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Praktische info

‘BOHEMIA: History of an Idea, 1950–2000,’ until 16 October 2023, Kunsthalle Praha, Prague,

Ever since Puccini’s opera La bohème (1896), bohemians have been simultaneously revered and feared as courageous creatives willing to sacrifice everything for their art. The Czech Republic’s western region, Bohemia, is named for the pre-Roman Celtic tribe Boii. ‘Bohemia: History of an Idea, 1950–2000’ memorialises the bohemian zeitgeist sweeping cities. Fueled in part by a reaction to bourgeois society, this mindset departed post-war Paris for New York in the 1950s, pervading artworks by filmmakers Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie and portraitist Alice Neel; subsequently blew into London, inspiring Richard Hamilton and Ken Russell; and continued on to San Francisco, Vancouver, Tehran, Zagreb, Prague, Beijing, Mexico City and then back to London. Organised by decade, ‘Bohemia’ includes 77 artworks by 39 artists and duos working in ten countries. Like the opera, ‘Bohemia’ captures characters inhabiting these scenes, enabling this exhibition to double as historical record and bohemian case study. Borrowed from a host of international collections and galleries, most of the artworks are on view in Czech Republic for the first time. Of special interest are Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1979–1986), some 600 slides documenting East Village denizens; as well as images of: Chinese performance artists Zhang Huan, Wang Jin, and RongRong; Yugoslavian performance artist Tomislav Gotovac; and subcultures in Prague and West Berlin, shot by Czech photographer Libuše Jarcovjáková.

Jules Kirschenbaum, Young Woman at a Window, 1953–1954 , © Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, photo Eric W. Baumgartner