The Stanislav Libenský Award, founded eight years ago, is an international competition recognizing outstanding works in glass by art college graduates. This year’s winners were announced just recently and their work (as well as that of other finalists) is on now on view in a must-see exhibition at Prague’s DOX Centre for Contemporary Art.
I took the opportunity to talk to Kateřina Čapková, the director of the Prague Gallery of Czech Glass which runs the award, asking her first about the famous glassmaker after whom the competition is named.
“The late Stanislav Libenský was a glassmaking legend together with his wife Jaroslava Brychtová, life’s partner and working partner. Together, they developed the technique of melting glass in a mould to which they gave artistic emphasis and their work was both monumental and timeless. Their modification or improvement of their technique made them world famous and of course many of their works are exhibited worldwide.
“In Prague they are famous for the work they did on the façade of the National Theatre’s New Stage, they also designed part of the interior in the famous Ješted Hotel at the top of Ješted mountain and they also made plans for windows for St. Vitus Cathedral, and there are many other things which are lesser known but you can find them all here.”
“In entries, the jury looks at details, how well done they are, whether they are original and whether they have a soul.”
As glassmakers, the connection with architecture was absolutely integral and important.
“That’s right. The glass moulding which they specialized in can of course be done on a smaller scale but they did huge pieces so yes for them architecture and landscape were crucial.
“The competition in his name has now been running for eight years, after Stanislav Libenský’s death in 2002, we put with the his wife and after many discussions saw they we saw eye to eye and agreed on the award to carry his name. The idea was to have a brand new competition for glassmakers and this competition is the only one in the world for fresh graduates, at either the Bachelor’s or Master’s level can apply.”
In terms of the final selection by the jury, what is some of the criteria which the works should meet? What are they looking for?
I have seen works which were chosen in the past… who were this year’s top three?
“The first prize went to Natsuki Katsukawa from Japan for her work Micro World Specimens. Her work was inspired by microscopic living organisms. Here work is an example of what I meant when I discussed criteria: it is super well done, full of details, I have never seen such a beautiful thing and I think the jury would agree. I have been doing this award for five years and to be honest for the very first time when we opened the box with her work, the energy from this work just came out and was unbelievably powerful. It is both soft and hard and very strong.”
“The work of this year’s winner Natsuki Katsukawa was inspired by the world of microscopic organisms and it was apparent it was something very special right out of the box.”
To be surprised like this, both for you and the jury, must be very exciting. What about the second and third place?
“The second place went to Denmark’s Karina Melling whose work is more experimental. Her piece is called Transcendence and combines glass with raw materials sand and earth. In her work the audience can view glass as something other than fragile. Ebibi Salomée got the third-place spot with works that included glass horses and video which provided an unusual element of movement.”
An accompanying exhibition is on display at DOX in Prague, acclaimed as a venue. Is DOX a good fit for the late Stanislav Libenský Award?
“I think it is the best combination. DOX is a centre for contemporary art, and here we are talking about contemporary glass art. I am very happy that we are at DOX: young, fresh new, that is what this is all about.”
For more information about the show and the accompanying Czech-English language catalogue please visit www.prazskagalerie.cz/en. You can also look up DOX online.
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