A Tale of Two Slovakias

Bratislava Castle in the mid-19th Century, Ludwig Rohbock

Bratislava Castle in the mid-19th Century, Ludwig Rohbock

What with the free entry and all during 2014, it’s a good idea to check as much out at Bratislava’s Slovak National Gallery as you can. And running until 19th October is one of the most intriguing exhibitions I’ve seen there yet: Dve Krajiny, which translates as two countries.

What they’ve done is to contrast artists’ depictions of locations throughout Slovakia in the 19th century and in the 21st.

Some locations have more comparisons than others, e.g.. Bratislava with its iconic castle-Danube vista gets more than its fair share of entries.

But overall, the geographical spread is good and, if you look carefully, the smaller details in the older pictures are fascinating.

One can see how tiny a city like Košice (or Kassa, as it was generally then known) has expanded since the 19th century – or how people used to navigate the Danube in Bratislava before there were any bridges (by a long rope, with boat captains pulling their vessels along). Up in the section on the High Tatras (Slovak regions are grouped together separately) there’s an interesting insight into 19th century mountaineering and skiing. And of course, any writing on these older batch of paintings is in either German or Hungarian – another poignant reminder of how Slovakia then was a territory, but still very far from being a country.

There’s some good contemporary art installations too – although their power is primarily in contrasting the older pictures. Watch out for the humorous maps of Bratislava and an audiovisual of an artist floating, ghost-like, in his own work – drifting like a loosely moored boat might drift around the Starý Most bridge (before it got demolished, of course…)

MAP LINK: (Entrance actually on Mostova half way up on the left)

RUNNING UNTIL: 19th October

ADMISSION: Free

OPENING: Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm (Thursday until 8pm)

 

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