Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
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Founded in 1885, the Prague Museum of Decorative Arts (Czech: Uměleckoprůmyslové museum v Praze or UPM) is housed in a Neo-Renaissance edifice built in 1897–1901 after the designs of architect Josef Schulz. The Museum’s rich collections include decorative and applied arts and design work ranging from Late Antiquity to the present day, with focus on European objects, particularly arts and crafts created in the Bohemian Lands. The impressive interior of the permanent exhibition “Stories of Materials” offers visitors an excursion into the history and development of decorative arts: glass and ceramics, graphic art and design, objects made in metal, wood and other materials, jewellery, clocks and watches, textiles, fashion, toys and furniture.
The Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague collects and preserves for future generations—in both national and international contexts—examples of historical and contemporary crafts, as well as applied arts and design. We believe in harmony between function, quality and beauty; our ambition is to inspire, educate and entertain in a unique way.
History of the Museum
The foundation of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague in 1885 reflected the dramatic development of Czech society at the time. Following the establishment of a similar institution in Brno in 1873, the Prague museum soon became an important cultural and educational centre in the Crown Lands of Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The unfavourable impact of the Industrial Revolution on the aesthetic appearance and, consequently, the quality of products had for a long time been the subject of justified criticisms from artists, theorists and the public. The idea of establishing a permanent exhibition of decorative and applied arts in Prague was realised through an exhibition arranged by the Arkadia Association in 1861 at the Old Town Hall in Prague. Another source of inspiration had been the founding of a similar institution – the South Kensington Museum (now Victoria and Albert Museum), which opened in London in 1852, originally containing a collection of objects of applied and decorative arts. More important for the Czech public, however, was the Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie, which opened in Vienna in 1864. In 1868, in cooperation with the Vienna museum, the Prague Chamber of Trade and Commerce held an exhibition on Žofín Island of objects obtained from the World Exhibition in Paris in 1867, supplemented by historical arts and crafts mostly from the collection of Vojtěch Lanna (who became the Museum’s most important donor and sponsor). In a period when funds and suitable buildings were hard to find, the promise of the exhibition area in the Rudolfinum (the House of the Artists), made in 1872 and realised in 1885 when the presidium of the Chamber of Trade and Commerce decided to establish an independent museum, also contributed greatly to the birth of the Museum. Between 1897 and 1900, a Museum building in Neo-Renaissance style was built according to the design of the architect Josef Schulz on a plot of land located between the Old Jewish Cemetery and a street on the edge of Josefov quarter.
The Stories of Materials
- Founders’ Hall
The Museum’s history, founders and patrons of the Museums, and their gifts.
- The Story of Fibre: Textiles and Fashion
- Time Machines: Clocks and Watches
Sculptural and ornamental clocks, watches and measuring instruments.
- The Fire Arts: Glass and Ceramics
The stylistic and technical development of glass, ceramics and porcelain, tableware, mirrors and interior accessories.
- Print and Picture: Graphic Design and Photography
Information through print and image, book bindings and illustrations, the development of script, posters, photographs, small commercial-art prints.
- The Treasury: Metals and Other Materials
- The Josef Sudek Gallery - 24 Úvoz, Prague 1
A small gallery that holds photographic displays of works by the world-reputed photographer Josef Sudek and others.
- The Schwarzenberg Palace - 2 Hradčanské náměstí, Prague 1
The permanent exhibition “Baroque Masterpieces from the Collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague”, accompanying the exposition of Baroque art in Bohemia of the National Gallery in Prague, consists of three sections: Liturgical Objects, Tableware and Ornamentation.
- St. George’s Convent - 33 Jiřské náměstí, Prague Castle
The permanent exhibition of the National Gallery “19th-Century Art in Bohemia” is complemented by a selection of artworks from the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.
- The Trade Fair Palace - 47 Dukelských hrdinů, Prague 7
Exhibits from the Museum’s collections form part of the Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries—an interdisciplinary permanent exhibition of the National Gallery in Prague.
- The House of the Black Madonna - 19 Ovocný trh, Prague 1
Apart from its fine arts collection, the National Gallery’s Museum of Czech Cubism also contains Cubist furniture, and glass and ceramics from UPM’s holdings.
In Chateaus and Elsewhere
- Kamenice nad Lipou Chateau - 1 Náměstí Čsl. Armády
Displays of wrought-iron objects, children’s toys, the study collection of 19th- and 20th-century furniture from UPM’s holdings. The “Museum of the Senses”—an installation of the Municipal Museum in Kamenice, and short-term exhibitions.
- The Textile Museum in Česká Skalice
The sole museum in the Czech Republic that specializes in the history of textile production. Its collections survey the evolvement of textile-making over the centuries, notably of printed fabrics. The Museum organizes regular, short-term exhibitions.
- Klášterec nad Ohří Chateau - 1 Chomutovská
An exhibition of Bohemian porcelain, with examples of Chinese and Japanese wares and porcelain produced in Europe.
- Nové Hrady Chateau - 1 Nové Hrady (near Litomyšl)
The exhibition examines the art of furniture-making throughout the ages: from the Baroque to the Art Nouveau.
The largest Czech library specializing in the arts and related fields is an integral part of the Museum. It holds 172,000 volumes, including authoritative art encyclopaedias, dictionaries of artists and comprehensive works on iconography, topography and heraldry. Apart from art books and other scholarly publications, the Library contains a great many other reference manuals and periodicals. The Library provides on-premise use of resources, database access, and searching in the Art and Architecture (ART) subject gateway.
The exhibition halls of the Museum and the Library are fully accessible to wheelchair users. Wheelchair access is possible through the garden, located about 40 metres to the right of the main entrance when facing the building. The lavatories on the first floor are suitable for capable users with mechanical wheelchairs; other barrier-free lavatories are in the Rudolfinum across the street.
- Josef Sudek Gallery
- The Chateau at Klášterec nad Ohří
- Museum of Textile in Česká Skalice
- The Chateau at Kamenice nad Lipou