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Museum for a palace

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One of the biggest museum projects in the country is currently launching in Moravia. Some days ago, the fate of the Central European forum, supported by governments of a number of countries, depended on the votes of Olomouc representatives and a willingness of one local entrepreneur. The entrepreneur demanded one of the most beautiful palaces on the Olomouc square in exchange for the land necessary for the construction of the new museum building. And he got it. The story of the birth of a prominent cultural institution has, thus, been enriched by a chapter displaying the incapacity of local public servants to secure background for a big international enterprise without unnecessary losses.

Was it worth it?
Olomouc Central European forum shall collect central European visual art from after the Second World War. Foundation of the forum was supported by the culture ministers of Hungary, Poland and Slovakia last year. Czech ministry has the project among its priorities and expects to get CZK 500 million from EU funds for it. Austria and Germany should participate in the project too.

“We have toyed with the platonic idea of creating such a collection since November 1989,” said Pavel Zatloukal, head of the Olomouc Museum of Art. Forum should be part of his museum and the platonic idea is turning into reality now: Zatloukal will present the project to the Culture Ministry in April, then they he will apply for EU money, architectonic tender, construction… “We would like to open the exposition in 2013,” Zatloukal said.

It sounds great but it is impossible to hide the shame the Czech Republic got itself into.

The facts are as follows: in order for the museum to get a new building for the project it had to get the land nearby. Museum failed to reach an agreement with the owners of two pieces of land because the Finance Ministry set a price limit of some CZK 5.5 million that it was unwilling to exceed. Local entrepreneur Miroslav Barnet took advantage of the inflexibility of the state negotiators, bought the land for higher price and then logically started to dictate his conditions. Those were simple: he would sell the land to the town if Olomouc sells him the Edelmann palace, one of the most beautiful renaissance buildings in the town centre, in return.

Pavel Zatloukal considers the skilled land owners to be the main cause of the problem. “They kept on negotiating and increasing the price,” he complained. “and we had no tool to prevent them from doing it. Moreover, we were at a disadvantage – we were not capable of being versatile. Examination of one contract at the ministry might take nine months.”

Let’s sum it up, then. There is a project planned out for many years, supported by governments of other central European countries, project has been included among the cabinet priorities what allows the cabinet to apply for CZK 500 million from EU coffer to finance it but the cabinet fails to buy out land for some CZK 9 million. It was the Olomouc town hall, which should have had nothing to do with the financing, that saved the project from an absolute fiasco. Town hall bought the land and sold the beautiful palace that it was not planning to sell, to the land owner.

In addition to this, the transaction is taking place in the times when the town hall cannot dictate the prices and so it bought the land of less than 400 metres square for CZK 9.5 million (the same price Barnet paid their original owners) and sells the magnificent palace with two flats and almost 1,300 metres square of non-residential space for CZK 38 million.

“We were put in a very unpleasant situation by the ministry’s fault,” Martin Novotný, Olomouc mayor. “Forum supporters would oppose our disagreement with the sale. Now it’s up to the museum to prove it was worth it.”

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