What qualifies as art? Or, better yet, what qualifies as good art? Anyone who’s stepped into a gallery knows “art” is up to personal interpretation, and in most cases, everyone’s a critic. You say the Mona Lisa is a masterpiece, I say a visit to the Louvre translates to “what? That’s it?” I say the canvas with the single red dot is thought-provoking, you say your five year old could paint better. Tastes and preferences vary, but could it be possible to bring art together into a melting pot of ideas? Can old masters be shown next to Japanese prints? Can antiquities be shown with modern sculptures? Can a combination of ages, styles, and mediums work in a gallery setting?
One person who tried and succeeded in answering this question was Rudolph II (1552 – 1612) with his incredible “Kunst und Wunderkammer.” Rudolph was an enthusiastic collector (understatement), and whatever sparked his imagination was added to the collection. His Wunderkammer had such things as sculptures, paintings, natural history objects, minerals, fossils, scientific instruments, various curiosities, and let’s just say the man had a thing for taxidermy. Old or new, exquisite or creepy, it didn’t matter to Rudolph and the whole lot was put together into what could be called a “little piece of the universe.” His maniacal collecting extended beyond the Wunderkammer to his own private botanical and zoological gardens. He had a lion! (which by the way, the Swedes STOLE! #neverforget) The entire Wunderkammer met a sad end once Rudolph died, but the idea is still fascinating, and the question is still valid. Can art, free of niche labels, and gathered purely for pleasure, reflection, and curiosity, work?
Opened in 2009 by Oldřich Hejtmánek, Galerie Arcimboldo seeks to capture a bit of the same spirit as Rudolph’s Wunderkammer. The old and new, natural and man-made, curious and mundane, combine to create an entirely new experience. The gallery itself, housed in the 12th century Convent Palace of the Order of the Knights of Malta, only enhances the unique juxtaposition of old and new. “I wanted to create a melting pot of ideas,” says Hejtmánek. “That’s why we use the phrase, ‘adventures in art.’ I want to explore impossible mixtures and keep things open. If the art is good, the art is good. Shit art happens regardless of when it was created.”
Past exhibits include works by contemporary Czech and Slovak artists, floral installations, collections of ancient Chinese treasures, solo exhibitions and occasionally student work. No exhibition at Arcimboldo can be labeled as one thing, instead the ways in which they explore topics through art is limitless. Does it work? Yes. Perhaps like the guests lucky enough to see Rudolph’s Wunderkammer, a visit to Galerie Arcimboldo will give you the opportunity to explore unique combinations and encounter a few surprises, but sadly, no lion.
Upcoming Exhibitions and Auctions:
- March 5 – 9: Nový PORG IB Visual Arts student exhibition
- March 18 – 28: Pre-auction Exhibition
- March 28: Old Masters and 19th Century Art Auction
- April 17 to May 26: Orientation: Asian Art and Antiques in Dialogue with Contemporary Art
118 00 Prague 1