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Slovak National Gallery casts new light on baroque art

Baroque art is often thought of as gaudy, gold-filled ornamentation which covers the ceilings of opera houses and complex architectural facades of the 17th and 18th centuries. But an extensive and ground-breaking exhibit at the Slovak National Gallery this winter aims to prove that baroque as an art form transcends time and place, and has been present in every era as a vibrant love of passionate decoration.
The exhibition, which includes almost 400 masterpieces, consists of two parts. The main section is devoted to exploring the baroque as a Slovak artistic and architectual style of the 17th and 18th centuries, while the second part focuses on baroque concepts in international contemporary art.


Wim Delwoye - Purple Mixer
photo: Courtesy SNG

Baroque art is often thought of as gaudy, gold-filled ornamentation which covers the ceilings of opera houses and complex architectural facades of the 17th and 18th centuries. But an extensive and ground-breaking exhibit at the Slovak National Gallery this winter aims to prove that baroque as an art form transcends time and place, and has been present in every era as a vibrant love of passionate decoration.

The exhibition, which includes almost 400 masterpieces, consists of two parts. The main section is devoted to exploring the baroque as a Slovak artistic and architectual style of the 17th and 18th centuries, while the second part focuses on baroque concepts in international contemporary art.

The historic masterpieces originated in Slovakia, and are now owned by the church, Slovak museums and galleries or the collections of cultural institutions abroad. The exhibition presents such names like Austrian architect Johann Fisher of Erlach, sculptor Georg Rafael Donner of Germany and Austrian Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. The works show how the baroque style permeated not only architecture, but also cultural festivals, art collections and art education of the time. Original architectural drafts, plans and sketches as well as handicrafts and books are exhibited.

The exhibition was the idea of Slovak National Gallery curator Ivan Rusina, who in the 70's came out with the idea of a Slovak Fine Art Encyclopaedia which was never written. It is the first part of a series of upcoming exhibitions which will focus on various eras of Slovak art. Part of the hope of the curators is that the catalogues and literature generated by the series can one day be codified into the missing encylopedia Slovakia needs.

Zora Rusínová, curator of the contemporary part of the exhibition, explained that the 1990's are an important time for baroque art history in Eastern Europe. Under Communism, she explained, the baroque was seen as overly religious and thus eschewed. "In the socialist years, religious art such as the baroque was not allowed to be staged," she said.

Rusínová added that several curators from art galleries around Slovakia were asked to help in writing the publication "Baroque" which will accompany the exhibit. The book boasts 500 pages and 400 photographs. It is available for 1,050 Sk at book shops around Slovakia.The exhibit and publication were financially supported by the Gallery, which allocated 4 mil. Sk for the total project.

The first part of the exhibit, entitled 'The History of Slovak Fine Art- Baroque' can be seen at the Slovak National Gallery, Water Barracks, Rázusovo nábrežie 2, and at Esterházy Palace, Námestie Ľ.Štúra 4.

The contemporary section, 'Baroque and the Present - Paradise Lost' , continues at the Bratislava City Gallery, in Mirbach Palace at Františkánske námestie 11. All venues are open Tues.-Sun.from 10:00-18:00. The exhibit ends March 14th.

For further information, call 07-33 20 81. You can also e-mail the gallery at xsnggic@savba.savba.sk.

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