The year 2020 not only marks the 110th anniversary of the House of Arts, but also the 60th anniversary of the Young Friends of Fine Arts association. It was initiated by the then director of the House of Arts Adolf Kroupa together with the historian, exhibition curator and art teacher Igor Zhoř and other Brno theorists. Zhoř’s ideological concept was to offer a varied educational and entertainment programme that would attract young members and introduce them to the world of fine arts in an appealing form. In addition to lectures, discussions and debates with leading Czech theorists, devoted to contemporary fine art, architecture, sculpture, photography, poetry, music and film, the programme included excursions to studios, film screenings, trips to art museums in the country and abroad, dance evenings, clubs for drawing, ceramics, and photography, and later also exhibitions of non-professional artists and members of the MPVU called MAX and subsequently Triennial 15/30.
Already in the first year of its existence, the MPVU achieved a broad membership of over a thousand members and became a platform for meetings and non-formal education, encouraging the participants in their own artistic creation. The MPVU programme functioned as an alternative information channel, providing the possibility to get to know the current theoretical discourse and new art forms in the country and internationally outside the official structures, which were at the time subject to ideological censorship.
The association represented a unique activity in Czechoslovakia, responding to the change in the attitude of the visual art audience of the second half of the 20th century. In this context, the programme conceived by Igor Zhoř had been significantly enriched from 1964 by Jiří Valoch and his lectures and discussions focused on new approaches and experimental art forms ranging from visual poetry, action art and conceptual art to land-art projects that initiated joint works of the group m in nature (Valoch, J.H.Kocman, Kocmanová, and Klimeš).
Although the MPVU belonged to the official institution of the House of Arts, a number of activities that were not subject to the strict approval of the Cultural Commission could be organised under its heading. In 1967, for example, the only official happening in Czechoslovakia, by Milan Knížák and the Aktual movement, took place in the House of Arts within the MPVU programme. In the first half of the 1970s, the MPVU managed to publish – by means of a cooperation of Jiří Valoch with Gerta Pospíšilová, acting director – an edition with original prints or facsimiles (Chatrný, Steklík, Kolíbal, Novák, Sion, and Drápal) the publication of which continued through the early 1980s, and a series of ten postcards with progressive projects or conceptual works by Czech, Slovak and Hungarian artists.
Through works of art and a huge amount of archival material collected during 2019, the exhibition will recall both important and lesser-known events of the organization and personalities whose personal and professional commitment made the intensive activities of the MPVU happen. Besides Brno House of Arts director Adolf Kroupa, these consisted primarily of Igor Zhoř, Nina Dvořáková, Jiří Valoch and board members Petr Haimann, Luboš Kostroň, Ota Máčel, Pavel Šimeček and photographer Dušan Klimeš.