From the press release: The exhibition Masterpieces of 20th Century Art from the collections of the Slovak National Gallery shows in chronological order major works of the leading artists who played the key role in the history of Slovak art. The sample of works on view aims to present the main tendencies, transformations of style and varieties of content and form.
The art of the first half of the 20th century presented in this exhibition shows particularly the paintings and sculptures, which have become a significant part of Slovak cultural awareness and represent the values of our artistic production. The exhibition begins with the works displaying late inspirations drawn from Luminism, Art Nouveau (E. Halász-Hradil, K. Kövári-Kačmarik, Ž. Duchajová-Švehlová) and from Symbolism and Mysticism (A. Jasusch, E. Gwerk, K. Bauer, J. Koniarek). It continues with the works of the founders of the Slovak national school of painting, depicting the specific character of Slovakia and its people (G. Mallý, M. Benka, M. A. Bazovský, J. Alexy, Z. Palugyay). The development of Modernism is shown in experiments and inspirations drawn from the early avant-garde movements of the 1930s (Ľ. Fulla, M. Galanda, E. Šimerová-Martinčeková, I. Weiner-Kráľ, J. Jakoby, K. Sokol, R. Hornák). The following exhibits display the major works of the war generation concerned with urban sensualism, genre painting, Surrealism and existential drama (C. Majerník, J. Mudroch, P. Matejka, V. Hložník, L. Guderna, E. Nevan, V. Chmel, E. Semian, E. Zmeták, J. Kostka, R. Uher).
The second part of the exhibition shows the art of the second half of the 20th century. The works on view display the artistic search for the language of modern life, emphasising the revelation of archetypal form as a symbolic and sensual essence of reality represented in the art of the Mikuláš Galanda Group (A. Barčík, R. Krivoš, M. Laluha, V. Kompánek, A. Rudavský). The exhibition further displays neo-avant-garde works of the 1960s, emphasising material structures in Art Informel as well as stigmatised matter and assemblage (M. Čunderlík, J. Kočiš, M. Urbásek, R. Fila, J. Jankovič). Gestural abstraction and new figuration (V. Kraicová, M. Paštéka, V. Popovič), geometrical abstraction and Kinetic art (M. Dobeš, A. Klimo, E. Antal, Š. Belohradský) are also represented. The exhibition continues with painting influenced by Conceptual art, created during the totalitarian period (J. Koller, R. Sikora, D. Fischer, K. Bočkayová, M. Bočkay) and Neo-Expressionist painting of the 1980s (L. Teren, I. Csudai, S. Bubán). It also introduces the sculptors who created, in the 1980s and 1990s, sculptures and objects featuring Postmodernist elements or individual mythologies (J. Meliš, P. Binder, J. Hoffstädter, V. Havrilla, J. Bartusz, M. Bartuszová). The survey of 20th century art is concluded with the multimedia expression rooted in objects and environments of the 1960s (S. Filko, J. Želibská), leading to alternative forms, spatial installation and video (V. Kordoš, P. Meluzin, P. Rónai) as well as Neo-Conceptual tendencies (D. Tóth, R. Ondák, K. Pichler).
The exhibition is complemented with the samples of work of the leading graphic artists (A. Brunovský, V. Gažovič, D. Kállay and others) representing a significant artistic expression in the development of Slovak art.
The selection of artefacts was limited by the extent of gallery collections as well as by the similarity in style, expression and significance. Although we set strict criteria for masterpieces, emphasis was laid on that period of the artist’s life in which he/she most significantly contributed to the history of Slovak visual arts. Naturally, many leading artists are not presented in this exhibition because their masterpieces are missing in the collections of the Slovak National Gallery. Unfortunately, the exhibition shows neither the works of art, which were on loan at the time when the exhibition was mounted nor the artefacts, which form part of other permanent exhibitions (Ľ. Fulla at the Ľudovít Fulla Gallery in Ružomberok, L. Medňanský or 20th century sculpture displayed at the Slovak National Gallery branch in Strážky). This is the reason why the art of the 1970s is missing (the exhibition Slovak Visual Art 1970–1985 is currently shown on the premises of the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava). Therefore in individual cases we also exhibit the works, which are less known to the viewers, but they offer an equal alternative for the representation of the artist in the context of development and his/her artistic creation.
We hope that the exhibition of selected masterpieces of 20th century art will give the viewers an idea of the spectrum of collections and present a more vivid picture of 20th century Slovak art.