Czech painter Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic may still be searching for a permanent home in Prague, but in 2017 it enjoyed great success abroad.
One of the most important figures in the Art Nouveau movement, Mucha enjoyed much popularity for his unique poster designs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
But it was the Slav Epic – a monument to the Slav people and their history that was spread across 20 large canvases measuring up to 6×8 meters each – that the painter dedicated much of the second half of his life to.
After his death in 1939, Mucha willed the Slav Epic to the City of Prague with a stipulation that a gallery be built to permanently house them. That never came, however, and after spending 50 years in Moravský Krumlov, the paintings were only recently moved to Prague’s Veletržní Palace in 2012.
Currently, the Slav Epic is on tour in Asia – a controversial endeavor given the size of the paintings and potential damage to them. The Mucha Foundation, along with other conservationists, art historians, and museum professionals, has publicly opposed the tour.
But the Slav Epic has enjoyed great success abroad: last Spring, Mucha’s Slav Epic was displayed in Tokyo and seen by more than half a million visitors. A grand total of 657,350 people saw the Slav Epic in Tokyo, which averaged out to 8,505 daily visitors.
According to The Art Newspaper, who compiled the attendance numbers for art exhibitions around the world, that was the third-highest daily average for any exhibit during 2017.
The year’s most popular art installations were Unkei – The Great Master of Buddhist Sculpture, also in Tokyo, with 11,268 daily visitors, and Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, with 8,926 daily visitors.
The Slav Epic is expected to return to Prague later this year, though it’s still seeking a permanent home; previous reports mentioned a potential spot for it in a new building at the bottom of Revoluční street, to go along with other renovations in the area, but that project is currently in limbo.