Ticket to the New World: Project Overview

The Ticket to the New World Project took place between September 20 and October 12, 2018. It presented the extraordinary life stories of both internationally renowned and not so famous Czechoslovak artists who were forced to leave their home country at the beginning of the Second World War and ended up settling down in the United States, and their influence on the New World’s art scene.

The total of 16 Czechoslovak artists were put in the spotlight as part of the project. One of them was Jan Werich, an actor, playwright and writer, which is why the Werich Villa and the whole Kampa Park became the central venue for project events and activities. Nonetheless, as the project agenda was quite rich and consisted of one book launch, six exhibitions, multiple screenings, numerous concerts, lectures and talks, the Werich Villa simply could not host them all and therefore was not the only project venue. Visitors could attend the above listed events and activities at various other venues in central Prague as well.

All six exhibitions ended up being very successful. The most popular one was the outdoor exhibition in Kampa Park which attracted several thousand visitors over the course of the three weeks. The other exhibitions were:

  • An exhibition at the Artinbox Gallery which connected the unique photographs of Alexander Hackenschmied and Bedřich Grünzweig with the drawings of Alén Diviš, and which was supplemented with multiple screenings of Hackenschmied’s experimental movies
  • A small-scale exhibition of Oldřich Rosenbaum’s fashion designs at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (which will remain open until the beginning of December).
  • An exhibition of Ladislav Sutnar’s information graphics and original letters at the American Centre
  • An exhibition of the famous caricatures by Adolf Hoffmeister and his friends, Antonín Pelc and Maxim Kopf, at the Millenium Gallery
  • An exhibition of Oswald Holzer’s letters and of letters of his friends, which they would send to each other across five different continents during the Second World War, mapping out the whole time period and its events in quite an intimate and unique way
  • An afternoon with Joanie Schirm, an American writer and the daughter of Oswald Holzer who travelled all the way from the United States to share her memories of her father, was a very emotional experience for everyone who attended

An integral part of the project was the launch of a book of the same name. The Ticket to the New World book, of which 800 copies have been published, is bilingual, pocket-size and contains many photos and humorous illustrations. Eva Heyd is the author of the prologue and also the editor in chief, while the Czech National Trust is the publisher. The body of the book consists of texts and contributions by sixteen different authors and experts on the given topics.

The prologue of the book assesses the historical period in question and describes the very complex impact and consequences of the Munich Agreement both on the Czech Republic and on the United States. The rest of the publication is divided into multiple sections, all of which introduce different artists:

  • Chapter 1: Architects and Designers, it is dedicated to Jaroslav J. Polívka, Jan Hird Pokorný and Ladislav Sutnar
  • Chapter 2: The World of Fine Arts, it is dedicated to Thomas Messer
  • Chapter 3: Concert Ovation, it presents the life stories of Bohuslav Martinů, Jarmila Novotná, Rudolf Firkušný and Jaroslav Ježek
  • Chapter 4: About Theatre, it is dedicated to Jan Weirch and Jiří Voskovec
  • Chapter 5: Photographers and Moviemakers, it presents the life stories of Alexander Hackenschmied, Hugo Haas, Bedřich Grünzweig and Paul Fierling
  • One of the other chapters in the book talks about fashion and the main protagonist is Oldřich Rosenbaum
  • The final chapter is dedicated to émigré publicists – Adolf Hoffmeister and an entire group of journalists and writers who arrived in the U.S. at the beginning of the Second World War.

Each chapter always starts with a short introduction outlining the overall situation and opportunities in the given field in New York and in other states and cities in the U.S. at the time. Although the individual artist bios do describe the production and professional success of the artists in question, they are mainly focused on their life stories, the obstacles the artists had to overcome as immigrants and on their tireless efforts to integrate into the American society.

The Ticket to the New World book has successfully connected all the events and activities. One of the most significant ones was the Two Worlds, Two Sonatas concert which took place in the Czech Museum of Music. Bohuslav Martinů’s Sonata number 1 from the pre-war period as well as Jaroslav Ježek’s masterpiece titled Piano Sonata which he composed in New York shortly before his death, were both performed by pianists Daniel Wiesner and Václav Mácha and violinist Ivan Štraus. The audience at Ponrepo Cinema has also very much appreciated the film noir series by Hugo Haas, which was prefaced by Milan Hein.

The four lectures which took place at the Municipal Library of Prague were among the festival highlights as well. One of them was dedicated to J. J. Polívka, a Czech architect, and his cooperation with Frank Lloyd Wright. The second lecture focused on émigré journalists, mainly on those who settled down in New York. The remaining two lectures were mainly about screenings: Paul Fierliger’s animated film Drawn from Memory, and a movie called I was accused starring Jiří Voskovec.

The events which took place at the American Centre were also very popular: the Design in Action lecture about Ladislav Sutnar by Iva Knobloch, curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, was an extraordinary one, just like the New York World’s Fair 1939 lecture. The final event which took place at the American Centre was the screening of the film Thomas Messer – My Life with Guggenheim.

The book, the entire project agenda as well as the exhibitions have all been the result of endless efforts of a small CNT working group, members of which were almost exclusively volunteers. They have reached out to the experts and professionals in all the given fields, both in the Czech Republic and in the United States, who have further contributed with their knowledge and skills. Everybody has done an amazing job with an extraordinary level of enthusiasm for this special project.

The entire project was part of the nation-wide celebrations marking the centenary of the modern Czech statehood and of Czech-American relations, and it was organized by the Czech National Trust. Nonetheless, multiple other institutions have also taken part in the project preparation process, such as the Werich Villa, Czech Museum of Music, American Centre, Millenium Gallery, Municipal Library of Prague, Artinbox Gallery, Musem of Decorative Arts in Prague and the National Film Archive – Ponrepo Cinema.