The activities of the National Gallery Prague are not formed solely of permanent and short-term exhibitions. Its five independent collections – The Collection of the Arts of Asia and Africa, Collection of Prints and Drawings, Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, Collection of 19th-Century Art and Classical Modernism, and the Collection of Old Masters currently hold over half a million items. These objects are housed in 17 depositories over a surface totalling ten thousand square metres with controlled humidity, temperature and light levels. These art objects are overseen by ten depository administrators and 18 members of the art restoration department so that they can be preserved for future generations.
In terms of the number of items, the Collection of Prints and Drawings is the National Gallery’s largest collection where the Graphic Art section alone registers 244,000 inventory numbers. The architecture department that forms part of the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art has about 20,000 inventory entries – a smaller, yet still hardly imaginable number. This is felt all the more as the curators and documentarians must regularly inventory and keep records of all the works in the central computer system. Last year, the gallery’s holdings were enlarged by 255 works of art that were acquired not only through purchases that totalled 18,723 million Czech crowns, but also through donations that account for 145 works of art. The National Gallery received 23 works of art from four American generous donors alone. This is still an inadequate acquisition number and especially as far as art of the past forty years goes the proportionally low acquisition funds have been insufficient for covering the gallery’s profound debt to the past.
The directors and curators of the National Gallery’s collections have selected for you interesting examples of what has been added to their depositories in the past five years. Emphasis has been laid on artworks that have not been exhibited before in the National Gallery. Visitors therefore have the opportunity to enjoy Baroque oil paintings from the early 18th century, Chinese ink painting of the Shanghai School, or prominent Czech video art. The purpose of this display is not only to demonstrate what has been achieved and to pay homage to the hard work of all those who care daily for the collections, but also to highlight the crucial importance of collection-care activities and the necessity of expanding their support not only from state-funded sources but also on the part of private donors.