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Manes Exhibition Hall

Prague, Czechia
1 of 5

The Manes Exhibition Hall stands on concrete pillars over the branch of the Vltava flowing between the Masaryk Embankment and Slavonic Island. Manes was originally founded in 1887 as a Society of Artists by students of the Academy of Fine Arts artists and Artistic and Industrial school. It became the real centre of the cultural and social life in Prague. It held regular exhibitions in Prague and other Czech and foreign cities. Mikolas Ales was elected its first mayor. In 1923 the idea of acquiring own exhibit space for the society appeared so that the society does not have to use various temporaries. At that time, the City of Prague redeemed mills and warehouses along the river, and so the society bought from the City the embankment on which Sitkovske mills were located. In 1927 very difficult works to demolish the foundation walls began, which disrupted the static of Sitkovska water tower. It had to be reinforced with solid reinforce concrete rim, yet it remained tilted.

The committee for the construction of the Manes building was assembled. It consisted of: Otto Gutfreund, Karel Dvorak, Emil Filla, Josef Gocar, Josef Groh, Bohumil Kafka, dr. Matejcek a dr. V. V. Stech. The project was entrusted to the architect Otakar Novotny, who conceived the building as a constructivist low block - the smooth, monochrome building with large glazed areas. He managed to insert the new building originally between the waterfront and Zofinsky island, so the location resembled the old arrangement of mills. Challenging construction works were conducted by the company owned by builder Matej Blecha. The building was very difficult and expensive, Manes had to borrow the money for it, nevertheless on 30 October 1930 by Chairman of the building committee Gocar submitted the building into the hands of SVU Manes. The first exhibition, which was held here, was called Hundred years of the Czech Art 1830 - 1930. The central space of the interior was a large hall with the area of 300 m2. There were also other exhibitions and club rooms, which were dominated by a large hall with a view of the National Theatre. Its front wall was glazed at the time with the largest pane of glass in Prague. There were also necessary catering and retail spaces for rent here: French restaurant, patisserie, cafe, Luculus bar and for some time also a car showroom was here. The rent was used to pay off the debt, which was only repaid three years after the World War II. The interior was simple but good quality. Cubist paintings on the restaurant ceiling were painted by Emil Filla.

When in February 1948 the association activity of Manes society was forcibly stopped and the society property was confiscated, all passed into the hands of the Union of Czech artists. From 1980 to 1987 the building was reconstructed. During the reconstruction cubist mural by Filla has been restored but no attention was paid to lower structure. The building was so disturbed that in 1995 the state of emergency was declared, which had to be urgently remedied. In the beginning of 1996 an urgent reconstruction and maintenance of the lower part of the building was made according to the project by Ing. Zdenek Kysela. Currently, a major renovation of the building has been under way.

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bostjan, October 14th, 2015
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