December 13, 2018 - National Gallery Prague - Stanislav Kolíbal to represent the Czech Republic at the 58th Venice Biennale
December 13, 2018

National Gallery Prague

Stanislav Kolíbal in his atelier, Prague 2018. © Martin Polák.

Stanislav Kolíbal to represent the Czech Republic at the 58th Venice Biennale
May 11–November 24, 2019

Opening: May 8, 3pm

Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
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Artist: Stanislav Kolíbal

Curator: Dieter Bogner

Commissioner: Adam Budak, National Gallery Prague

National Gallery Prague is proud to announce that Stanislav Kolíbal will represent the Czech Republic at the forthcoming 58th Venice Biennale.

“By selecting the project by Stanislav Kolíbal, the jury honors the outstanding pioneer of Czech avant-garde art and acknowledges his groundbreaking oeuvre which, spanning seven decades, speaks the fundamental language of both the late modern and contemporary times and keeps influencing young generations of artists. In doing so, the art of Kolíbal combines the formative past and the ambiguity of the present as well as it anticipates the unknown of the future. It embodies the maturity of formal and conceptual expression; but it also vigorously performs a unique freshness and relevance for today’s turbulent era of confused order and contested truth,” states Adam Budak, the Commissioner of the Pavilion on behalf of the National Gallery Prague and the Chairman of the international jury which selected the exhibition project (Stanislav Kolíbal - Former Uncertain Anticipated) by Stanislav Kolíbal and the curator Dieter Bogner.

Kolíbal’s exhibition proposal embraces a site-specificity in relation to the masterful architecture of Otakar Novotný's Czech and Slovak Pavilion (1926) and, at the same time, contains a fine conceptual response to the 58th Venice Biennale's main curator Ralph Rugoff’s understanding of art as a sensitive membrane of complexity of precarious times we live in. The austerity of Kolíbal’s vocabulary is an antidote to the poignant wish expressed in Rugoff's main theme, exploring an ironic twist contained in an ancient curse of “may you live in interesting times.” So is the humbleness of Kolíbal’s art and his artistic position: reticent stance, yet passionate and engaged, a belief in art as an active form of liberation and emancipation, simultaneously rebellious, resistant and consensus-seeking, a negotiation of forms and ideas, conversing paradigms, norms and world’s perceptions. Kolíbal’s exhibition proposal offers a journey through an artistic mind, emphasizing the construction of an independent voice where the aesthetic and the political are intertwined in a faithful and uncompromising expression of the “interesting times”: the post-war, the post-1989 and the current development of art.

“For his project in Venice, Stanislav Kolíbal elaborates an overall design in which he confronts selected works of all stages of his artistic activity with a large-scale new "wall drawing." In this total space, the artist initiates a discourse on the precarious relationship between stability and instability, unambiguity and ambiguity, certainty and uncertainty as well as a rational and emotional perception through an interaction of graphical, sculptural and architectural means. These are the issues that have determined his life in dramatically changing political contexts since the 1940s,” explains the curator, Dieter Bogner.

“Kolíbal’s work would hold its own in any international exhibition, but its character is not only international, but also specifically local. There is an interesting time gap in this career, and one that deserves recognition. Work made in the mid 1960s never received its due at the time, given what was happening in the then Czechoslovakia. The choice of Kolíbal for the Czech Pavilion in 2019 is not only a chance to put this right, but also to celebrate the reprise of his practice a whole generation later,” comments Penelope Curtis, the Director of Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, and the jury member.

Stanislav Kolíbal was born in 1925 in Orlová (Těšín, Silesia, former Czechoslovakia) and currently lives and works in Prague. He studied applied graphics at the Academy of Applied Arts and the stage design at the Academy of Performing Arts (both in Prague).

Since the beginning of the 1960s, Kolíbal has been developing a highly individual creative style, engaged in a critical reconsideration of minimalism and conceptual art. His two- and three- dimensional works—blurring the borderlines between painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture and oscillating between illusion and reality—articulate aspects of lability and ambiguity and are based on a critical perception of a social and political context. Applying the language of geometry and abstraction, Kolíbal’s work reflects the dualities of an active thought, trapped in-between a desire to connect or to disrupt, “to express being, that spatial merging of a certain perfection and insufficiency. That which changes, transforms, grows and decays; which does not last.” Although he was included in significant international exhibitions, such as Between Man and Matter (Metropolitan Art Gallery Tokyo, 1970), Konstrukcja w procesie (Łódź, 1981), Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Milan, 1983), Transforming Chronologies (MoMA New York, 2006) or Other Primary Structures (Jewish Museum New York, 2014), and solo exhibitions at the National Gallery Prague (1997) and Stabil/Instabil (Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 2000), Kolíbal’s work remains underrepresented and awaits its contextualization within a broader perspective.

Stanislav Kolíbal’s exhibition in the Czech and Slovak Pavilion is curated by Dieter Bogner, an art historian (PhD), university lecturer, exhibition curator and collector. In 1989 he developed the concept for the MuseumsQuartier Vienna, and managed the MuseumsQuartier development company until 1994. After that he founded (now: bogner.knoll), an internationally active company dedicated to developing museum concepts, curating new displays of museum collections and organizing international exhibitions. Bogner founded the Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation in 1997 and was member of the Board of Trustees of The New Museum of Contemporary Art New York from 1995 to 2018. He curated numerous exhibitions (e.g. Frederic Kiesler, Johannes Itten, Franz West/Heimo Zobernig) and authored publications on modern art, architecture and art theory. Since 1982 he has built up a collection of thirty site specific contemporary art installations (e.g. Dora Maurer, Dan Graham, Stanislav Kolíbal, François Morellet, Heimo Zobernig) at his private Kunstraum at Schloss Buchberg am Kamp near Vienna. There he continues his curatorial activity.

A two-volume book will be released on the occasion of Stanislav Kolíbal’s exhibition in the Czech and Slovak Pavilion, edited by Dieter Bogner, designed by Karel Štědrý and published by König Verlag. It will be composed of a critical biography in a form of an extensive dialogue between the artist and the curator, as well as of texts by art historian Terezie Nekvindová (Academy of Fine Arts Prague), mathematician Jaroslav Nešetřil (Charles University Prague), and others. The book will be accompanied by a photographic essay by Martin Polák with a focus on Stanislav Kolíbal’s studio and a new visual interpretation of his earlier work. 

Czechoslovakia participated in the Biennale in Venice for the first time in 1920. The Czech and Slovak Pavilion designed by the architect Otakar Novotný was erected in 1926. It is one of the most valued structures in the Giardini di Castello premises.

International press contact:
Tereza Ježková, spokesperson
tereza.jezkova [​at​]
T +420 728 301 377 (CZ)

With support of:
Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, Slovak National Gallery

National Gallery Prague
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