Josef Sudek: Topography of Ruins
The exhibition presents a nearly unknown and as yet unexhibited set of photographs by Josef Sudek (1896–1976), who in 1945 photographed Prague’s monuments damaged during the Second World War, in particular during the air raid of 14 February 1945 and the Prague Uprising. The photographs show the changes wrought on the urban landscape by the war, and also depict various wartime protective measures. Among other things, the nearly 400 surviving negatives show Emmaus Monastery, Old Town Hall, Old Town Square and the surrounding area, and the scrapyard at Maniny where various metal sculptures and bells were stored. These photographs were previously shown only in publications from that era, in particular the 1946 Prague Calendar published by Václav Poláček with the subtitle “Prague’s Cultural Losses 1939–1945.”
The exhibited photographs are unique within the context of Sudek’s overall body of work. Sudek’s photographic look into the inner life of the city and its monuments during the first days of peace, with its images of Prague’s citizens viewing the ruins of the historic city center, are a rare moment when his work comes close to reportage photography. One of the subjects that the exhibition takes a critical look at is photography as a medium for presenting important historical events, with an emphasis on the photographs’ visual quality – a factor that is often overlooked. The exhibition also presents images by other photographers (both known and anonymous) from fifteen private and public collections.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by the Artefactum publishing house of the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Art History in collaboration with Prague City Gallery.
Starting in early 2018, a traveling version of the exhibition organized by the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Czech Centers will be shown in several cities throughout Europe.