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            sport : politics : culture
in the work of Zdeňek Němeček

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The life and work of Zdeněk Němeček, set in the second half of the twentieth century, open up themes of both the past and present. Němeček's work, often produced as official and representative commissions for the state establishment, received various, essentially disqualifying, labels after 1989. The legacy of an artist with an immense passion for sports was reduced to that of a regime sculptor, thus relegating him out of the interest of the wider public and professional circles. The Art of Movement exhibition is one of the efforts that attempts to fill in this inadequate picture. It delves into the artist's personal archive, selecting fragments of his work and life that together form a more nuanced view of Zdeněk Němeček as an artist, a part of Czechoslovak cultural politics, and a human being with a passion for the figure in motion, sporting themes, and the Olympic idea.


Contributing to the completeness of this mosaic are the recollections of family and other witnesses, as well as archival and contemporary photographs and records telling of the creation process of the works, their original intentions and their placement, which often changed due to the unfortunate handling of the works in public space.


The multimedia nature of the exhibition updates the issue for the present time through its intersection with animated documentary film, which is the focus of the artistic research by one of the exhibition's curators, filmmaker Michaela Režová. The inability to secure support for the production of the upcoming film about Zdeněk Němeček from the State Cinematography Fund, argued by the problematic nature of the subject related to Němeček's political profile, highlights the prevailing one-sided approach to the work of personalities associated with the past regime. However, the fate of the project also initiated its transition from the film screen to the gallery space, where various artistic disciplines and approaches could converge.

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Thanks to this interconnection, the exhibition features a varied and rich selection of exhibits – phases of Němeček's sculptures, sketches, models, and forms alongside archival materials, video, animation, and photographs, as well as newly created miniatures and replicas of sculptures that illustrate the process of creating an animated film. The play with multiplication and replication of the works corresponds with Němeček's approach and experimentation, which primarily took place during the preparatory stages of creating his works. The diverse range of material on display thus allows us to explore different ways of capturing movement in static sculptures that come to life in animated projections. The entire exhibition is designed as a movement between the public and the private, which can be envisioned as the artist's studio (and, by extension, his personal life) and the public space as a place for artworks, social discussions, interpretations, and the formation of widely accepted images.

The exhibition project extends its boundaries through a digital platform, a printed zine, and an accompanying programme. This interdisciplinary concept sparks a debate on ever-relevant historical and contemporary themes, with the multilayered personality, work, and legacy of the sculptor serving as a link between fine art, society, sport, culture, and politics. How to approach memories and creations burdened by the political circumstances of their time? How to present the stories of its protagonists, artists and creators, without losing the sense of humanity? However, the presence of sporting themes allows these challenging issues to be perceived with a greater lightness and playfulness that is characteristic of sport. It is no coincidence that the exhibition takes place at the time of the Summer Olympic Games in Paris, an event that inspired Němeček throughout his life to portray ideas related to sport as an integral part of culture.


Veronika Soukupová, Michaela Režová


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