Consolation by Living. The Life of a Private Collector Behind the Iron Curtain.
Published at 2022-05-14 Featured
With en editorial by Jiří Pátek
Published in English and Czech
The somewhat mysterious title of the book you are holding in your hand refers to a time when our country was moving toward a new horizon, that of a paradise, a classless society. Those who remember may, perhaps, still recall how many times the course of this journey had to be corrected and what these corrections ultimately resulted in. This book portrays the story of Alexander Skalický, Sr.'s art collection against the backdrop of the second half of the twentieth century. This period is currently being examined and re-assessed by many scholars working in different fields, for it seems, even thirty years after the fall of the Communist regime, we still feel a certain urge to revisit old events and investigate their relationship to the present.
When we, the authors of this book, sat down to choose a title for it, we realized what a surprisingly challenging task we were in for. This realization just proved what a complex time the book examines and the various perspectives we can look at it from. Our final choice was ultimately guided by a phrase Alexandr Skalický recently uttered: “We were crawling into the holes that we had lined with our own objects and feelings.”
Skalický proclaimed this in a telephone conversation between Brno and Náchod, in which we addressed the issues of the social status of a collector and art lover settled in a small town on the geographical and cultural periphery of the country. It was the end of March, and we finally had an authentic and clear lead for thinking about the title of the book.
For many contemporaries, art collecting represents a search for balance between the artistic and financial value of a work of art, which, given the many variables and the amount of money in the business, is sort of an exciting strategy game played by wealthy men. The book Útěcha bydlením (Consolation by Living) is, in a sense, the antithesis of this presumption - at least in that it attempts to place the perceptions described above in a specific context and thus take away their absolute validity. It does so through the writings of three authors who view the issue of art collecting from the standpoints of different life and professional experiences. Alexander Skalický’s text, included at the end of the book, is an autobiographical account of the adversities faced by an art collector in the former Czechoslovakia. It was written to complete his memoirs drawn up at the turn of 2015 and 2016 as a testimony of his rich, long life. In it, Skalický declares his relationship to culture and visual art, as well as to the artists with whom he has been friends over the years and from whom he acquired pieces for his collection.
The critical context of Skalický's story is provided in a chapter penned by art historian Marcela Rusinko, whose scholarly work has long focused on art collecting in the specific conditions of the countries behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, this book on art collecting includes a section about photography by Jiří Pátek, curator of the photography and new media collection at the Moravian Gallery in Brno. We included this subject in the publication because Skalický was often accompanied by his camera on his travels to see artists. Also, Skalický had for many years devoted himself to his own photographic work, in which he applied concepts born out of his discussions with the artists he visited as part of his collecting activities. At times, he drew inspiration directly from particular objects in his art collection.
This book, however, was not scripted as a collection of expert studies, supplemented with examples of artworks from Alexander Skalický’s collection. Its concept was altogether the opposite from the very moment it was first considered for publication. It aimed to document superbly the contents of the collection, augmented with explanations, which would illustrate the significance of the collection’s existence through time. There were quite prosaic reasons for such a concept. The owner and creator of the collection, Alexander Skalický, decided to put the results of his collecting efforts up for auction. These works, which have been a significant, integral part of his and his family’s lives for so many years, will, thus, embark on new journeys, becoming items in other collections and creating new stories. Nonetheless, this book will forever preserve the image of the original collection from which it came.
Last updated: 2022-05-24 10:20:51