Milan Dobeš

* 1929  

  • “The Kazakov article, that’s what made them accept me into the Union for the second time after they had kicked me out. And then there was this woman. Someone in Russia gave her my address, she was an art historian at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. She was in a high position, and she came here with another woman. They later told me that the other one was a cop. They probably got the address from Russian kinetic artists. The art historian came here with her exhibition ‘Arts Industry of the Soviet Union.’ And when she arrived, she was totally surprised and wrote an article about me in Russia, about how they had kicked me out of the Union. And that’s how the Russians shamed our commies. The article was published in ‘Dekorativnoe iskussvo’, a well-known national art magazine about applied arts. This woman published a long article about me; she wrote that they had kicked me out because of the exhibition. And the ‘Pravda’ newspaper then had to write about it. The headline of their article was ‘Deepening Soviet and National Objectives in the Culture of the Visual Arts.’ Signed: Bachratý. As I have said, it was published in ‘Pravda’, and that was it. They invited Dobeš back to the Union. And I was accepted by the Union of Visual Artists once again."

  • “Yes, we had a demonstration. Our professors took us with them, and we demonstrated against communism. It wasn’t spontaneous, they were later fired for it. We got a new director, they used to call him ‘the Spanish guy’ because he had fought in Spain. He was a great chap. But he was the first to emigrate later on.”

  • „The Dissident Biennial. I had no idea what was going on. If I had sent my work there, I could have just let them arrest me on the spot as well. Someone else sent it, and I know who, Meda Mládková from the US, I had known her for fifty years or so. We’d been through a lot, but she was a collector; she knew how to make a good deal and she managed to create a huge, wonderful collection. She sent my stuff there. I think she meant well, but she must have known how the things were here. Suddenly they kicked me out of the Union (of visual artists). I received a phone call from the president of the Union: ‘Milan, did you send your work to the Dissident Biennial?’ I didn’t hear him clearly, so I said: ‘The Biennial of Design? Yes, so what? They put me there.’ ‘Design?! Dissident, you idiot!’ I could hear how shaken he was. I asked: ‘And what does it have to do with you? I’m not in your Union, what’s going on?” And he replied: ‘They brought it up. There’s a police investigation going on.’ Then I received a summons for an interrogation. I wasn’t happy about it. You know, I had only few chances to make architecture. I barely passed the ideology committee. Of course, I had to agree with them on everything and then I did as I wanted… And now, so it seemed, I was at the Biennial. I told them it wasn’t my fault. I sell my work, and it is none of my business if someone buys it and hangs it in their restroom or in some fancy room. I didn’t send it to the exhibition. They must have known that as well, but they said they didn’t. Then one of the policemen showed me some black-and-white photos. ‘Yes, this is my work,’ I said, but I didn’t know who the owner was. ‘Do you have it in colour?’ And that made him angry, so I explained: ‘So that I could tell you who sent it to the Biennial.’”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Bratislava, 26.09.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 33:41
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
  • 2

    Bratislava, 26.09.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 02:12:47
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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I was jangling the keys, but the changes came too late in my life

Milan Dobeš in front of his painting
Milan Dobeš in front of his painting
photo: archív pamätníka

Milan Dobeš was born in 1929 in Přerov. He graduated from the VŠMU (Academy of Performing Arts, Slovak: Vysoká škola muzických umení, VŠMU) in Bratislava and he belongs to an extremely talented generation of artists who emerged in Slovakia in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He participated in numerous world exhibitions: Documenta 4 in Kassel, ARS ´69, the Constructivist Biennial in Nuremberg, Salon de Mai (the May Salon) in Paris, EXPO ´70 in Osaka, and many more. In 1971, he toured the United States with his “lumino-dynamic projects” in collaboration with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra. His artistic manifesto is called Dynamic Constructivism. Milan Dobeš was a member of the Geometria group in Prague and in 1991, he joined the Q group in Brno. His artwork has been featured in numerous prominent museums and galleries around the world. In 2001 the Milan Dobeš Museum was founded in Bratislava. Since 2016 Milan Dobeš has been living in Ostrava-Vítkovice. He was awarded the Slovak Culture Minister’s Prize in 2012.