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Czech National Gallery is underfunded, director says

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Prague, Dec 7 (CTK) – The National Gallery (NG) in Prague is still very insufficiently funded, its director Jiri Fajt told CTK yesterday.
When he assumed the post in mid-2014, the state subsidy for the gallery was 230 million crowns, which was the same as in 1990. Last year, about 240 million was earmarked for the NG and this year it was 250 million.
The NG lacks finances both for exhibitions and for the purchase of new artifacts, Fajt said.
However, the gallery has actually more money at its disposal than the above mentioned state subsidy. Last year, it received 361.5 million.
“During the whole year, we receive changes in the budget, even 30 ones, that are designated for the purchases of particular works of art, reconstructions or a pay rise under law,” NG financial director Ivona Preckova told CTK.
According to the Culture Ministry’s annual report for 2015, the NG received a 233-million-crown subsidy and the ministry’s total contribution to the NG amounted to 317 million with 31 budget modifications.
Yet, almost the whole state subsidy goes to mandatory expenditures of some 240 million crowns a year, Fajt said.
The gallery therefore seeks sponsors for its exhibitions.
Almost 100 million or 29 percent of the total annual costs are spent on salaries, 46 million on energy and 41 million on security.
However, these expenditures do not include costs of the necessary repairs of the NG’ real estates, six historical buildings where its collections are housed. The NG also takes care of more than 400,000 works of art worth hundreds of billions of crowns in total.
“Despite that, the state contribution to the NG operation has practically not changed since 1990. The Culture Ministry has proposed about 254 million crowns for next year,” Fajt said.
“We are trying to gain much money from sponsors. Apart from a state subsidy, we have our own proceeds from entrance fees and leasing,” Preckova said.
“The NG’s attendance rate has increased by more than 63 percent year-on-year,” Fajt said.
The most successful exhibition during Fajt’s management so far was that on King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-1378) in the Wallenstein Riding School which more than 92,000 people visited.
By the end of 2014, the NG reportedly got a sponsor’s gift worth 1.8 million crowns, in 2015, it was nine million and this year, the sum approaches 18 million.
Despite its tense budget, the NG has great visions.
On Tuesday, Fajt released the plan of the revitalisation of the functionalist Veletrzni palace, housing the NG’s collections of modern and contemporary art, which would cost billions of crowns.
Next year, the NG plans to display works by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei again and hold an exhibition of German painter Gerhard Richter, the most expensive living artist, which will be his first retrospective in Central Europe, and of Pablo Picasso in 2018.
Besides, the NG has acquired some significant artifacts, such as a series of drawings by Josef Sima and a mediative pavilions by Japanese architect Keng Kuma that will be erected in the garden of the baroque Sternberk palace, one of the NG’s premises, Fajt said .
($1=25.191 crowns)

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