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Prague: A classical city takes a contemporary turn

New galleries and rejuvenated ones put Czech contemporary art on the map.

By Jacy MeyerContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / November 15, 2008

The DOX Center for Contemporary Art is housed in a complex of former industrial buildings in Prague’s emerging Holesovice district.

Courtesy of DOX Center for Contemporary Art

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Most people who've been to Prague have the same impression of the city's historical architecture and cobblestone streets: classic, romantic, timeless. You don't often hear the city described as: contemporary, cutting edge, and progressive.

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Yet in the past couple of years, the art scene has been humming in quite a modern way. And the hum is getting louder with the recent opening of DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in the emerging Holešovice district.

Housed in a complex of former industrial buildings combined with new structures, the gallery is a good metaphor for the surrounding neighborhood.

"Our building is in dialogue with its neighborhood; it's a perfect example of how we deal with history and the future," says Jaroslav Andel, DOX's artistic director. "Many museums are built from scratch, and it's a problem because there's no identity with their surroundings."

DOX's home is in keeping with the gallery's mission.

"Our mission is to present artworks that explore issues in the context of today's world," says Mr. Andel.

The museum's opening exhibition "Welcome to Capitalism!" is a group show of four artists sharing their views on the topics of wealth, the economy, and the role of media in our lives.

The irony of the theme isn't lost on Andel. "We began working on it a year ago, and it turned out to be very topical," he says. "It's not political art or propaganda; it's posing questions, going further with issues related to the present day."

DOX's opening should give momentum to the still burgeoning Prague contemporary art scene ( "DOX is ambitious," Andel says. "The idea is to have momentum, more international exchange, and inspire other institutions and individuals."

One of the oldest contemporary art spaces in the city is Futura, which opened in 2003.

"There's not a lot of contemporary art here [in Prague]," says Ondrej Stupal, project manager for Futura. "But we want to promote Czech contemporary art and make it visible internationally."

Futura's year-long artist-in-residency program is the best way to do that, Mr. Stupal says. "We get foreign artists involved in the Czech art scene and like to turn it into an exchange program and send our artists abroad," he explains. "It's an effective way to get Czech art known internationally."

Until Nov. 30, Futura is showing "Archivo Dur," a group exhibition of Latin American artists exploring the theme of art between identity and the mask (

Another new art space, Tranzit Display Gallery, is just a year old. Its owners are dedicated to following current trends in art, culture, and everyday life. Like other contemporary art gallery owners, they want their gallery to be more than just an exhibition space; they plan to offer lectures, screenings, and performances.