Daniel Pitín’s exhibition at the Czech Center in Berlin acts as a prediction. As a confirmation that artists often anticipate events that will only affect us. The exhibition spaces of the building, where Pitín presents his Sommerkino ensemble, have also been adapted to the atmosphere of the works: a piece of the ceiling is exposed and is intended to commemorate the destruction, the disintegration.
Dark Visions is the opposite of Daniel Pitín’s current position as an artist. Without exaggeration, he is one of the most famous Czech painters, sought after by leading curators and gallery owners around the world. Because of his paintings, collectors are put on waiting lists.
Holders of prestigious national and foreign prizes (AVU Rector’s Award, Henkel Art Award Wien, among the finalists of the Sovereign European Art Prize and others) have exhibited in Los Angeles, Bucharest and London. The publication was published by the Italian Coppola, one of the largest institutions of its kind in Italy, and by the prestigious German publishing house Hatje Cantz.
Daniel Pitín is a phenomenon, a visionary, but also a man truly aware of the value of his works and the need to constantly work on himself.
How do you perceive your exhibition Sommerkino, which works with the motifs of post-factual reality, dystopia, deconstruction and visual illusion now, in the context of war in Europe?
I think about it more intensely, but to be completely fair, I have to say that I have always said that the deconstruction of the world that I paint has not much to do with the physical. It’s a way to free ourselves from the imagery that surrounds and limits us. It would be wrong to look for a direct link with what is happening in Ukraine.
I experience it strongly in person, as well as in a pandemic. But I don’t want to react, that doesn’t lead me to passivity, but to humility. I don’t want to make my work visible in the background, but rather wonder if my art can help prevent these things from happening.
What is your answer?
Art builds communication between people, society can discuss. Sometimes with passion, sometimes with disapproval, but that’s a better way than when we start shutting down and losing track.
At the same time, war affects artists, they often react to it. Do you think this will happen to you?
I absorb the subject, at the same time I do not live the war physically, but indirectly. I feel anxious through the media, as well as the paradox that we still see prosperity and comfort around us. But we receive tragic information, which destroys us – unless we are completely insensitive. I have long been concerned with the relationship between the media and the personal world.
You have a strong relationship with the media. Why?
I like to talk about behind the scenes. In everything, there can be construction, to influence the spectator, to put him at his side, to attract him commercially. All the information we receive is created with intention and attitude. One can rarely speak of absolute objectivity. I don’t assume the role of judge, but I enter between the two worlds and I transform them.
You worked as a cameraman for a while and made a living recording concerts. I heard that if they didn’t break into your apartment two years after you graduated from UVA, you wouldn’t go back to painting…
They took my gear overnight, but I was already unhappy with the filming world and wanted to go back to painting. The event helped me because I had no way to go back. I didn’t have the money to buy a new technique, so I started painting radically.
You are now one of the most expensive Czech artists. What does money mean to you?
Business is increasingly becoming part of the fine arts. It brought good and bad: thanks to financial resources, art can exist in the public space. I do exhibitions all over the world. For example, just transporting paintings to Los Angeles is a very expensive business, and if I didn’t have commercial success, I couldn’t do it.
Funding is also an appreciation of my work, on the other hand it can sometimes play a role of speculation, gallery power, etc., due to which the prices of a creator’s works rise disproportionately.
Money gives me freedom and comfort. I don’t have to face the fact that if I don’t do commercially successful work for a year, I won’t get a slip.
The Czech Center Berlin exhibit, which we are currently reviewing, was sold out before it was installed. How did it happen?
Many collectors have the experience that once the exhibition is underway, they will not be able to access the works. So they push my galleries to send them photos of the works in advance. Those who know my work no longer need to physically see the painting, so they reserve it before the start of the exhibition.
Are you under pressure from galleries?
Fortunately, I only work with those who filter it. They know that it is not possible to satisfy everyone. It’s not even the purpose of a work of art, the purpose is my inner development transformed into paintings. Make exhibitions in public spaces that will connect with any viewer, whether they came here to buy paintings or just to look at them. The fact that they are sold out is a great bonus, but that shouldn’t be the point. The works then lose value.
How do you determine the price of your works?
Based on communication, the market situation and the environment in which I operate. My biggest canvases cost around twenty thousand euros, the smallest range from seven to ten thousand. There is a special situation in the Czech Republic: the collection boom has arrived in recent years, people are getting used to the art of spending and it is becoming a common good. But compared to Western Europe, we are still diametrically different.
You are a world famous artist. So why are you still living in the Czech Republic?
Because of the family. My children go to school and kindergarten in Prague, the costs are low. I can travel and return, have peace of mind at work. Why not live in Prague, I like it.
But is it a stimulating enough environment?
I think so, but being alone can lead to a dead end. That’s why I try to do exhibitions abroad and travel with them. Interact with people, stay in touch and communicate through their work.
We are now at your exhibition in Berlin. The last time you exhibited in Prague was a year ago, in the small Vyšehrad gallery. You don’t really want to be at home?
In order to be able to prepare for the exhibition, at least seven months must pass between them. Now I’m doing one in Vienna, maybe New York, and all of a sudden you’re a year and a half old, and I have nothing to fit in between.
I exhibited at Rudolfinum in 2019, so I don’t feel like I have to do anything else in my second year. I wouldn’t bring anything new to the public. I have to evolve somehow, not just offer to recycle my work. The Czech public is critical and I want to offer something new.
You talk about inner development, but you have smaller children. Your wife Adéla Babanová is also a recognized artist, when do you take the time to grow?
It’s crazy. If the children are not sick and go to school and kindergarten, it can be done. But we only have four times a day, which is fine. But it’s not a lot. We do what we can. Sometimes we go to an exhibition abroad, where we experience inner renewal and inspiration, watch a movie, read a book. But the pandemic must have shown that we had to find different qualities of life from those that suited us and to which we were accustomed.
What about contemporary Czech artists?
I think our scene is perfect, we have a lot of interesting people. The way we care about our cultural environment is failing. The institutional level, which should ensure the dissemination of Czech art abroad, is also failing.
What does social media mean to you? You don’t have your Instagram yet in front of many other artists…
Digital media cannot be avoided. Abroad, I present my works in digital form. I canceled Facebook because I don’t like to share my private life and the platform leads to that, but I’m thinking of Instagram.
But I am not in favor of presenting a table. You can’t have the impression, it reminds me as if I was looking at a landscape in a picture or a photo. It’s not a physical experience like walking in the woods. But Instagram is a good communication medium that opens up to the public who don’t have the time or the opportunity to come to the gallery. I’m looking for a strategy to get there.
When an artist reaches your notoriety, he often works with the whole team. How are you?
I create exclusively by myself. It’s logical, my work is very personal. Even in the process, I often don’t know what I’m going to do before I start painting. I have a theme that I propose, sometimes I repaint it. It is a path of inner search in which no one from the outside can enter.