Prague’s Version of the Biennale: Rough, Robust, and Real

Karlin Hall facade

Karlin Hall facade

In art, to each his own, and Prague is ringing in its own version (4th annual) of Venice’s storied Biennale through the end of July. Only Prague hasn’t done it up like Venice does (with, according to the NYT, flotillas of big shiny yachts and huge crowds elbowing to see art in labyrinthine Gothic palazzos). From what I’m reading about Prague’s version, it may be more honest as this stripped-down, bare-bones, low-budget endeavor (perhaps Venice’s started out this way; nah, not likely). Prague’s Biennale is housed in Karlin Hall, a massive and decayed former industrial space. Karlin’s enigmatic appeal prompted one viewer to write on his blog

It was such a refreshing and compelling staging that I wandered, virtually alone in the alleys almost the whole day. I loved that the works were only lit up by natural light, offering a precious and quite unique way to look at Art; no orange spots nailing a painting nor buzzing fluorescent lights disrupting the moment… [it] looks clearly held together by the fierce will of the artists, curators and gallerists who participated.

What does the look of the space matter? Prague is able to boast that at 230 artists, it’s showing the most artists of any biennale, proving that glitz and glamour is not what success requires (even though the woman in the pink wig looks suspiciously like Karlin sold out and in a “deer in headlights” moment roughed up some guerilla glitz and glamour).

Bravo, Prague!

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