Jindřich Chalupecký award

With the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, a U.S. foundation, and other institutions, the Jindřich Chalupecký Society has successfully cooperated with the American foundation for open society and the Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California. This cooperation has enabled the presentation of the Jindřich Chalupecký award for the past 10 years to an artist up to 35 years old.

Initiated by playwright Václav Havel, poet and artist Jiří Kolář, and artist Theodor Pištěk, the Jindřich Chalupecký Award was first presented in 1990, and the competition was set to repeat annually. The award’s title honors Jindřich Chalupecký-philosopher, and art and literary critic-for his lifetime achievements and unwavering position in promoting freedom of thought and expression as the pre-requisite for the existence of art.

The competition for the Jindřich Chalupecký Award is managed by the civic association Společnost Jindřicha Chalupecký (the Jindřich Chalupecký Society). The society’s board is elected. It calls for entries to the competition every year, organizes the selection process, sets up the award presentation to the winner and mounts an exhibition of the finalists and the winner in a prestigious gallery space in Prague.

While the society calls for entries to the competition, the winner is selected by an expert jury, which is appointed for a period of two years. The jury is an independent body electing its own chairperson and it evaluates the works of the competing artists. To enter the evaluation process, a candidate must be a Czech citizen up to 35 years old. Applicants may enter the competition themselves or they also may be nominated by another person. They may enter the competition repeatedly. If an applicant wins the competition, he or she may only enter the competition again in two years’ time.

In honor of the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic in November 1989, the award was presented to the winner in the third week of November at the Prague Castle, in the office of the President of the Czech Republic. President Václav Havel presented the winner with an honorary diploma. Based on a cooperation agreement with the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection of the National Gallery (valid until 2002), President Havel presents the award at the Collection at Veletržní Palác. An exhibition mounted at Veletržní Palác presents works of the finalists to the public. Within a year of the award presentation, Václav Špála Gallery or another important exhibition space will house a solo exhibition of the winner along with a catalogue of his or her work. The winner receives a three-month residency in Headlands Center for the Arts, California and a week-long stay in New York.

The Jindřich Chalupecký Award has also gained recognition outside the Czech Republic. In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Administration of the Czech Centers, the Society organized individual and group exhibitions of the winners in prestigious galleries in the Netherlands, Hungary, and Berlin. Curated by Martin Dostál and Radek Váňa, exhibitions opened in Bucharest, Moscow and Kiev in 1999. In 2001, a collective exhibition of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award winners and the winners of a Young Slovak Artist award will take place in New York, Bratislava, and Prague. The exhibition will be organized by the Slovak art organization C.ART.A.

Jindřich Chalupecky about

It is surely one of the most urgent tasks of the modern artist to step out the aesthetic, spell and do such art which would samehow up with life and which would fill up life itself.

Jindřich Chalupecký: At Limits of Arts, 1987

In 1990, when talks about the prize for young artists began, it was clear to its inernationally recognized initiators, to the writer and dramatist Václav Havel, to the poet and artist Jiří Kolář and to the painter and costume designer Theodor Pištěk, that the prize can only be named after the theorist Jindřich Chalupecký (Feb. 12, 1910 – Jun. 6, 1990). After all, in the mid 30’s Chalupecký expressed art opinions that stayed with him until the end of his life without begin out of date. Jindřich Chalupecký had the moral authority of an essntial modernist, unwilling to compromise in art and life. He paid for this by making himself useful at the official level only for a couple of short periods of his life – in the 30’s, between the end of the war and the communits také-over, and in the second half of the 60’s during which he worked as a curator of the prestigious Václav Špála Gallery in the center of Prague. Here, he gained respect of the whole artistic community, regardless the generations or style base. Due to his accent on the content and ethics of modern art he came to a precise understanding of surrealism and Group 42 as well as of action art and happenings, which seemed to fulfill his postulate about life mingling with art the best. At the end of the 80’s he still favored the first wave of post-modern art of the Stubborn generation. The condemnation of young artists off the market and the accent on myths and personal mythology of the time were familiar especially to him, because in the times of German occupation he already looked for art presenting the world we live in , trough the mythology of modern life. It is therefore not surprising that the first awarded by this prize werw the most outstanding representatives of this generation.

It is possible that in the times of information spreading in a speed of light, the Chalupecký’s pathos and stress to that which exceeds human life may appear out of date. However, that does not change anything about the fact that for a humen separated from the world/universe and staying between god and nothingness and refusing both art should mean an aid for life. By the presentacion of Chalupecký Award finalist, the National Gallery in Prague does not hold up only to this message, but also and mostly to shared responsibility for the development of young Czech art.
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