Welcome to the Archives of Velvet Magazine! For those of you who might not know, Velvet was Prague's first city magazine and sadly published just a few issues. I, Jeffree from Think Magazine, designed the very last issue of Velvet, which was killed the day it was to go to press... and thus, I turned my attention to making Think. A lot of the contact, adresses and business information here is too old to be useful, but why not take a walk down memory lane and enjoy yourself?
By Susannah Rosenstock
n the corner of Celetna and Ovocny trh, the iconic sculpture of the Black Madonna and her child stand guard at Josef Gocar's monument to Cubism - The House of the Black Madonna. Commissioned in 1911 as a department store/cafe/restaurant, Gocar's masterpiece proves that there was a significant period in Czech architecture that fell between the construction of the Charles Bridge and the glass-encased Bata building. It was recently restored to its original Cubist splendor, and now serves as one of three branches of the Czech Museum of Fine Arts.
Upon buying a ticket be prepared to take the elevator to the top floor and walk down. It you've been to New York's spiraling Guggenheim Museum, the procedure should be familiar. Housed in the top two floors is the museum's permanent collection of Cubist art, it's sort of like walking into a "Cubist showroom" at a department store where complete home furnishings and coordinated art are grouped together. All the furnishings, paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, tea sets, and vases reflect elements of the Cubist style and, if for sale, could furnish a geometric, Escheresque fantasy apartment.
The bulk of the furniture is designed by Gocar. A wooden writing desk with angled legs perches like an elegant spider, as if protecting its contents. Other pieces include a dressing table, bedside table, sideboard, bookcase, and two pairs of not very comfortable looking chairs. These pieces all defy traditional notions of the ninety-degree angle principle. The [must-have-that-in-my-apartment piece is Gocar's movie-star sofa: a heavy, black wooden frame whose angled back and arms seem to reach out to all corners of the gallery, with dense, inviting, brocade cushions.
Surrounding the furniture are paintings by the big guns of Czech Cubism: Bohumil Kubista, Josef Capek, Emil Filla, and Antonin Prochazka. Portraits and still-lifes borrow from Picasso's shifting planes and complex spatial structures, yet some pieces exchange his muted Cubist palette for a more saturated Expressionist one.
Cubist sculpture is represented by the works of Otto Guareund whose bronze figures twist and writhe as if struggling to escape from their original mass of unmolded material. The showroom is rounded out by Cubist theater and stage designs, photographs of Gocar and Josef Chochol's other Cubist buildings, as well as cups and saucers in which to serve Cubist tea to your Cubist friends as they relax in Cubist chairs.
The House of the Black Madonna represents the breadth of a unique and short-lived period within Czech art, architecture, and design. While guarding the building, Black Madonna can be imagined observing the city's skyline now dotted with cranes and wondering what new period of architecture will emerge from Prague's post communist construction boom.
Dom U Cerne Matky Bozi (House of the Black Madonna) Celetni 34, Prague 1