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Babiš, minister back reconstruction of cultural institutions

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Prague, March 12 (CTK) – Czech PM Andrej Babis and Culture Minister Ilja Smid toured the National Museum, the State Opera, the Heritage Institute, the National Theatre and the National Gallery, all state-subsidised institutions in Prague, to assess their ongoing or planned reconstruction on Monday.

The National Museum’s (NM) historical building, which has been under reconstruction for three years, will be partly reopened on October 28 and fully in March 2019, according to the schedule, Smid told journalists after his and Babis’s visit to the NM.

NM director Michal Lukes told CTK that some 70 percent of the the planned reconstruction costs of 1.6 billion crowns have been invested so far.

From the NM, Babis (ANO) and Smid (for ANO) walked to the nearby State Opera house. It, too, is going through a reconstruction, which started last year and will run through 2019. The costs are estimated at 858 million crowns.

The next stop on their tour was the National Heritage Institute (NPU), whose director, Nadezda Goryczkova, said that Invalidovna, a large baroque complex near the centre of Prague, will be transferred to the NPU in the days to come.

Until 2015, the complex hosted the central military archive operated by the Defence Ministry. In the past three years, the state unsuccessfully tried to sell it.

The NPU plans to open Invalidovna to the public and also to launch a thorough reconstruction of this valuable piece of architecture, Goryczkova said.

Babis said the state is ready to provide one billion crowns that is needed for the reconstruction.

The state is ready to start “massive investments,” not only in cultural monuments, he said.

“This is also an effect of a minority government, that the policy of ministries’ particular aims is over and we are capable of reaching consensus,” Babis said, referring to his ANO-minority government, which was established in December but lost a confidence vote in parliament and has to be replaced.

Within the ongoing negotiations, Babis has not concealed it that he would prefer forming a single-party minority cabinet of ANO again, which other parties may keep afloat in exchange of ANO helping implement their programme priorities.

Another institution Babis and Smid visited on Monday was the National Theatre (ND), whose director Jan Burian acquainted them with a 700-million project of a reconstruction of the ND’s New Scene building and with the plan to build the ND’s new central depository and workshops worth one billion crowns.

The New Scene, built next to the ND’s historical building in the early 1980s and designated mainly for drama performances, will see its stage and auditorium reconstructed based on modern technologies that have proved effective elsewhere in Europe, Burian said.

A new rehearsal room will also be built, and further three rehearsal rooms will appear as part of the planned new depository in the Karlin neighbourhood, on a former military plot.

Babis assessed the ND projects positively, but also presented his idea of a completely new theatre building, something like the famous opera house in Sydney. He said the Prague City Hall should invest money in such a project.

In the evening, Babis and Smid toured the Veletrzni palace, one of the exhibition premises of the National Gallery (NG).

They supported NG director Jiri Fajt’s plan to put up a tender for the reconstruction of the Veletrzni palace, a building in the style of functionalism that hosts the NG’s collections of modern and contemporary art, which should become the crucial of the NG’s six buildings in Prague.

The reconstruction, whose costs Fajt estimates at three billion crowns, might start in 2021.

“We want this to be discussed by the lower house of parliament, together with [the reconstruction projects of] Invalidovna and the New Scene and depository of the National Theatre. These are investments that must be launched immediately,” Babis said.

Smid said such projects significantly contribute to the spiritual development of the society and boost tourism.

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