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Czech Centres Abroad Commemorate “Velvet Anniversary”

Czech Centres (CC) commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution with projects, activities and accompanying programmes spanning genres with a focus on topics such as freedom and Václav Havel. In addition to programmes created as part of the international network of Czech Centres, exhibitions have also been organised as part of CCs and Czech embassy programmes.

International presentations include curator Dana Kyndrová’s exhibition of photographs, entitled The 1989 Velvet Revolution – The End of Totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia, presenting a collection of iconic images by 15 leading Czech photographers documenting the milestone moments from the events of November; the multi-genre project The Velvet Revolution 1989 organised in cooperation with the National Museum; a thematic loop of Czech Press photographs depicting revolution events in Prague as well in other regions of Czechoslovakia; and replicas of period posters and a display of posters reflecting on the concept of FREEDOM through the eyes of the younger generation, specifically students at the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art at West Bohemian University.  



“The ethos of the Velvet Revolution and Václav Havel – these are two things that have undeniable value and embody the best that we can offer the world in modern times. It’s no wonder that the autumn programme of the Czech Centres abroad includes events highlighting the 30th anniversary of the Revolution.” 


THE VELVET REVOLUTION 1989 (National Museum)   

The exhibition reveals the consequences of totalitarian symbols and its end (Iron Curtain), the importance of figures such as Václav Havel and Alexander Dubček, and development after the borders opened. Its authors (Michal Stehlík, Marek Junek and Eduard Belušák) chose to commemorate the events using information, photos, videos and authentic audio recordings from November 1989. The renowned illustration studio Tomski&Polanski created the visual aspect. Following its September premiere in Berlin, the exhibition will travel to Vienna, New York, Paris, Budapest, Brussels, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other destinations.



“We consider commemorating the events of autumn 1989 to be extremely important, and we are delighted to link the activities of the National Museum to those of the Czech Centres. We’ve emphasized the renewal of democratic traditions as well as the fact that development in Czechoslovakia was a natural part of the fall of the Eastern Communist Bloc.” 



Curator Dana Kyndrová selected a set of iconic images by 15 leading Czech photographers who captured the breakthrough moments of the end of the communist dictatorship, the demonstrations against the totalitarian regime, Palach Week in January 1989, and the events of 17 November 1989, as well as the emotional atmosphere of the enthusiasm that followed.  Over time, many of these incredible photographs have become legendary and, thanks to their documentary and artistic value, take us right back to the enthusiastic emotional atmosphere that prevailed throughout society at the time.  The exhibition includes a collection of photographs from the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the Czechoslovak lands in 1990 – 1991, which was the culminating act of the Velvet Revolution. The presentations take place or will take place under the auspices of the Czech Centres in Japan, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Belgium, Great Britain, and Ukraine, as well as throughout the entire network of Czech embassies.



(14 – 25 November 2019, Gallery of the Czech Centres, Rytířská 31) 

How do students view the concept of the Velvet Revolution? What values do they associate with this event? And what does “freedom” mean to them? Graphic and artistic representations of the concept of freedom reveal the younger generation’s views on the still-relevant topic expressed through posters, art objects and jewellery. Prof. Rostislav Vaněk and doc. Kristina Fišerová led students from the Graphics Studio at West Bohemia University in Pilsen, and doc. Eva Eisler worked with students at the Concept-Object-Meaning Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. The exhibition also marks the beginning of an international project by directors of Czech Centres encouraging students at art schools abroad to share their views on the theme of freedom.



Moments of the Velvet Revolution presents a loop of photographs from ČTK archives. Images taken in 1989 capture significant moments of these revolutionary days in Prague and other regions in Czechoslovakia. Viewers will also find a collection of 20 Velvet Revolution Posters interesting – a presentation of Czech revolution posters from November and December of 1989, created by both young artists just starting and renowned names (including Aleš Najbrt, Michal Cihlář, Jiří Votruba, Joska Skalník, Ivan Král, and Stanislav Holý).


Velvet Effect 1989/1990 is another project featuring a selection of illustrations and texts by students of the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art at West Bohemian University in Pilsen. It is unique for its reflections on the events of November through the eyes of members of the youngest up and coming generation of illustrators, with a focus on the key figure of the commemorative series, Václav Havel. A significant partner of the Czech Centres in the presentation of his work and legacy is the Václav Havel Library. The project Havel’s International Footsteps is an example of international cooperation – it’s an interactive map of Havel’s global influence, which will be on display in November at the Czech Centre Sofia. 


The Czech Centre Paris commemorated Václav Havel last spring with the exhibition Samizdat with the symbolic subtitle “The Power of the Powerless”.



“In my view, samizdat is a symbol in any authoritarian regime. To write and create in such an environment is an expression of inner intellectual freedom despite all odds. Czech samizdat, of which Václav Havel is an integral part, is one of the most visually beautiful in Central and Eastern Europe. This exhibition was created together with Libri Prohibiti. For us, it is part of our programme both as an emphasis on literary culture as well as part of the commemoration activities for 1989, culminating of course in November.”  


The theme of freedom and the 1989 anniversary will also make its presence felt during Czech Film Week in Israel, as well as in the movie presentation entitled Czech Moment - Velvet by Czech Centre Seoul, planned for December of this year.



Havel’s Place in Milan, Revolution in Brussels, Festival in London Festival in New York 

A unique series of events entitled “Heart of Europe - Václav Havel in 2019” was organised by the Czech Centre Milan in cooperation with the local Consulate General. Cultural and social events will commemorate the return of freedom and democracy in Milan and the Lombardy region. The highlight will be the unveiling of Havel's Place at the University of Milan on 13 November 2019 with Dagmar Havlová in attendance.



“We’ve been working on the Havel’s Place with the Consul General in Milan Jiri Kudela for nearly a year. Thanks to him, we were able to make contacts in high places in the Lombardy Region and the University of Milan. Italians, in general, have a very high opinion of Havel and many politicians have found inspiration in his book “The Power of the Powerless”, the Italian translation of which was released exactly 30 years ago.”


In Brussels, an international multigenerational gathering of artists and activists entitled Revolution is Not a Garden Party is planned.



“The Velvet Revolution was a unique moment when many artists were at the forefront of political change. As part of this gathering, called Revolution is Not a Garden Party, we want to provide a space for the exchange of experiences between those who personally witnessed the changes and the current generation of activists from all over Europe, and encourage a lively discussion about the role of arts in political activism.”


Jitka Pánek Jurková also revealed another in the series of events that are taking place under the auspices of the Czech Centre in Brussels in late November and early December. It’s a special edition of the popular Czech Fashion Festival, entitled Re-Velvet, during which designer Lenka Vacková will present her collection featuring velvet elements. The programme will also include an upcycling marathon, which is intended to highlight the modern trend of recycling from surplus materials. Previous generations did the same, but because of shortages.


Czech Velvet 1989 – 2019

On the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Center London has organised a special programme for its traditional autumn festival – this year called Czech Velvet 1989-2019. The cabaret musical Velvet Havel, a unique discussion with Jacques Rupnik, and a series of documentaries by Helena Třeštíková are just some of the programme highlights that visitors can enjoy. Overall, however, the festival sets a much higher goal: how far has Czech society come since the revolution? What have we accomplished in the past thirty years? The celebration of art, film, music, and theatre will take place at prestigious locations around all of London (Regent Street Cinema, UCL, Rich Mix, and many others) will attempt to answer these questions.



“The festival’s jumping-off point is the desire for individual liberty, which the Velvet Revolution represented 30 years ago, and which remains very relevant in today’s world. The element of freedom underscores the artistically daring creative expressions in the festival programme.”


The festival kicks off with the exhibition Velvet Revolution 1989 – The End of the Totalitarian Regime in Czechoslovakia. The unique project Touching 1989, which is part of the exhibition, combines video recordings of personal stories of Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, and Britons of all ages and professions living in the UK who look back at these historical events and their consequences from today’s perspective.


Autumn in New York

Czech Centre New York will celebrate the November anniversary in the Czech National Building with a full programme of events. The 30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution takes an interdisciplinary look back through films, music, and even science.



“We have been celebrating the Velvet Revolution anniversary at Czech Centre New York since the summer when we began with a themed light show by light artist Alex Dowis and a tribute to Milan Kundera. In August, it was already clear that the theme of freedom and common values is very much alive here, and audiences were asking ‘what’s next?’ We were most pleased by the fact that direct participants of the Velvet Revolution and actors Jan Potměšil and Tomáš Krager flew here to perform Václav Havel’s Audience.”


The festival in New York will culminate with a concert by the Spiritual Quintet. The director of CC New York praised the diversity of programme offerings for the anniversary celebrations at the Czech National Building. On one floor of the building, a concert by young musician Zagami Jericho and then two stories up a celebratory gala evening in honour of Václav Havel. Visitors can choose from classical music concerts with an anniversary theme or watch Olga Sommerová’s documentary Student Revolts, all within the Czech Centre building (the Czech National Building). Thanks to efforts by Miroslav Konvalina, the wide-reaching festival made also stops in Washington and Chicago.



In addition to a basic programme, Czech Centres abroad have organised many other activities in the areas and regions where they work. The year-long commemoration of this significant historical milestone in international centres has taken many forms, from forums, colloquiums, and workshops to large-scale musical, theatrical, and dance productions. The closest celebrations for Czech visitors will take place at the Czech Centre Bratislava, and the farthest away in Tokyo and Seoul. The phenomenon of the “fall of communism” is not unknown in Asian countries, and commemorations will take place there as well. More than 2,300 events take place annually that promote our country in the world.


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