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JAN NĚMEČEK (1963)
Designer and architect. In 1990 he and Michal Froněk founded the Olgoj Chorchoj studio, followed in 1993 by the Artěl company, which manufactures twentieth-century Czech design. Since 1999 he and Michal Froněk have headed the Product Design III Studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He works on industrial design, furniture design, architecture and interior design.

SPRINGTIME EUPHORIA

AN INTERVIEW WITH JAN NĚMEČEK, CONSULTANT FOR THIS PERIOD

WHAT APPEALS TO YOU ABOUT THAT PERIOD?
It’s my childhood, it’s when I was growing up. Both my parents were artists, and although we didn’t have much money, our flat was very stylish. That time influenced me very powerfully in terms of emotions, but I don’t think I use the vocabulary of the time in my work. If I do, it’s unconscious.

WHAT DID THAT PERIOD CONTRIBUTE TO CZECH DESIGN?
The sixties were in no way revolutionary. It was a time when earlier dramatic formal changes were put into practice. The echoes of this country’s success at Brussels had a great influence on the public’s tastes, state-owned companies and cooperatives adopted modern materials, and maybe they were more concerned with design than nowadays.

WHAT EVENTS DO YOU THINK HAD THE GREATEST INFLUENCE ON CZECH DESIGN?
I think there aren’t many specific events or influences that fundamentally affected Czech design. If we’re not talking about political changes, which are always crucial for the arts, then it’s only the famous exhibition at Expo 58 in Brussels.

WHAT WERE YOUR CRITERIA FOR SELECTING INDIVIDUAL EXHIBITS?
I tried to find objects that influenced the general perception of aesthetics, and which were readily available. I looked for icons that stood out from the average, ones that everyone has had somewhere in their inner galleries all their lives. But another point is that the range of products was severely limited at that time.

IS THERE ANYTHING FROM THOSE YEARS THAT YOU WOULD CALL TYPICALLY CZECH?
For me, Libuše Niklová’s polythene cat, with its harmonious body, is a typical Czech product. It’s funny, striking, and yet a little ungainly in its details. I think that’s typical of Czech design..

IF YOU WERE ON A DESERT ISLAND AND COULD TAKE THREE OBJECTS FROM THAT PERIOD WITH YOU, WHICH ONES WOULD THEY BE?
Three cats.