Tucked away in a corner of the café, there is an interesting photograph or colorful painting.
Stepping back, you realize the art on the walls isn’t there just to pretty the place up, but is part of a carefully chosen series or collection.
In much of Prague, it’s possible to get a shot of culture alongside your shot of Becherovka, as unexpected venues all over town are acting as informal art galleries.
It is necessary to walk a long corridor to get to Cloud 9, a cocktail bar atop the Hilton Prague hotel. One wall is nearly all windows, affording strollers a wonderful view. Now, the niches near these windows are filled as part of a display, Cloud 9 Contemporary, of designs by young artists that runs through Oct. 7.
“We aren’t just a bar with a nice view and excellent cocktails. We aren’t here just for people to spend time, but to meet different kinds of people,” said Roman Uhlír, manager of Cloud 9. “People can think about drinks and artwork, talk about it, maybe it’s good.”
Cloud 9 partnered with Art-Pro Gallery on the current exhibition. The sculptures are varied and interesting, like “Figure of break down” by Lukáš Rais. A totally dejected person is sculpted from welded pipes with a big light blub for a face. Further down the hall is an object resembling aluminum cupcake baking forms fixed together to create Ondrej Oliva’s “”Forbidden Fruit.””
“I wanted to do it in bronze, but it was expensive, so a casting factory donated the material to me,” Oliva said. “I think it is good that places like this show art, because not so many people go to galleries anymore, and it’s a chance for people to see art.”
Uhlír got a bit creative on his own and designed a cocktail to match each sculpture.
“It’s nice for our bar; the design fits, and it is interesting to drink this cocktail, which I made after seeing these sculptures,” he said. This is Cloud 9’s second such exhibition; the first was a sculpture display by Petr Schel.
Giving visitors another reason to stop by is just one motivation for bringing local artists in to the café or bar. La Casa Blu, a Latin American bar and restaurant in Old Town, takes its roots seriously.
“The art, in some degree, expresses the culture. This space is to show the Latino-American culture in the Czech Republic,” said Francisco Quiroga Naranjo from La Casa Blu’s Galería Julio Cortazar. “Fourteen years ago, when La Casa Blu was founded, this kind of space didn’t exist in Prague.”
The tiny gallery is named after the owner’s favorite writer, and its principal theme is simply “Latin America,” which Quiroga Naranjo says can mean a Latin American artist or theme.
“Galería Julio Cortazar has presented a lot of artists with different techniques: sculpture, paint, design, photography and collage,” he said. “We are not art experts, but we have an art feeling. The artist and/or works must respect the La Casa Blu philosophy and show Latin American culture.”
Currently on at the gallery is a photo exhibition on Peru by Miguel Alonso.
Rotating exhibitions at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport are unlikely to draw people for a specific visit but add a dash of culture to the hustle and bustle of travel. The cavernous space of Terminal 2 is flooded with natural light, basically screaming for art to fill some of the void.
“We want all passengers to feel like they are already on vacation. They can relax by seeing an exhibition,” said Martina Plezelová, product and marketing manager at Ruzyne Airport.
Czech Fashion Live, an exhibition of contemporary Czech fashion, runs through Oct. 21. A mix of actual fashion and photographs, it is a surprisingly good exhibition of young designers on the relatively unknown Czech fashion scene. The actual outfits are a mix between professional and elegant, while the photos tend toward the more artsy and avant-garde.
While few locals are regular patrons at Prague hotels, the Czech Inn works hard to attract people to its café, with a wall now deemed the Czech Inn Gallery.
“The exhibition space is fairly large. It starts in our reception area and spills into the Kavárna. The walls are big, and the space is gorgeous,” said Megan S. Harrod, spokeswoman for Czech Inn’s parent company Bohemian Hostels. “There is something special about the combination of the ambient lighting, the intricate detail on the ceiling in the Kavárna, and the fine lines and minimalist design of our space.”
Harrod said the gallery looks to alternate photographs, paintings and mixed media in its showings. Currently running through Sept. 25 is a photography exhibition by Erin Naillon, and beginning Sept. 26, Minna Pyyhkala and her photography students will take over.
On the Melantrichova side of the Ceská sporitelna bank building on Rytírská, stroll past the Window Gallery. Currently on display are a variety of glass pieces by Czech designers interestingly positioned on everything from an old oil can to Astroturf-covered cubes. Most pieces were borrowed from galleries all over the country, and some works are by well-known luminaries in the Czech glass world, such as Borek Šípek, Rony Plesl and Barbora Škorpilová. Inside the building there is an actual gallery, as well.
The unexpected art is almost enough to make you forget the unexpected service fees.