The ArtMap Bookstore, supported by the Agosto Foundation, had its official opening in Prague.
It was another swelteringly hot day and evening came with no relief in sight. Visitors arrived at Vojtěšská 18 to be greeted with an impressive array of colourful chlebíčky and rosé wine laid out in the building’s entrance hall. Inside, a painting by the artist Václav Girsa hung above Petr Švolba’s counter, built especially for the bookstore along with the lighting design. Anna Pleštilová sat in a corner with a scale, offering to weigh out and sell pages of K.H. Mácha’s Máj to curious visitors.
Pleštilová is the editor of Bylo Nebylo (Once Upon a Time), a publishing house characterized less by genre than by “poetic language, playful form and the desire to communicate and share”. Her own book, K.H. Mácha–Máj, 78 Kč/100g, published by Bylo Nebylo in 2015, is a perfect representation of the publishing house’s attitude. Her performance extends both the book’s notion and intention of sharing a thought through a “conceptual act” rather than a “word or picture” (Lucie Rohanová). Such a performance seems well suited for the opening of a bookstore, and in particular for one specializing in art books, publications that attempt to crystallize conceptual acts into concrete form in order to extend both communication and sharing.
Václav Girsa is a painter whose art-brut pieces are often violently expressive. They drip with livid nightmares that can’t help but impress the viewer as deeply personal. Yet the painting of two cats, one stepping out of a litter box while the other sits calmly near a household plant, shows none of Girsa’s characteristic aggression. Instead it puts humor at the forefront, an element present but often lost in Girsa’s other paintings. The painting is friendly while secretive, and those who know Girsa will find it amusing, while those who don’t will perhaps find it pleasant or even forgettable. In either case, the artist’s choice is a gesture of good will, a sly wink to visitors whether they know it or not.
In contrast, Petr Švolba is a sculptor whose work is concerned with the relationships between places as polar opposites (countryside vs. city, nature vs. civilization). His work has been said to “intuitively balance the borders between a traditional understanding of sculpture, installation and architecture” (Superdeals Residency 2016, Centre Tchéque). In the ArtMap bookstore, both his counter and his lighting design blend elements of these three areas without being overbearing or convoluted, but striking nonetheless.
The Agosto Foundation is proud to help create a unique spot on Prague’s art map. Also keep in mind that the extraordinary Czech shop Papelote can be found just a few meters from the ArtMap Bookstore. Like the bookstore, Papelote deals in paper although quite differently, its mission “to bring back paper and to increase the availability of quality stationery products”.
There is a lot more to see on Vojtěšská, and we’ll be writing more about its gems soon. In the meantime, come to Vojtěšská and check out the ArtMap bookstore, Papelote stationers, and keep an eye on this area for upcoming events.