Saturday, April 21, 2007

Danubiana - Art and about

Yesterday afternoon I'd covered most of downtown Bratislava about 6 times, so when I discovered there was an art gallery sitting on an island in the middle of the Danube, not far out of town, I knew I had a morning's adventure taken care of.

The Danubiana is a private gallery that opened in the indicated position (maps above) near the intersection of the Slovak, Austrian and Hungarian borders (pink circle), in 2000.

It sits at the upstream end of this boat-like island, a single building encircled by a sculpture park.

At the "bow" is the multi-coloured sculpture (mainly red, above) called The Wings of the Danube, although I think it looks like the snake from B.C. (below).

To be honest, not many of the exhibited works floated my boat, but the bookshop had some interesting limited edition etchings on sale. I love a lot of the fantastic imagery and technical skills of many European artist/illustrators (e.g. Zevi Blum) and especially those from the Czech/Slovak/Polish area, working in pen and ink. Today's special discovery was Peter Klucik (KĽÚČIK), with nods to Marcel Hascic and Katarina Vavrova.

Coffee table and UFO; Michael's Gate: 15914km to Sydney

On our return to Bratislava, I thought I'd visit the castle that sits just above the historical centre, looking like an upturned coffee table. But, no dogs allowed in its grounds, so no visit for us.

Cumil the peeper; Paparazzi

A bit peckish: am I feeling dezerty? or notebooky? ('-y' seems to be the plural form, as in the monastery has monky)

During my dizzying percolation through the streets of Bratislava yesterday, I found Galéria-Michalský dvor very quickly. A small art shop with a charming owner, it is packed with lots of gorgeous etchings and paintings from local artists. I promised I'd return today to have a proper inspection, and so, armed with a small piece of paper with the names of Klucik and Hascic, I spent at least an hour going through drawers of etchings. Finally I left with 2 wonderful Kluciks at a much cheaper cost than at other galleries outside of Bratislava.

Under the shop is a gallery (where I found a book on the school of Albin Brunovsky, including Klucik et al), and an amazingly atmospheric little cafe, heavily decorated by Fero Lipták.

Rossum's Universal Robots; Soga

At Soga gallery, featuring paintings by Daniel Brunovsky (son of Albin?) Bondi was invited in to meet the staff, and they were so taken by him, I got a free catalog of the exhibition. Daniel's works reminded me a little of some of Tove Jansson's (non-line drawing) works (1), and also of the cover of my copy of Michael "Neverending Story" Ende's Momo (2). Curiously, when I went looking for a sample of the latter, the most ubiquitous image (3) for a cover of this book was more like Albin's work.


Despite my luck with Slovak visual art, I haven't been so fortunate with any musical experiences. There's apparently a guitar chamber festival on at present, but I couldn't find out where the events are being held, or if they're open to the public etc etc. Neither could I find any store with any classical/jazz holdings of any significance. The Slovak orchestras are well-recorded (e.g. on Naxos) but it would be nice to find more local composers who don't have a good exposure further afield. The composers I am aware of are
  • Hummel - wonderful piano concertos, recorded by Stephen Hough, on Chandos.
  • Ladislav Kupkovic - just for a short piece, Souvenir on an old Lockenhaus festival recording.
  • Peter Breiner - a prolific Naxos artist who did Baroque-style arrangements of Beatles songs
  • Vladimir Godár - discovered through his ECM recording last year
The most 'conspicuously' Slovak composer that I know is in fact a Czech, Vitezslav Novák, a student of Dvorak, who collected Slovak folk music, and wrote pieces such as the "Moravian-Slovak Suite", and the symphonic poem "In the Tatras". The former is becoming better-known now, after a very sparse recording history; it includes the charming miniatures The Lovers and In the Churchyard.

I don't know of any Slovak writers, but this afternoon I saw a poster (above) for R.U.R. , the 1921 play by the Czech Karel Čapek, which introduced the word robot to the world at large. It comes from a Czech word for forced labour. His later novel, the satirical The War with the Newts (think 'Vonnegut crossed with Orwell') is a particular favourite of mine.

Communication in Slovakia has been a bit hampered:
  • the hotel wifi network, supplied by Slovak Telecom (, has some horrible net-nanny software running, one side-effect of which is to stop me using hotel booking sites like Expedia and
  • I can't get any 3G/GPRS services through my roaming provider Orange SK
  • I can't place any voice calls via Orange SK (SMS OK, receiving voice OK)

I've planned my first significant diversion from my planned route (not bad after 7 weeks). Tomorrow, instead of going to Brno en route to Krakow, I'll be heading east to the High Tatras, staying just north of Poprad. That will take us 2/3 of the way across Slovakia.

Map here.

Accommodation is sorted now for Krakow and Warsaw, pending for Riga (Latvia), with Vilnius (Lithuania) and Tallinn (Estonia) TBD.

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