Volf's Revier: Unprecedented Symbiosis

Volf's Revier: Unprecedented Symbiosis

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How Sports Art in the Kinský Palace Intertwined with Life in Old Town Square

The exhibition "Onto the Ice!" is, to say the least, remarkable. If I were to put it less mildly, I would call it groundbreaking: it is the first time in history that the National Gallery Prague has decided to organize an exhibition with a sports theme. I'll reveal how it came about. It is the result of an energetic synergy of several factors. Petr Lešek (Raul, Sport in Art) initiated the movement with the idea of a major hockey exhibition, which excited both Komerční banka and the National Gallery Prague, which have a long-standing partnership. I was assigned the role of curator for the section mapping the period after 1989, particularly contemporary works.

It was exhilarating.

The exhibition Na led!, photo by Jakub Přecechtěl

It is unlikely that I will ever again have the chance to work in the Kinský Palace on Old Town Square, navigating its beautiful rococo architecture while deciding with artists where to place their paintings or sculptures. The exhibition was accompanied by extraordinarily thrilling moments, for which one can hardly prepare. We worked on it throughout last year, a time when it was difficult to predict how the Czech hockey players would fare in the World Championship, which was set to start shortly after the exhibition opened. The catalog texts were completed long before the April opening: "Will there be jumping on Old Town Square again? We have to wait until May 2024 to find out," concluded František Kolář, a sports historian, in his introductory essay.

We worked on the exhibition throughout last year, a time when it was difficult to predict how the Czech hockey players would fare in the World Championship.

I admit I was skeptical, despite the idea of connecting the photos from the exhibition, reminiscent of the wild celebrations in Old Town Square after Nagano in February 1998, with a real festivity happening in the same place more than a quarter-century later, if “our boys” succeeded. The closer the championship came, the more restless I became. I feared a repeat of 2004, when the Czech team, led by Jaromír Jágr, was eliminated in the quarterfinals, leading to a deafening silence that still rings in my ears. But this time, it turned out exactly as it should have and what only the biggest dreamers could imagine. On Sunday, May 26, the Czechs defeated Switzerland and became world champions.

The exhibition Na led!, view of the windows overlooking Old Town Square, photo by Jakub Přecechtěl

Old Town Square, 2024. Photo by Tereza Belingerová from the windows of the Na led! exhibition in the Kinský Palace.

Their triumph was watched by a packed Old Town Square, the Kinský Palace was besieged, and some hockey fans probably visited the exhibition before the game even started. The next day, the square celebrated together with the creators of this long-unseen national joy. There was singing, jumping, and drinking. It was a kind of euphoric happening, a continuation of a showcase the world had never seen before: life and sport intertwined with art to an unprecedented degree.

Old Town Square, 2024. Photo by Tereza Belingerová from the windows of the Na led! exhibition in the Kinský Palace.

You can read more of Petr Volf's insights from the world of art and sport here.

The exhibition Na led!, featuring hockey and skating in paintings, will be on display at the National Gallery Prague until October 27, 2024.

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Published 18.06.2024

Duchovní otec myšlenky Sport in Art. Uznávaný publicista a spisovatel, který se dlouhodobě zabývá tématem sportu v umění. Je autorem první české knihy mapující sport v umění s názvem Sport je umění a výstavy SPORTU ZDAR! v centru DOX.

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