When the artist Alfons Mucha died in 1939, he left his masterpiece of 20 canvases entitled the Slav Epic, to the City of Prague – but on the condition that an appropriate space be built for it. This has not happened to date and now the city would like to remove the work from the chateau in Moravský Krumlov where it is currently housed and install it in Prague’s Veletržní Palác. The Mucha family, however, is opposed, and is filing for an injunction against the city to keep the paintings where they are until they are given a permanent residence. Earlier today, we spoke with the head of the Mucha Foundation and grandson of the celebrated Art Nouveau painter, John Mucha, and asked him to explain why he is seeking to stop the city from moving the work.
“The reason is that the City of Prague has made a decision to move it to a temporary place without any consultation with the family. But, I mean, one can always sit down afterwards and discuss it, but the City of Prague knew very well that this was not acceptable to the family. Following the decision I had a meeting with the City Council to see if there was some sort of possible compromise, but nothing. And because of the timing issue, we’ve been given no alternative but to take this step.”
What is the city’s motivation in your view, and what have they stated their motivation to be? They say I believe that the chateau in Moravský Krumlov is in bad condition.
“It is interesting that the City Council has come up with a statement, as you say, that, yes, the castle is in a terrible state, implying that the works could be in danger. And one of the councillors says specifically that apparently even our experts agree with that view. This is not true. Out expert, who is Professor Stretti, a very respected figure in the conservation world did come with me a couple of weeks ago to the castle. There is no debate that if you come to the castle the external buildings are in a bad shape, but the part where the Slav Epic is has been carefully looked after and kept up-to-date by Moravský Krumlov for more than 40 years.”
The paintings would be more visible if they were in Prague, even temporarily, so why would you be opposed to their being relocated to Veletržní Palác?
“Because, it sounds pompous, but I’m charged with protecting my grandfather’s heritage and wishes. And what I’m trying to achieve is to have a special building, a new building constructed. We have submitted full plans to the City Council. The extraordinary thing is that I even have an investor who would pay for the whole thing - we’re talking something in the region of 50 or 60 million dollars. If we had a green light we could start construction tomorrow, and the Slav Epic could be installed in an appropriate place, and with all the backup material. I have a vision where I would give all the study material to make it a sort of three-dimensional exhibition rather than just 20 canvases, so you have the whole story about the Epic: how it came into being, what was the background and so on, which would make it a unique artistic experience in the world.”
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