Posted : 2013-07-14 19:50
Updated : 2013-07-14 19:50

Art exhibition comes at height of Korea-Czech ties

Exhibition of Czech artist Alfonse Mucha has a meaning in twofold.

First, it is Mucha's first exhibition in Korea.

Second, and more importantly, it came at the height of Korea-Czech relations which is 23 years old.

The Czech Center Korea opened earlier this year. The Korean Air has become the second biggest shareholder of the national Czech Airlines, expanding direct flights between Incheon and Prague seven days per week. The Czech Tourism is to open later this year.

On the cultural front, the Czech Embassy organized an exhibition displaying early 20th century paintings, which was the biggest in scale in recent years. Another big display of Czech glass is on its way.

A Korean soap opera "Lovers in Praha" deserves credits in this development. This put Prague on the top of tourist destinations for Koreans.

Czech Amb. Jaroslav Olsa himself played an important role in the development as well, spearheading a variety of activities. In literature, in particular, he has facilitated many books translated into Korean and Czech languages, respectively, and arranged visits of literary figures of both countries.

The recently-opened Czech Center Korea is expected to facilitate new projects.

The Czech Tourism office will seek to appeal to filmmakers with hopes to have the second Lovers in Praha moment.

With regards to the exhibition, Olsa said Mucha's trip to Korea is a proof of Czech Republic's artistic attraction.

"Mucha's exhibition is another important event which shows my country is not only a great tourist destination and an industrial powerhouse, but is also one of the main centers of European culture. Being in the real heart of Europe, at the crossroads between West and East, the Czech Republic is a cradle of many great artists, musicians and inventors. And Mucha is one of the greatest Czechs on a global scale."

Each of the six parts of the exhibition is a window to turning points of his life.

It starts in Paris where he arrived in 1887 as a student with an affluent financial sponsor. Mucha faced an abrupt end to the support. His financially-struggling life as a poster artist struck a jackpot through Sarah Bernhardt, a Parisian actress.

The poster of Bernhardt "Gismonda" made him a celebrity, which continued until the day he died.

In 1904, Mucha crossed the Atlantic to New York for a visit and was overwhelmed by a warm welcome. A local newspaper spared two full pages for the European artist upon his arrival.

His five trips to New York in five years had a clear purpose which was getting financial support for "The Slav Epic," a series of 20 patriotic pieces of work for which he had worked for almost 20 years. This makes him a real patriot.

Mucha is synonymous with Art Nouveau, a movement opposed to a specific system of artistic principles known as "ism" by certain individual or group of artists.

The variety of works is a proof his palate for the arts. His works range from posters, jewelry, interior decoration, theater, packaging and product designs to painting, book illustrations, sculpture and photography.

"Mucha is understood as a real ‘national' artist and this remained constant during his life. Not surprisingly, he was an author of not only the first Czechoslovak postage stamps but also the very first Czechoslovak banknotes of 1919," Olsa said.

All Mucha's works, including 235 in display, are now supervised by the Mucha Foundation, a private group working to raise awareness of the artist around the world. The president of the foundation, John Mucha, is his grandson.

The exhibition runs until Sept 22.

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