Mánes Exhibition Hall
The Mánes Exhibition Hall, or to give it its full name “The Building of the Mánes Society of Fine Artists” is on the riverside one block up river from the National Theatre but if you aim for Slavonic Island you’ll see the large white building from the main road. In Czech, Mánes sounds like Mah-nes. You can come either for the art, the architecture or the dining options in both a restaurant and cafe. On this post I will also touch on the “split” and explain why there are two versions of the Mánes Society.
So Who Was Mánes?
Josef Mánes was a famous Czech painter and graphic illustrator born in 1820. To cut a long story short he is well known for his Romantic fine-art style of painting and design and is strongly linked to the Czech National Revival period in the mid-19th Century. He died aged 51 in 1871. The death certificate listed “Cerebral Palsy” although it is now recognised that it was probably Bayels Diesease.
The Mánes Association
In 1887 the “Society of Visual Artists Mánes” which is often just referred to as SUV Mánes was formed. It was and still is a Who’s Who of the Czech arts and design culture. As they did not have a premesis of their own they either leased or rented other properties in order to promote art and design from what was then Bohemia and Moravia but also from other European countries. In 1926 they bought the riverside area known as the Šítkov Mills just downriver from the water tower. Although beginning as a fine-arts society the two people who were instrumental in the building of the gallery were society chairman Josef Gočar and fellow architect Otakar Novotny (note that you can learn about both of these guys on my Prague Architecture Walking Tour). By 1930 the late Art Deco or “Czech Functionalist” building was completed and handed over for the use of the Society of Visual Artists Mánes. So you can visit to see any exhibitions or alternatively you can use it as a cafe or as a restaurant.
The Manes Exhibition Hall Restaurant
It might seem like there are three restaurants and a cafe here but basically the cafe is outside on the main street (Grom at the time of writing). The Mánes Art Restaurant is split over three floors. It is accessed by walking under the covered section and the main entry is on the right before the steps. Going in here you’ll find the main part of the restaurant which is open all year. There is also another area with a small terrace if you go down the steps but that is only open April-October. The main summer season draw here is called the Mánes Terrace which is still the Mánes Art Restaurant but its specifically the raised part at the back with scenic views across the river and down river to the Slavonic Island and the National Theatre. The Mánes Art Restaurant is also the location of the Lounge Bar Mánes i.e. the cocktail bar.
Tour Tip: If it’s running, The Jazz and Dine event below is held at the Manes Art Restaurant.
So as far as Prague Activities are concerned that’s about all you need to know if you are going to visit the Mánes Exhibition Hall building but now for the political issue. You see the “Society of Visual Artists Mánes” and the “Building of the Society of Visual Artists Mánes” is NOT the same thing.
Although the original society that I described above owned and operated the building from 1930 they had it forcibly taken from them by the communists in the 1950s. The entity that then took over the building was called the “Czech Fund for Fine Artists”. In post-communist Czechoslovakia in 1994 this was then renamed to the “Foundation of Czech Fine Arts” but after the formation of the Czech Republic it was assumed that properties like the Mánes Exhibition Hall taken over by the communists would be “restituted” back to the original owners but this never happened. Now I don’t know the legal stuff but in 2004 the Czech Constitutional Court decided that as the “legal continuity” of the Society of Visual Arts Mánes could not be proven then the Mánes Exhibition Hall would remain under the control of it’s current owner i.e. the Foundation of Czech Fine Arts.
If you want to plan a visit to the Mánes Exhibition Hall to see what’s on or you are considering renting the space for an event or to learn more about the current owners then visit the Foundation of Czech Fine Arts website but curiously they publish nothing about anything that happened before 1994……..
If you want to learn more about the pre-1994 history of the building and the original Society of Visual Artists Mánes who owned the building from 1930 to the 1950s plus learn about any free exhibitions in the city then visit the SUV Manes website.
If you want to enquire about the options for eating here then take a look at the Mánes Art Restaurant and Cafe website.