Why should I go to galleries, when everything is on the Internet? Do I have to study to become an artist? And how do I recognize a work of art? These are just some of most frequent questions asked by teenagers in galleries. A new book, called Proč umění? or Why Art?, attempts to answer these questions, using various works of art from galleries in the Central European region. It also aims to get teenagers interested in art and attract them to galleries to see some of these artworks in the flesh.

I discussed the title, which has been nominated for this year’s Most Beautiful Books Award, with one of its editors, Martina Freitagová.

“Before we can talk about the book, we have to go back to the educational platform that published it, which is called Máš umělecké střevo?, which could be translated into English as Do You Have a Knack for Art?.

“It is a platform that was established in the Czech Republic and has expanded to other countries in the Central European region. We started working with the Slovak National Gallery, with the Ludwig Museum in Budapest and also with the State Art Collection in Dresden, Germany.

“This is where we got together with our partners and realised that art education in our countries faces the same challenges and that the questions that people keep asking in galleries are very similar.

“So we proposed the idea of putting the most frequent ones together and attempting to provide an answer. Not a definite answer, but more of a direction of how to think about contemporary art.”

Who are the people behind the initiative?

“Rather than individual artists, the initiative joins together various art institutions. We work with the National Gallery in Prague, with the Dox Centre for Contemporary Art and with the Moravian Gallery in Brno. Those are our three main partners. But we also collaborate with other institutions, such as the Rudolfinum gallery, so there is actually quite a wide network of partners in the Czech Republic.

“And abroad, it is the three institutions that I have already mentioned, the Slovak National Gallery, the Ludwig Museum in Budapest and the State Art Collection in Dresden. Working with those institutions gave us the benefit of reaching a wider audience and presenting art in a more accessible and more eligible way.”

Each of the 32 chapters in the book starts with a question about art that a teenager might ask and these questions are then answered by various artists who use particular works of art to illustrate their point. How did you come up with these questions?

“The questions come from the actual experience of working with school groups and the general public and repeatedly hearing these questions. We asked each of our partners to bring the ten most frequently asked questions and then we had an international meeting where we discussed and picked the most typical ones. One of the criteria was to use a question to illustrate a particular art work, art movement, technique or processes that are used in art.”

Do all of the works of art mentioned in your book come from one of the galleries joined in the initiative Do You Have a Knack for Art? Was this your intention?

“Exactly. It should serve, in a way, as a presentation of these great galleries that we have in our immediate proximity. We wanted to point out that you don’t have to travel overseas, to New York or to London, to actually see great artworks. That it is actually around the corner that you can see Picasso, Rembrandt and other great works of art. That’s why we also included a map to show that it really takes you about two hours by train to get to all of these institutions and to all this world-class art.

“The choice was also based on discussions about which art works are to be illustrated. Again each of our partners was asked to state their preferred choices, which we then discussed.”

See the rest here.