Jindřich Štreit in Sovinec Collection
This unique private collection of Jindřich Štreit, a well-known photographer, curator and collector of largely unofficial 20th-century art, mainly contains the materials of unofficial exhibitions he held in Sovinec, as well as his own photographs and works and photographs of several dozen artists. The exhibitions in Sovinec were unique occasions for exhibitions of these artists who otherwise were not allowed to exhibit in Czechoslovakia, as well as for foreign and exile artists invited by Štreit. Secret police often attended these exhibitions, and on several occasions, the exhibitions were also cancelled.
Sovinec, okr. Bruntál, Czech Republic
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Name of collection
Sbírka Jindřicha Štreita na Sovinci
Provenance and cultural activities
Jindrich Štreit's collection is a unique testimony of its time. The collection includes works of art created in connection with the curatorial and collecting activities of professor Štreit as well as a collection of photographs and negatives created by professor Štreit.
During socialism Professor Štreit worked in the Sovinec Gallery, where he provided space for unofficial artists. At the time of normalization, the old school in Sovinec became a haven for artists who were not supported by the state. Štreit organized informal exhibitions, concerts and theatre performances. Sovinec became a place for independent artists from across the country. In 1981, he participated in the 9x9 underground exhibition in Plasy. He met the organizer of the exhibition, Anna Fárová, and other artists, including world-renowned photographer Cartier-Bresson.
Štreit was arrested in 1982 after he was detained at the installation of the TJ Sparta Tennis Show in Prague-Bubeneč. Štreit had been invited to an allegedly authorized exhibition. He had a collection of photographs which was supposed to be on display at an exhibition in Olomouc, which he took and exhibited them in Prague. Before the exhibition was open to the public, the state police closed and seized its contents. Štreit then drove home to Sovinec. After two days the police squad arrived. The home inspection lasted thirteen hours. They confiscated all of his equipment including photo-computers, typewriters, cameras, all contacts and negatives. His wife and daughter were present at the time. Štreit then spent 48 hours in interrogation in Bartolomějská Street in Prague and then was imprisoned at Ruzyně. After the release, he was closely monitored, but no more strenuous intervention followed. Various petitions were signed in Sovinec, but not publicly. Several hundred people came to the events, as they had a lot of publicity. Each of the vernissages was attended by several secret police officers of the State Security, and also a Regional Inspector of Culture (a member of the Regional National Committee of the Communist Party). It was only years later when Štreit finally found out who of his acquaintances collaborated with the State Security.
In the years 1974-1989, Štreit prepared six dozen monographic and group exhibits in Sovinec from the private production of the series for the regime-inconvenient artists. The exhibitions were accompanied by discussions with authors and art theorists, musical and theatrical performances. For example, the Břetislav Rychlík HaDivadlo ensembles, Ivan Vyskočil's Nedivadlo, the Jára Cimrmann Theater and the Slovak Gunag Theater were introduced. Each of the events, which, of course, took place under the auspices of the state police and during a period of general political oppression and censorship, was perceived not only as an act of art, but also as a socio-political confrontation of the suppressed democratic rankings concentrated in art with a generally dominant totalitarian regime.
The broad and systematic nature of the cultural activities organized by Jindřich Štreit in Sovinec can be compared, for example, with the activities of Zdeněk Hůla and Jiří Hůla in Gallery H in Kostelec nad Černými lesy in 1980s or with long-term exhibitions and lectures at the Theater in Nerudova street or the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry of Academy of Sciences of Czechoslovakia in the 1970s or 1980s. Content and significance can be compared to events such as the Mutěnice Art Symposium (1983), the Chmelnice Exhibition (1989), but above all, to the extensive cycle of several unofficial exhibitions of Confrontation that took place from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.
When Jindřich Štreit was asked, in an interview with Štěpánka Bieleszová, how he managed to create a significant cultural center in Sovinec during the ‘normalisation’ period, he said, "The selection of authors was extremely important. I set up the program for three years in advance. I thought that it was important that the authors follow each other or be in contrast. I had the idea that I would always introduce an author from one region, but the author should go beyond the region in his or her work, then another from Slovakia, so that we would keep the continuity with the Slovak cultural life and also well-known progressive Prague artists should have been introduced. I picked such authors who could not exhibit in Czechoslovakia but exhibited in the USA at the Meda Mládek Gallery or at Anna Baruchova´s place in Chicago. They were stars that were little known at home, but they were already renowned abroad. I did it officially and had approved the exhibitions not as a private person but as a representative of the Society of Friends of Arts in Sovinec, which we founded. For me, the district officials did not know this part of the art scene, so they did not know who they were, but they had the opportunity to come, and I transferred the responsibility to the district office. Of course, state police were at every event. I do not know whether they knew that Olga Karlikova signed Charter 77; only a few people were well-informed. It was a risk, a great risk. "
The collection is nowadays stored in Sovinec on the private premises of Professor Štreit. It is open to the public only with prior agreement, and at present there is an effort to ensure suitable premises for the collection, as well as institutional background and digitization. Professor Štreit and Stepanka Bieleszová have been cooperating to do this.
Description of content
The description of the collection in Sovinec is based on a field survey that showed that the improvised storage facilities of the Štreit´s house in Sovinec are now in unsatisfactory condition, both for the art collection and for the extensive documentation of the organizational and curatorial activities of Jindřich Štreit. The collection of works of art, documenting the development of Czechoslovak unofficial and semi-official art from the 1960s until the present day, is still quite exceptional in this context. The collection was largely formed in connection with the exhibitions organized by Professor Štreit in Sovinec from 1974, as well as the systematic collection that Jindřich Štreit established parallel to the exhibition projects at the same time. It is estimated that there are around 500 drawings and graphics, about 200 photos and 100 paintings, sculptures and spatial objects and installations. The most prominent are the works of top Czech artists such as Václav Boštík, Vladimír Boudník, Mikuláš Medek, Bohuslav Reynek, Adriena Šimotová, Stanislav Kolíbal, Karel Malich, Karel Nepraš, Jiří Kolář, Zdeněk Sýkora, Milan Grygar, Vladimír Janoušek, Juraj Lipták, Juraj Meliš, Marián Mudroch, Juraj Liptov, Juraj Meliš, Marián Mudroch, Juraj Lipták, Juraj Meliš, Juraj Lipták, Juraj Meliš, Marián Mudroch, Peter Rónai, Rudolf Sikora, Dezider Tóth and many others. In the improvised storage facilities at Sovinec there is also a photographic archive, a unique and authentic collection created by Professor Štreit since 1968 which documents the historical and social changes of the Moravian countryside over a period of more than 40 years in the range of 10,000 negatives. The overwhelming majority of the pictures originated in the former Sudetenland and bring colourful illustrations of the lives of people on the edge of society surviving in the area of the devastated Moravian border region.
- graphics: 500-999
- paintings: 100-499
- photos: 100-499
- sculptures: 100-499
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Bruntál, Jiříkov, Czech Republic
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Bieleszová, Štěpánka
- Vrtálková, Anna
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Bieleszová, Štěpánka, interview by Vrtálková, Anna , September 12, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Štreit, Jindřich, interview by Bieleszová, Štěpánka, November 15, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection