Jiří and Běla Kolář Collection
The collection exists thanks to Kolář’s friendships with artists and reflects his personal taste. Kolář bought works directly from the artists and thus he supported them. Along with works from the second half of the twentieth century, Kolář also collected older works, which are part of the collection.
Name of collection
- Jiří and Běla Kolář Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The Jiří and Běla Kolář Collection was built throughout Kolář’s life. The first works were purchased in 1937 and he continued to collect even after his emigration to France at the beginning of the 1980s. The collection could be considered a documentation of Kolář’s personal taste in art, as well as a possible tale of Czech art history of the postwar period. Kolář was a friend of a number of artists and he visited them in their studios. Thanks to his international success in the 1960s, he was able to financially support a number of Czech unofficial artists through the purchases.
In 1979, Kolář left for a fellowship in Berlin, and then he moved to Paris, where he was granted citizenship. However, his collection stayed in Prague. In 1982, Kolář was put on trial, despite his absence. He was sentenced to one year in prison, and his property was to be confiscated, including the collection. Then Jiří Kotalík, the head of the National Gallery, suggested that Běla Kolářová transfer the collection to the National Gallery, where it would be owned by state, but remain safe. Some works were allowed to be repurchased from the National Gallery by Běla Kolářová. The collection was returned to the Kolářs after 1989 and Kolář made a donation to the National Gallery. This means that one part of the Collection is owned by the National Gallery. The rest of the collection was inherited by Museum Kampa after Kolář’s death in 2002.
The fact that the collection was owned by the National Gallery before 1989 is proof that the collection had value even at that time. Although Kotalík wanted to help Kolář (they knew each other), the committee had to believe in the value of the collection.
Before 1989, the collection was important as a gesture of financial support for unofficial artists. Today we might say that it is evidence of a personal perspective on art of the second half of the twentieth century (not exclusively). The way the works were purchased as well as the social function of the purchases are interesting from the present perspective. The collection is evidence of unofficial art not only because of the included works, but also because of Kolář himself. Kolář was repeatedly victimised after 1948; he supported samizdat Petlice, he signed Charter 77… even though the included works do not carry significant political critique, the way they were produced outside of the official frame of artistic production makes them a document of the era’s lack of freedom.
Description of content
Works included in the collection were made in different eras. Most of the works were bought by Kolář from his colleagues, others dates back to the seventeenth century (the graphic work by Václav Hollar). Within the collection, we can find paintings by František Kupka and Vojtěch Preissig, a broad collection of works by Vladimír Boudník, and works by Czech conceptual artists. All these works bring together an interest in experimentation and Kolář’s belief in their uniqueness.
- graphics: 100-499
- other artworks (that cannot be classified by other filter categories such as paintings, sculptures, graphics, etc.): 10-99
- paintings: 100-499
- sculptures: 10-99
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
- Bergmanová, Marie. 2001. Jiří Kolář sběratel = Jiří Kolář collector : Veletržní palác 19. října 2001-3. února 2002. [Praha]: Gallery.
Author(s) of this page
- Lomová, Johana
Bergmanová, Marie. 2001. Jiří Kolář sběratel = Jiří Kolář collector : Veletržní palác 19. října 2001-3. února 2002. [Praha]: Gallery.
"Artlist - Databáze Současného Umění: Běla Kolářová." Artlist - Databáze Současného Umění: Artlist - Umělci. Accessed January 12, 2017. http://www.artlist.cz/bela-kolarova-1467/.
Průša, Sandra , interview by Lomová, Johana , September 22, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection