Fotograf Magazine

The Mystical City of Viktor Kolář

Viktor Kolář (1941) became this year’s laureate of the title, Personality of Czech Photography, bestowed by the Association of Professional Photographers of the Czech Republic. (Bearers from previous years were also mentioned – Josef Koudelka, Anna Fárová, Jan Reich in memoriam, Antonín Dufek and other big names). To mark his upcoming seventieth birthday, Kolář has prepared a half-century look back at his lasting relationship to the industrial agglomeration of his native Ostrava. He has around 140 works on display at an exhibit in the Moravian Gallery in Brno (Místodržitelský palác, March 11 – June 5, 2011). Curators, Marek Pokorný and Jiří Pátek, added a few artistic works of other artists also personally or otherwise tied to Ostrava to the retrospective Viktor Kolář. The black and white photographs from the artist’s collections were not strictly organized based on decade of origin. Contrary to the plan, Kolář employed a combination of visual correlations and free chronology spanning the years 1959 to 2010. Just as unorthodox is the concept of the monograph, prepared by the artist last year with a different tandem of helpers.

The publishing company KANT has published the volume, Ostrava, whose title emphasizes the home and workplace of the artist, Kolář. Besides the publisher, Karl Kerlický, we must also mention Tomáš Pospěch, who through extensive cooperation with the author prepared a collective exhibit for Krakow, Poland during the local event Month of Photography (2009). Thus, there were several variations of the presentation in the Moravian Gallery.

The publication was also realized thanks to Ostrava’s endeavours to become the European Capital of Culture 2015. Of course photographer, Viktor Kolář, does not just reflect local issues. Writer, Jan Balabán, whom Kolář entrusted with writing the book’s prologue and who passed away last year, also maintained a planetary outlook. He gave an interview to reporter, Petr Volf, in lieu of the epilogue. Similarly, art historians, Antonín Dufek of the Moravian Gallery in Brno and Kate Bush, Art Gallery director in London’s Barbican Centre, do not fall short quality-wise with their Kolář-esque catchphrases.

At the end of the book, the creator clarifies his motivation: “I consider myself to be somewhat of a surrealist; my photographs also tend to contain a little bit of mysticism, personal feelings. They contain the element of chance, as well as a certain way of looking for things that I find interesting, things that are a part of my life, meaning that I must know them well.“

Here, Kolář actually confirms that he has good reason for serving as an educator at Prague’s FAMU: “I don’t mean to boast about it; it’s part of a sense for the visual,” he hinted. “I am interested in people who have managed to reach an inner world underneath the surface of things and phenomena and events, where all that is hidden in the unconscious is revealed to them. It is mystical.”


Viktor Kolář: Ostrava. KANT, Prague 2010, 204 pages, 146 reproductions

Josef Moucha