Database of works of arts in architecture and public space in the city of Ostrava

Hereby presented broadly-designed database intends to provide its user with, if possible, a complete view of artistic decoration in the city of Ostrava. Since the data will be kept updated and completed, one can consider its content to be the picture of the current situation of this cultural heritage. It attempts to record existing artefacts as well as vanished works (memory) of our public space and buildings which have had, or in the past had, the character of community facilities (nursery, primary and secondary schools, universities, shops and shopping centres, hospitals and medical centres, plants, administration buildings etc.). There are two purposes of this database. On the one hand it tries to popularize art and point out its importance within the municiple inventory, the space we live in and which cultivates these works. And on the other hand it seeks to provide basic information (if it is possible to find) about all classified works which we might further use in research. We believe that recording individual monuments itself can have a fundamental significance for both the future memory of the city and its current perception which should ideally lead to the cultivation of the public space.

The result of our work is based on a long-term documentation of artworks, which includes three basic areas of research in itself: the study of literature on a given topic (general handbooks as well as catalogues with works of individual artists), field research (looking for artefacts in the city, finding out in what condition they are, photographic documentation) and archive research, which is especially important for the most productive periods when many works of art in our public space were created – which means the time span of 1960s – 1980s.

It is necessary to point out that the current database has at least two significant predecessors which have contributed to a considerable extent to its origin. The first one is a university textbook called Ostrava. Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, which was created by a team of authors under the guidance of Marta Vosečková and published by the Municipal Pedagogical Centre in Ostrava in 1991. We hesitate to describe the mentioned publication as a book since it is rather an informative typewritten database. Moreover it was not for sale, and unfortunately did not even get in public libraries in the city (we only know a copy kept in the private library of the gallerist Pavel Pavliňák in the Art Centre Chagall). In spite of the inconsistency of this textbook (sometime it appears chaotic and gives unverified or incomplete information), it provides basic overview of artists' works for the city of Ostrava, namely in a very broad scope (works from different periods of time, their implementation for public space, but also for interior of various buildings, in some cases even hanging pictures and the like).

The other handbook is a book called Sculpture in the city subtitled The Relationship of Architecture and Plastic Art in Ostrava in the Twentieth Century by Marie Šťastná, which was published by The University of Ostrava in 2008. The book emerged from the author's dissertation and, as a matter of fact, presents a coherent study on the artistic development within architecture and urbanism of Ostrava city. It also brings a brief database of artworks. Nevertheless the author restricted herself to exterior works and to a considerable extent to works which existed at the time of the book's publication (with the exception of a few significant pieces of work). Unfortunately, with the current state of care for cultural heritage, it is not surprising that a lot of catalogued, at that time existing, works have ceased to exist since then.

Our database attempts to combine the scope of both previously mentioned books. We try to introduce all existing and vanished artworks known to us in the set areas. These areas represent public space and buildings, if not directly public, then certainly having a significant function in the city life. We catalogue works both in exterior as well as in interior, although we are aware of the fact that our database may lack some interior pieces of work, which will regularly be added. As artwork related to architecture and urbanism we regard all sculptures, as for painting mosaics, murals, stained glass, decorative glassware and important textile work (curtains, art protis tapestries and other techniques in position of a decorative wall). Users will thus not find typical hanging pictures in the database. Important design works are to be found as well (sometimes also artistically depicted inscriptions) and works on the margin of architecture and sculpture. Of course we record sculptured memorials and memorial plaques, however only if an artistically depicted feature is included.

For the time being, we have left aside crosses, which mostly do not provide space for distinctive sculptor's expression (in the city of Ostrava they almost never do). We do not catalogue the interior equipment of churches for understandable reasons (but we do catalogue potential exterior decoration) and grave sculpture (if the sculpture is part of the grave, it is not included in the database; if it is a separate work of art within the decoration of a cemetary, it is included). While architectural sculpture, popular especially in the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century, is easily determinable at first glance (sculpture which is part of the building's facade), the situation becomes complicated especially with decoration from the turn of the 19th and 20th century where sculptural work is usually small and of non-figural character or simple decorative embossment, the presence of which would rather burden the database. Thus we record such decoration only if it represents a principal motif in the building's decoration, often having figural or animal theme, sometimes it can be in the form of a house sign.

The database entry is constructed so that it sufficiently informs about a given piece of work, and at the same time is not overloaded with information which is not crucial for primary familiarization (e.g. we do not state who the investor, or rather the ordering party was, nevertheless we can provide this information with many works on request). The column work's name may contain a specific name if it is known, at other times it states just a simple designation (e.g. "abstract relief" or "etched windows"), we can often find various names too (a piece of work is sometimes called differently – sometimes the author calls it differently, sometimes the city dwellers), or assigned names (we called an unnamed work according to the topic it depicts). Columns author, type of work and district are "clickable", i.e. they enable access to all works by one author, works of one type or in one district. We decided to leave the column material unclickable for safety reasons.

Indexes also provide the possibility of chronological sorting – by epochs. Baroque presents not only sculptures purely baroque from the 18th century, but it takes into account also the so-called village Baroque, reaching far in the 19th century. The epoch of the 19th century works with the historical concept of the so-called long 19th century, which is also justifiable in art – the uppermost limit is thus defined by the formation of a new state in 1918. The period of the Czechoslovak First Republic represents an independent epoch, and is called the twenties and thirties of the 20th century. The epoch of the forties of the 20th century includes art created during the time of World War II or early after that (early works of the liberation). However the epoch of the fifties of the 20th century (nicknamed socialist realism or more often in short 'sorela') includes art created already after February 1948 with the uppermost limit in 1958, which is a significant turning point as for the origin of the so-called Brussels style. Brussels style belongs in the epoch of the sixties of the 20th century, which also means extraordinary development of fine art because of the emergence of abstraction (also geometric) and stylized figurativeness. These ideas were represented by an expert commission The Association of Czech Artists in the socially and politically relaxed time of the sixties. The commission judged orders of artworks (in this case especially monuments) for architecture and public space, the creation of which was compulsory within public buildings in Czechoslovakia on the ground of ordinance no. 355/1965 (today refered to as the so-called 'four per cent law' owing to the percentage investment alloted to art). The commission of the sixties was dissolved and replaced by a new commission in November 1970, which is in this region a milestone posing the beginning of the so-called normalization. The new commission controlled by politically conformist officials guided artists under pressure of the changed political situation back to realism and figurativeness, which only occassionally provided space for general artistic trends (e.g. the so-called new figuration). Works in the spirit of the sixties were regarded as ideologically inferior (only decorative), and according to that also evaluated. The date of the approval for a work's implementation is thus regarded as a decisive criterion for orders from that period. The works approved by the old commission belong thus in the previous group (the sixties), although the building inspection was performed in new conditions. Works approved after November 1970 therefore belong in the epoch the seventies and eighties of the 20th century. Another milestone meaning the beginning of a new epoch is obviously the year 1989. Since the old commision was on duty as an expert body approving art orders till the year 1994, a similar problem to the one in the previous case appears here as well, and we solve it in the same way. The epoch the nineties of the 20th century is ended with the year 2000. The following period is called simply as the 21st century – it represents art which we can describe as contemporary.

Vanished works of art are classified in the above mentioned epochs too. The works regarded as vanished are not only the ones which have been destroyed but also the ones removed from a given place (either we know they are kept somewhere, or we are not familiar with their subsequent destiny). We state the work's current position in case it was further placed elsewhere in the city, while we refer to its original position not only in the entry note but also on a map. If the work was newly placed out of Ostrava, it is pointed out in the note however it is regarded as vanished for our database. Also the works the existence of which we have not been able to verify are stated as vanished (in the epoch of disappearance is written "unverified").

A pictorial supplement is naturally a part of our database too. We make the effort to provide both contemporary photographs of existing monuments and historical photographs of vanished or altered monuments. This component of entries will continuously be supplemented. For the future we also consider adding short biographical entries of individual authors.

Bibliography is included for a skilled reader (archive sources, information of those who still remember, catalogues, literature, internet sources). We always state if the piece of work is in the Vosečková and Šťastná catalogues. We refer to frequently used sources by means of abbreviations, which are explained in the list of abbreviations.

In conclusion we give many thanks to all the institutions and people who provided us with information about the works of art. Further we thank the institutions, photographers and private persons who took photographs of given monuments and provided their photographs. We also invite general public not to hesitate to contact us via a contact form in case they have additional information or historical photographs of a particular artwork. We will be grateful for all important comments, material or notifications of unregistered artworks.

Jakub Ivánek (translated by Taťána Skočíková)

The project was implemented thanks to the financial support from the statutory city of Ostrava and the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.