Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Palffy Palace and Picasso

There's a temporary exhibition going on right now at Bratislava's Palffy Palace (a grand, historical palace in the heart of the Old Town, on Panska ulica, that is now an art museum), entitled Homage to Picasso. I dig Picasso, particularly his earlier Cubist work, so for me this was a must-see. The exhibit featured 7-8 rooms filled with the work of various artists who were inspired by different phases in Picasso's career. There were several fabulous paintings by some of the Czech Cubist big-shots, like Emil Filla, Anton Prochazka, and Bohumil Kubista, along with many others, including, oddly enough, one minor work each by Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. We got to familiarize ourselves with Czech Cubism at the Cubist museum in Prague back in January, so it was nice to see more works by some of these guys, who were clearly quite talented. Of the paintings that appeared to take inspiration from Picasso's later, more simplistic and whimsical work, some of them actually looked a little more inspired than the source of their inspiration. Overall, it was a cool, varied, and well-curated exhibition.

Bohumil Kubista - The Hypnotist (aka "Argh! What are you doing to my head?")
Antonin Prochazka - Woman With a Cigarette
Emil Filla - Sculptor and Model
Another temporary exhibition featured the work of Milos Simurda. Several of his paintings portrayed totally naked people sitting in various positions of driving, yet without the car, but sometimes with an actual piece of car grill stuck on to the outer edge. One painting, called "Accident," simply had two naked people flying through the air with a broken piece of car window frame hovering near them.

The permanent collection, focusing on 20th century painting and a smattering of sculpture, was intermittently interesting. Particularly amusing is the Passage, which is literally a narrow walkway through what appears to be a wall of books. On both sides of the walkway are mirrors, which reflect the walls of books on either side into infinity. The effect is actually quite dizzying. It gives the illusion that you could step off the platform and fall forever, until you peer out over the edge enough to see your reflection in the mirror and see that it's not, in fact, an endless book-lined pit. Not recommended for people with vertigo!

The palace itself oozes history, which further enhances the experience. Apart from the stately, Classicist rooms, excavations have revealed that embedded within the walls of the palace are walls of what once was a gothic chapel. As you make your way up the stairway, the outlines of the gothic windows are now exposed in the wall.

In the dungeon-like basement is a pit with a half-buried skeleton curled up in fetal position. Apparently several graves with similarly positioned skeletal remains were found beneath the foundations. So, loads of history here. The price per ticket - 4 euros - is surprisingly generous. But given that museums in Bratislava are likely not attracting people by the butt-load like the big ones in Vienna, it's not surprising. Still, it's worth keeping an eye on this place for future exhibitions.

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