“Three years ago, I left the Klatovy / Klenova Gallery and I didn’t know what to do with my job. And my friend from my hometown Strakonice offered me a place in Volyně. He becomes director of the Volyně museum. He had good relations with the mayor of the city. And he offered me three possible places for the gallery. The first was an old school, the second was a 19th century granary, and the third was the cemetery funeral home. And I decided the cemetery would be the best choice.
What attracted you to this funeral room?
“There are several layers to this. I was fed up with contemporary art and wanted to find a place where it would be possible to produce art, which had an idea or a theme and the cemetery was the best place for that. The other reason [it appealed to me] was that my dad was very sick and I was thinking about death and I had to come to terms with that. And third, I thought I would finish my curatorial work with this gallery, and its name is Goodbye.
So, have you come up with the name Gallery Goodbye?
” Yes I did it. I wanted to say something hopefully because we can say goodbye, but we can meet again. This is the reason for this name.
Of course, because in Czech ‘na shledanou’ also means that we will meet again.
So it seems that gave you a good place to start as a curator. The idea of the funeral room and death, how much does that influence the way you choose the artists and the type of art that appears in the gallery?
“The important thing is the death that surrounds this gallery. Death is everywhere in this place and artists need to come to terms with this environment. I was looking for artists who could understand death in our culture and what death means in their life. The first artist was Ondřej Maleček. He loves 19th century Czech poetry, based on the idea of death.
It sounds like a pretty morbid theme, it’s pretty dark and sad if every show is about death. Does it attract a lot of visitors? Was it something that really worked to your advantage?
“I think death is the most important thing in our lives and it is the fundamental source of interest. And people are interested in Gallery Goodbye and I think it’s part of our lives and I think it needs to be shown. We know that images of death are only taken from television or the internet, but contemporary artists do not like these themes. I thought it was a very important thing for our life.
And during these three years, have you always been able to stay on this theme. Has each exhibition dealt with death in one way or another?
“No, that’s not the main condition for exhibitions. The main condition is this place. I’m not telling artists, we have to prepare something about death. It depends on them. I chose the artists and they prepare what they want.
The architecture and interior of the gallery are very beautiful. It is very unique. There are big windows and for a place that is supposed to be dingy it is actually very bright. It sounds very optimistic. Who created the drawing? Was it like that originally or was it changed later?
“There were rules on how to build a cemetery hall under socialism. One of them had large windows to overlook nature or the city. They wanted to replace God with nature.
So the design is from the communist era? It didn’t change when the gallery moved it.
“The gallery building was built in 1992 and they started construction in 1987. And the funeral hall didn’t function as a funeral hall. There were no burials. This building was empty for almost 20 years. Funerals usually take place at the church in the cemetery.
And today you have an exhibition by one of the group members Guma Guar. Can you tell us a little more about the content of the exhibition, what it looks like?
“Dan Vlček is a man of many faces. He is a musician, he does political art, he is a performer and he is a painter. And the relationship between painting and music is the subject of his exhibition at the Goodbye Gallery. He tried to trace the noise on the gallery walls. Another subject of his exhibition is sgraffito, because the town hall of Volyně has very beautiful sgraffito and Dan Vlček wanted to try this technique in the gallery. And he prepared much of his work using this technique. He usually worked with LPs. He traces the LPs to create his art. And the shapes are like a sound wave floating on the walls of the gallery. And another part is the sculpture, which Dan prepared from LP, he put about 500 LP on top of each other.
The gallery looks amazing, so do the exhibits. But Volyně is a small town, so is it difficult to attract not only well-known artists, but also a large enough audience?
“The people of Volyně are curious people and they come to our gallery and they like our artists. About 30 percent of our visitors come from Volyně, I think, and 70 percent from South Bohemia, from the Plzeň region, from Prague, because we have become a well-known gallery all over the Czech Republic.