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1989 The Velvet Revolution

Czech Centre London's new photographic exhibition in the Vitrínka Gallery looks back at the heady events which culminated in the 1989 Velvet Revolution through the lenses of ten leading Czech photographers who captured the ground-breaking moment in Czech history and the exhilarating atmosphere that followed.


Private View - Friday 1 November 2019, 6:30pm
FREE ADMISSION, all welcome

Exhibition dates: 1 November -  3 January 2020
Opening hours: Mon - Fri - 10-6, free entry



Curated by the main Czech photographer Dana Kyndrová, the 1989 The Velvet Revolution exhibition brilliantly records the whole context of the events leading up to the demonstration against the totalitarian regime in 1988 while providing an insight into the revolutionary movements and explaining the importance of figures such as Václav Havel, who became the first Czech president. Many of these twenty-five photographs have now become iconic images, documenting the peaceful civic resistance which transformed political domination by one party into a pluralist democracy. They evidence key moments leading up to the collapse of the communist dictatorship: the 1988 demonstration, ‘Palach’s Week’ in January 1989 and the student protests of 17th November, 1989. The dream of freedom and openness at the end of 1989 was powerful, exciting, and inspiring.

The overall insight into the atmosphere, capturing the moods and faces of ordinary people living in Czechoslovakia, as well as those of political representatives, whether the ones who seized power in line with the Communist Party or those who rose to power with the revolution, is an experience that shouldn't be missed.

1989 The Velvet Revolution is complemented by the Touching 1989 video project, which creates a collective memory of that revolutionary year in Europe. Combining the personal stories of people from all backgrounds and of all ages currently living in the UK into one strong voice, testifying to the changes that Czech and Slovak people have experienced within the last 30 years, it aims to improve our understanding of the world today and enable us to learn more about each other.

The black and white images as well as personal testimonies capturing the essence of profound social and political changes in Czechoslovakia 30 years ago still give a chill today and underpin vivid relevancy of journey to freedom even in present world, adds Přemysl Pela, the director of Czech centre London.

These exhibitions unveil a month long Czech Velvet Festival, festival of arts, film, music & theatre, showcased at venues across London, including Rix Mix, Regent Street Cinema, UCL and many others.

Curator: Dana Kyndrová
Photographers: Radek Bajgar, Radovan Boček, Karel Cudlín, Přemysl Hněvkovský, Lubomír Kotek, Michal Krumphanzl (Czech Press Agency), Dana Kyndrová, Jan Šibík, Jan Šilpoch, Pavel Štecha
Visual layout: Pavla Hradcová
Organizers: Czech Centres & the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

About Dana Kyndrová (1955)
Dana Kyndrová is a leading Czech photographer who has always specialised in black-and-white Humanist photography. Her work has been showcased at a number of exhibitions at home and abroad and she has published eight original books: Incorrigible Faith in a Better Tomorrow (1998), Per Musi­cam Aequo (1998), Woman Between Inhaling and Exhaling (2002), The Departure of Soviet Troops (2003), Subcarpathian Ruthenia (2007), Algerie-Togo (2009), The Rituals of Normalization / Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s (2011) and Russians ... Their Icons and Desires (2015). The last two were co-authored by her mother Libuše. She has won numerous photography awards and competitions such as the Czech Press Photo (seven awards in total) and the Fujifilm Euro Press Photo Awards. Apart from her own photography work she has also recently begun curating and organising photo exhibitions. In 2008 she was named Czech Photography Personality of the Year by the Association of Czech Professional Photographers.

More information: www.czechcentre.org.uk
For images and other press enquiries please contact:
Tereza Matysová comms@czechcentre.org.uk, 07768 935 361
Twitter: twitter.com/CzechCentreLnd 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/londonczechcentre 
Instagram: www.instagram.com/czechcentrelondon 

The Czech Centre's mission is to actively promote the Czech Republic in the UK. Our programme covers visual and performing arts, film, literature, music, architecture, design & fashion, science and innovation. As well as hosting our own events, the Czech Centre offers support for other groups organizing Czech related initiatives in the UK. We also seek to further enhance cultural and professional relationships between the UK and the Czech Republic through curatorial visits, media tours and artistic residencies; initiating and fostering creative dialogue among artists, scholars, scientists & innovators. The Czech Centre London opened in 1993 and is part of a worldwide network of 24 Czech Centres operating in 21 countries and on three continents. The Czech Centre is a member of EUNIC.

Cover image:
Václav Havel and Alexander Dubček at the moment that Czechoslovak Television announced the resignation of the Presidium of the Czechoslovak Communist Party.
Prague, November 24, 1989
Jaroslav Kučera

You can download the press release in pdf format here:

Palach’s Week – the five days of protests at Prague’s Wenceslaus Square on the 20th anniversary of the self-immolation of Jan Palach was the greatest display of civil resistance against the totalitarian regime since its consolidation of power in the early 1970s. The police acted with brutal force. A number of demonstrators were injured, and 1,400 people were arrested.
Prague, January 15–20, 1989
Michal Krumhanzl – ČTK

A students’ march in tribute to Jan Opletal (killed duringan anti-Nazi demonstration in 1939) grew into a demonstration against the totalitarian regime. A students’ procession numbering some 10,000 people headed to Wenceslaus Square was stopped by police at Národní St. and then brutally dispersed.
Prague, November 17, 1989
Radovan Boček

The jingling of keys in plazas throughout then-Czechoslovakia was one of the most well-known symbols of the so-called Velvet Revolution. The image shows Václav Havel.
Prague, November, 1989
Pavel Štecha

Alexander Dubček greets demonstrators at Wenceslaus Square.
Prague, November 24, 1989
Miroslav Zajíc