Looking for an art trip this summer that avoids the usual suspects (think Venice and the sprawling Documenta 14)? Elephant’s got you covered. Take in three European cities in four gallery-filled days with plenty of stop-offs for food, of course.
Day One: Prague
Start early in the up-and-coming Prague 7 neighbourhood as day one is packed (best to make use of that freshly-landed energy while you’ve still got it). The Trade Fair Palace is currently hosting Magdalena Jetelová as well as Ai Wei Wei’s first ever show in Central Europe. Both artists created works that take advantage of, or respond to, the architecture of the grand and industrial Trade Fair Palace. Ai Wei Wei, as usual, responds to our current global issues with Law of the Journey, a large-scale site-specific installation of a floating black rubber boat filled with over three hundred figures. The work makes a bold statement about the humanitarian crisis and is especially effective through its connection to the building’s past as it used to serve as an assembly point for Jewish people set to be deported to concentration camps.
Next up is DOX Gallery. Get on tram number six for a five-minute ride to explore the Big Bang Data group show which tackles the current boom of information, data patterns, and their influence on society.
Finish the morning with lunch at Parisian-style Bistro 8, and maybe take a quick power nap under the blue sky in one of Prague’s biggest parks Letná, which is just around the corner.
Spend the late afternoon at Meet Factory. In Body Immersed in a Fluid, Lukas Machalicky explores the physicality of objects and their meanings through balancing and establishing architectural structures and forms. End the day with a few drinks in the beer garden or with some good tunes at the Meet Factory music venue.
Day Two: Prague (again)
Move away from the ultra-hipster parts of the town and spend day two in the city centre. Start with a wholehearted breakfast at ESKA (who are rolling back the years with techniques such as fermentation, drying, wood-heating and fire-roasting) to beat the hangover from last night and then take a short underground ride to DSC Gallery to see the exhibition by Roman Tyc. His Im Bodem deals with the displacement of the German population after WWII. Tyc exhibits a variety of objects, including ropes, sculptures made out of pig stomachs, and Sudeten soil, to illustrate the fragile and violate relationship between Czechoslovakia and Germany after the war.
Getting hungry? Grab a quick lunch at Café Mistral then make your way towards the river and the Rudolfinum gallery to see Eberhard Havekost’s exhibition–his paintings take digital photography as their starting point, making the viewer question reality and its reproduction in paintings. The artist explores recurring themes such as nature, the human body, technology and means of transport. Stroll down the quay or take a boat ride towards Rasin riverside and finish the day at one of the riverbank bars.
Day Three: Brno
Stop at EMA Espresso Bar for a much-needed coffee to go before getting on the train from the Prague main station to Brno, which is just two hours away. Everything in Brno is within walking distance so you’ll be able to stroll from place to place.
Start the day at Moravian Gallery and immerse yourself in the alternative cultures of the 1990s in the Czech Republic. Tribes 90 showcases objects, fashion, graphic design and period visual art that explores the freed creativity of the era, but also social challenges and transformations of the first post-communist decade in the country.
Grab a quick lunch at SPOLEK before moving on to the afternoon programme. Beat the post-lunch tiredness at The Brno House of Arts with Sam Lewitt and Cheyney Thompson. Their exhibition Grid. Gradient. Drunken Walks. portrays various ways in which technology influences contemporary art. Lewitt’s installations intervene with the gallery’s use of electricity by converting the energy intended for the building’s lighting into heat. Thompson’s use of technology is not present in the output but rather in his methodology. He creates his paintings and sculptures with the help of computer algorithms that generate a random process.
Spend the rest of the afternoon at FAIT GALLERY at the exhibition of Milan Grygar. The artist has worked with different media over the past fifty years including drawings, paintings, photography and installation, but the theme of his work remains the same–exploring the relationship between the visual and the acoustic. Light, Sound, Motion presents a selection of his large oeuvre in the generous industrial interiors of the gallery.
Day Four: Vienna
Take the ninety-minute train ride from Brno main station to Wien Hauptbahnhof on your final morning. Get on the U1 underground line towards Leopoldau and get off at Stephansplatz. From here it’s just a five-minute walk to Schwarzwaerdel and their exhibition of Katharina Grosse’s new paintings. You will undoubtedly feel the impact of her bold technique of working with spray paint gun and acrylic colours.
Time for a lunch break. Head over to a typically Viennese café, Prückel. Next up is Galerie Krinzinger and Jonathan Meese. The artist’s work is informed by his fascination with Richard Wagner’s oeuvre. Meese’s oil painting, collages, sculptures and drawings refer to Wagner’s work, especially the figure of Parsifal, and the set design and costumes created for his operas.
Take a short walk around the park, Burggarten, and finish your trip at MUMOK. The Viennese museum of modern art has a number of gallery rooms so there are a few options. Start with the group show Woman, which brings together forty-eight artists and explores the 1970s as a starting point for the emancipation of female artists–something which seems especially relevant during Trump’s presidency. Continue your visit with rumours and murmurs. The show combines sculptures, photography, books, and drawings by Martin Beck who is mainly interested in display strategies and the relationship that exhibiting strategies impose on visitors. Finish the trip with a walk around the historic part of Vienna to balance out the contemporary stimuli of the past few days.