Czech Cubism in the stylish interiors of the House at the Black Madonna
The Museum of Decorative Arts present their collections in the peerless Cubist House of the Black Madonna, which is an ideal backdrop, or rather, a fitting complement to them. The original objects and furniture of the period are shown in an authentic environment – the exhibition space becomes part of the exhibition.
The seat of the Czech Cubism exhibition is based at the distinctive listed building – the House of the Black Madonna at the ‘Ovocný trh’ former fruit market in the centre of Prague. The building, which was originally a trading house, is itself a cubist gem. Its author is Josef Gočár – one of the foremost Czech architects of the first half of the 20th century. Although his skills found expression primarily in architecture, his designs for furniture, clocks and lighting have, in many cases, defined Czech Cubism as a distinctive style in its own right.
The sharp edges, intersecting planes, crystalline structures – the typical elements of Czech Cubism, make for a wholly original art movement in world terms, one that was born in Prague around 1910, when a group of young avant-garde architects and artists applied the revolutionary Cubist principles, as painted by Picasso and Braque, to architecture and applied art. Cubism was originally a movement in French painting, which went on to find its own niche in Czech architecture. It is based on the notion that the fundamental physical shape is a cube, and therefore any work of art composed of geometric shapes derived from a cube is more impressive and content-rich.
The “Czech Cubism” exhibition on two floors of the building shows a cross-section of Czech Cubism, focused on interior design and décor of the 1911–1914 period, up to the early 1920s. A representative selection of significant furniture suites and standalone pieces by Pavel Janák, Josef Gočár, Vlastislav Hofman, Josef Chochol, Otakar Novotný and Antonín Procházka is complemented by pottery, ironwork, ornamental wallpaper designs, posters and applied art. The conceptual interlinking of free and applied art in the Cubist period is represented by selected works of Cubist painting and sculpture – paintings by Emil Filla, Bohumil Kubišta, Josef Čapek, Václav Špála and Otokar Kubín and sculptures by Otto Gutfreund. The architecture is brought closer by projections derived from contemporary architecture, complemented by a selection of period photos and published architectural designs.
As part of the exhibition there is also an active zone aimed at Cubist furniture. Far from all the items being of the “do not touch” variety – you are able to try them out, how it feels to sit on a Cubist chair, for instance.
After your visit to the exhibition, you can indulge in an additional serving of Cubism. The Grand Café Orient on the first floor of the House at the Black Madonna is historically the first, and the only Cubist coffee house in the world. Its renovated interior in the Cubist style, together with its tempting selection of dishes and drinks, brings more than a reminiscence of the past glory of café society; a delight for all five senses. Among your options is a specifically ‘Cubist’ Czech cream puff.