Q: First of all please explain how did you get to rent such a historical house in the very center of Prague?
The building was purchased, in a landmark sale – the largest ever in Prague at the time – in 2016. From there, the developer (Coast Capital Partners) wanted a concept that would enable them to showcase this beautiful, historic landmark building with a project that wouldn’t require too much initial development. I was approached, as an exhibition producer, to generate content for a museum project. The concept, at least from an artistic point of view, was undefined at that stage. Once we agreed on content and a concept, we began work on the business plan. After seeing its potential, my partners and I decided that we wanted to be responsible for the entire operation and set out to make that possible. Now, here we are.
Q: Can you briefly describe the history behind the house that you turned it to the museum of illusion?
Our building, known as Dům U Červené lišky (House of the Red Foxes), dates back to 1401, though the building’s foundation is much older. Indeed, it is one of the oldest buildings on Old Town Square. The building itself has served many different commercial purposes over the centuries, operating as a butchery and, more recently, as a bank. The basement features original pavement from Old town square dating to the 12th century. The entire city center of Prague was raised by 6 meters (one floor) a century ago because of problems with flooding.
The building, as you would imagine for something that has stood so long in a prominent location, has been a key character in some fascinating stories. One of its owners, for example, in the 17th century had a dispute with local government officials and fired a cannon at the town hall, which is directly across the square, because he disagreed with some of their rulings. He was stripped of ownership by the municipality because of his actions.
Q: You were a professional basketball player. How did you end up as a curator and the owner of a museum of illusions?
My athletic career was rather brief, and basketball in our country is, more or less, on a semiprofessional level with the exception of a few clubs. After my career ended, and for the last fifteen years, I have been working as a producer of art and design. Five years ago, I formed a company with the well-known Czech sculptor Patrik Proško, and we created two exhibitions which were leased to shopping malls and other commercial buildings. One of the exhibitions was the inspiration for Illusion Art Museum Prague, and we tailored the concept and expanded the features to best suit this ideal location. It was always my dream to run a project like this and with the support of our landlords, we were able to bring it together fairly quickly.
Q: Can you please describe briefly the art displayed in the museum? Where did the inspiration come from?
Illusion art dates all the way back to ancient times, really, as people always tried to fool others with something unexpected. We have taken some of these classic techniques used thru the centuries to alter perception and present them in our objects, all tailor-made for this exhibition. There are anamorphic images which are rooted in Salvador Dali´s work; other prominent features, such as trick art images and floor paintings using 3D deformation to create spatial illusions, were inspired by the work of MC Escher.
Q: The 3rd floor of the museum is dedicated to a non-permanent exhibition. Now there is an exhibition of Patrik Proško, who is gonna be next? Will you focus only on the Czech artists?
We are currently featuring the work of Patrik Proško, a renowned Czech sculptor and land artist, who travels the world and creates his art installations in nature. The next temporary exhibition will likely feature graffiti and street art which explores the theme of 100 years of Czechoslovakia‘s (the anniversary is this year) common history, produced by well-known Czech and Slovak street artists. While we care most about the quality of the respective artist‘s work than their nationality, our focus is recently on locals with some connection to the city of Prague.
Q: What are the future developmental plans for the museum?
We will be opening an exhibition on the top floor in September, presenting a brand new illusional art technique developed by Czech/Dutch artist Peter Herel. It will be completely unique and requires a special device to enjoy it properly. We’re very excited about this.
Q: It is also possible to rent the museum for events? Who is the perfect costumer? What kind of events can you organize there?
It is absolutely possible. Our ideal customer is anyone who wants to throw a party in a unique setting in Prague’s most beautiful and well-known location. Every window from the front of our building offers marvelous vantage points to Prague’s iconic astronomical clock – the oldest operating such clock in the world – and the UNESCO-protected Old Town Square. Our capacity is 200 people on our museum floors and we can host another 200 in our cafe and courtyard. We offer all kinds of services in addition to space rental, such as catering, open bars, live music, and entertainment, or even just artist-led tours through the exhibitions.
Prepared by: Ajda Borak