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Kvalitář Gallery Turns Five

Nov 9, 2017

To celebrate their fifth anniversary, the Prague gallery is presenting 5KV, an exhibition curated by Adam Štěch and Monika Čejková that questions the relationship between art and design

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Text by Rab Messina
Photography by Studio Flusser and Štěpán Pech

Since its inception, Prague’s Kvalitář Gallery has focused on merging design, art and architecture. The celebration of its fifth anniversary was, therefore, a proper excuse for guest curators Adam Štěch and Monika Čejková to conceive the exhibition 5KV, in order to explore the question of the relationship between contemporary art and design. “It deals with the issue of interconnection between art and design,” says Čejková. “The first part presents the works of artists who bring these two disciplines together in various ways, not just with respect to the theoretical or visual aspects, but also the operational aspect.” To show how design has influenced art, and vice versa, they’ve put together pieces from the likes of Arik Levy, Maurizio Cattelan and Olafur Eliasson with the work of Czech counterparts such as Jakub Berdych Karpelis and Romana Drdová.

The second part is devoted to a very local example: designer Alessandro Mendini’s potential visit to artist Milan Knížák in Prague in the 1980s. “Their mutual confrontation contemplates the many principles and circumstances that make specific artistic production be designated as art or design,” explains Štěch.

We spoke with him to discuss this particular confrontation, as well as the blurred lines of conceptual art.

TLmag: Are you currently seeing increasingly blurred lines between conceptual art and, say, social design?
Adam Štěch: Yes, that was also one of the reasons to do this exhibition. Monika Čejková and I were interested in both tendencies in design and art, but we were missing the tighter discussion and relationship of both disciplines. I think design has a very broad meaning today, much broader than before. It is, really, a global tool to comment on everything from politics to many social aspects to ecology, and this type of design uses many principles of conceptual or performative art.   

TLmag: You said that what happened between Mendini and Knížák was a “mutual confrontation.” Is there a reason behind such a strong term?
AŠ: We use it as an example from history that shows that design and art were always challenging each other. Milan Knížák is a famous conceptual artist, Alessandro Mendini is a famous designer, but both of them were also using completely different mediums to express their ideas. So for us it was quite interesting, because when Mendini was in Prague in the 1980s he wanted to meet Milan Knížák. Unfortunately, he never did, but Knížák was invited to the Alchimia Gallery in Milan later on. So this shows how artists were exhibited in the context of the design scene and design history. In our exhibition, this relations is symbolised by fact that Knížák as an artist is represented only by his furniture pieces and Mendini as a designer only by his performances.   

TLmag: How did you select the Czech representatives for this exhibition?
AŠ: We wanted to have both Czech and international artists and designers. We were looking for strong examples of different kinds of approaches for art and design, so there is a group of projects that are art but their theme is design, and there is another group of designers whose work uses the principles of contemporary art. There is also a group of creators that work in both, so the selection was more or less about how to find different categories and examples where these two disciplines merged.   

TLmag: What is your favourite conversation in 5KV?
AŠ: I definitely like the Mendini and Knížák story. The rest of the exhibition is not about exact dialogues, but I am very happy that we could show works by New York-based Shawn Maximo, Mexico-based Edgar Orlaineta, Austrian designer Robert Stadler or young designers such as Sabine Marcelis, Fredrik Paulsen, Studio Swine and Fernando Laposse. From the Czech names my favourite is Jakub Berdych Karpelis, who displays his very interesting sense of humour in his conceptual and ironic glass pieces.  

5KV is open until November 22

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Štěch and Čejková during the 5KV vernissage
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View of 5KV at the Kvalitář Gallery
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Part of the art and design selection
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