It’s an expedition; it would be easy to catch a taxi, but that doesn’t feel like the right thing to do; it is more adventurous to travel on the metro from the city centre and then, with the necessary technological assistance of google maps, walk as the only pedestrians along a busy major road and cut down through suburban streets with a few art nouveau-decorated buildings to add some colour until the austere industrial façade of the late 19th century former metal factory appears. There is little hint of what awaits inside apart from the large letters “DOX” on the white-painted tower.
Inside is a transformation. The three buildings of the complex have been refurbished by the architect Ivan Kroupa and connected together to create a flexible variety of gallery spaces, joined by stairs, ramps and a roof terrace that can house art from the scale of large installations to the intimacy of photographs.
The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art is also a catalyst for the rebirth of the Holešovice district of Prague as an area occupied by architects, designers, advertising agencies and artists and of contemporary art in Prague. Bought in 2002 and developed with private finance by Leoš Válka, DOX filled a vacuum in dedicated facilities available for contemporary art in Prague and in 2008 the building was nominated for the international architectural Mies van der Rohe Award.
The success of the centre’s design is illustrated by the number and scale of exhibitions that can take place at one time including, at October 2015, exhibitions on the architectural work of Jakub Szczesny with his “Keret House” (considered to be the narrowest house in the world) and other projects, the photographic work of Blanka Chocholová, Václav Chochola and Marek Chochola and the work of the designer Jiri Pelci who plays games with perception, scale and visual reality in for example his design “Tree”. These all run alongside the main exhibition project, spanning three floors, the “Brave New World” which explores society as described by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Ray Bradbury in their famous visions of the future (Brave New World (1932), 1984 (1949) and 451° Fahrenheit (1953)), with where we are today in a world of ever-increasing control and regulation, celebrity, consumerism and mass advertising.
Swirling over the centre is a large and sinister red skull. The exhibition “Brave New World”, points out where the predictions of the three authors were wrong but, more worryingly, all too much about where they were right in describing a vision of the future which has already arrived.
DOX is a suberb asset for contemporary art in Prague and the current exhibitions are worth visiting to see how they explore the relationship between art and society.