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Art as a Mission

Art as a Mission

Art is the passion and life mission for the Director of The City Gallery of Bratislava – Ivan Jančár. During our interview, which took place during the hottest summer days, I was interested in his vision and approach to art as well as interesting stories from behind the scenes.


Mr Jančár, as an introduction, I would like to ask you about the recipe for how a gallery director is born? Can you share with us whether it was a coincidence that brought you to the director’s seat or was it rather your passion for art?

I decided to study Art History as early as the age of 12-years-old. I was brought into this by my parents, who were art collectors. From early childhood I used to go with them to studios of artists such as Vincent Hložník, Milan Paštéka, Albín Brunovský či Záboj Kuľhavý. I was enchanted by this world. When I graduated from the high school, I had to wait for a year because the study major “Bachelor of Science in Art History” only opened every second year, and this was not the year for me. However, it was definitely not wasted time. I got hired at The City Gallery of Bratislava as a technician, I was installing exhibitions, which was immensely interesting, and I was scrupulously preparing for the entrance examinations for the entire year. I was accepted and then Director Milan Jankovský generously promised to hire me as a curator when I graduated. He kept his promise. Even during my studies I was earning a little extra as a night guard in the gallery which was amazing. It was completely quiet over there, I studied for my exams and even earned something. After graduation, I worked as a Curator, then as a Chief Curator, a Deputy Director, and for the past 20-years a Director. It is a bit of a “Bata” story.


I read information about the mission of The City Gallery of Bratislava on your website. However, I would be interested in hearing your viewpoint about the period when the idea of this gallery was forming. Could you reveal something about the initial years of CGB and its direction?

The City Gallery of Bratislava was founded on January 1, 1961 with the aim of bringing works of “art” under its management from the then City Museum. It was gradually expanding its collection with regular purchases or by gifts from artists or collectors. The gallery was lucky to have enlightened directors who were trying to present not only art of Bratislava, but also top-level artists from around the world. On the other hand it always organized exhibitions of Slovak art across the globe as well. The gallery also manages two beautiful palaces – Mirbach Palace located on 11 Františkánske Square and Pálffy Palace on 9 Panská Street.


Your gallery became “The Gallery of the Year” in 2007, 2010 and 2012. What does receiving such an award mean to you? Do you think that it is about time for another win?

Of course, it is such an honour but also a commitment for us. No other gallery has received this title three times. This year, we ended up in second place, but it was very close. I hope that we will advance one place next year.

I know that you participated in exhibitions abroad in the past e.g. at the UN grounds in Geneva. Could you share with us how you managed to organize such an interesting project?

I have organized Slovak art exhibitions in about 30 countries. However, Geneva was a very special one. The UN Ambassador was Fedor Rosoch, who was extraordinarily interested in the promotion of Slovak art. Practically everything was enthusiastically organized by Ildikó Siposová who was working there. Together we prepared six exhibitions of Slovak artists over there.


As an art lover, you surely must have your favourite artists and artworks. Could you reveal something about them? Possibly, who among the contemporary talent has fascinated you the most?

This is a bit of a tricky question; I do not want to leave out anyone. I will at least mention those artists with whom I used to cooperate the most. Among classic artists, it was Koloman Sokol whom I often visited in Tucson, Arizona where he lived for the last period of his life. Among living artists I have the closest relationship with Alex Mlynárčik, then from my generation with Matej Krén – his installation named Pasáž, which can be found in our permanent exhibition, has become a world renowned artwork. From the younger generation, I would mention a very talented painter – Andrej  Dúbravský.

In conclusion, I would like to ask about the future of CGB. What new works lie ahead for visitors in the near future?

This year there will be an exhibition of the last living legend of the Mikuláš Galand Band – Rudolf Krivoš, a presentation of the early works of the surrealist magician Karol Baron, an exhibition of a Bratislava native Adam Fridrich Oeser (born here in 1717), and world renowned photography stars Max Esteban and John Demos. Our visitors have a lot to look forward to!


Peter Fritz

Fotografia: Archív Ivana Jančára