

The venue was developed by the Pudil Family Foundation, a non-profit organisation that supports activities that promote the understanding and appreciation of Czech and international modern and contemporary art.

The foundation was created in 2014 by art collectors Petr Pudil and Pavlína Pudil. Kunsthalle Praha’s opening exhibition was Kinetismus: 100 Years of Electricity in Art.

Kunsthalle Praha’s home is a former power station

The show, which closed in June last year, celebrated the original function of the building and explored how electricity has transformed artistic practice from the start of the 20th century to the present day.


Guest curated by Austrian artist Peter Weibel along with Christelle Havranek, the chief curator at Kunsthalle Praha, and scientific associate Lívia Nolasco-Rózsás, the show included more than 90 works by modern and contemporary artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Olafur Eliasson, Shilpa Gupta, Ryoji Ikeda, William Kentridge, László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray.

The inaugural exhibition was followed by a solo show of contemporary artist Gregor Hildebrandt. The exhibition, titled A Blink of an Eye and the Years are Behind Us, runs until 13 February this year. The German artist has created sculptures, installations and paintings with materials such as compression-moulded vinyl, audiotapes on canvas and cassette shells.

Kunsthalle Praha houses one permanent site-specific installation called Cabinet of Electrical Curiosities by Mark Dion. The American conceptual artist assembled the cabinet out of objects and artefacts collected on site during construction.

Here, Ivana Goossen, director of Kunsthalle Praha, who also manages the activities of the Pudil Family Foundation, explains why the contemporary art gallery is so important.

What does Kunsthalle Praha offer visitors?

Ivana Goossen: Prague has quite a lively art scene already, however the city is still better known for its antique art and architecture rather than its contemporary art scene. The development of Kunsthalle Praha creates more opportunities for artists and curators to conceive and present innovative work and supports their visibility, both locally and internationally.


Our goal is to bring the experience of art to a wide range of audiences through a dynamic programme of exhibitions, educational activities and cultural events. With its award-winning architectural design in the historical centre of Prague, Kunsthalle Praha also offers beautiful views from the cafe, an attractive bistro and a design shop, inviting visitors to return again and again.

Visitors in Kunsthalle Praha’s opening exhibition

How will the exhibition programme develop?

We plan two large exhibitions every year – usually a contextual show and a solo show. In addition, several smaller exhibitions will take turns to occupy the third-floor gallery every year. With our contextual and solo shows, we seek to present interesting perspectives, new research or new work by artists connecting the local and the international art scene, but also work connecting art with other disciplines such as technology, science, music or theatre.

And the smaller exhibitions give space for experimentation, newer artists, site-specific works and thematic projects on a subject such as collecting. We also want to be a space that has a strong educational purpose and supports research, not only by curators, but also by artists.

What types of audiences are visiting?

In the nine months following our opening in February 2022, we have welcomed more than 90,000 visitors from truly diverse backgrounds and attracted almost 9,000 members. I am happy to say that a large proportion of them are young people and many of them come from the local community. As part of our strategy, we decided to offer membership free of charge to those under the age of 26, and we are happy for the vibrant energy that they bring in. We really want to be open and accessible to everyone.


Describe the art scene in the Czech Republic.

There are lots of interesting artists and a number of well-established art institutions. In our part of the world, art institutions and museums are still mostly publicly funded, which is partly a legacy from the communist years when galleries and museums were nationalised. This proved to be a good thing when a crisis such as the pandemic came, but, on the other side, a state budget is never enough for all the competing needs of a museum. It would be great for there to be more financial support for the arts.

Kunsthalle Praha’s opening exhibition was Kinetismus: 100 Years of Electricity in Art

Some private museums are slowly emerging, which I think is a good thing. Some of them combine public and private financing. Another interesting aspect is that during the communist era there was an unofficial or underground art scene, which continues to be documented and discovered. I think there is still a lot of work to do to explore and present this postwar era, to tell the story of our region in a wider international context, and to open up our region to the world even more.

What are your plans for the future?

We want to continue creating innovative exhibition projects, engaging with the widest possible audience, and bringing the experience of art to people who are already art lovers, but also to those who are only just discovering art.

It is important to create these spaces where people can find inspiration, look at life from a different perspective, and allow them to slow down and explore other perspectives. This is particularly important in the age of polarisation, fake news, and so on. It is vital to have a space where you feel welcome and can trust what you read and see.

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