The work of Daniela Vinopalová (Opava 1928-Prague 2017) ranks among the most distinctive contributions to Czech sculpture in the past several decades. That few know of her contribution, however, is the result of adverse circumstances, both historical and personal. She created her work in conditions in which it was difficult to be an artist and in which life itself was difficult.
Although a member of the generation of ‘young seekers’ of the late 1950s and early 1960s, Daniela Vinopalová remained outside the collectives and progressive groups and trends, only slowly and tentatively involving herself in the increasingly diverse Czech art scene that was reconnecting itself to contemporary international developments in the 1960s. The sixties were a happy and artistically productive time for Daniela Vinopalová. She took part in such pioneering projects as Sculpture 64 (Socha 64; 1964) and Sculpture and the City (Socha a město; 1969) initiated by then director of the Regional Gallery in Liberec (Oblastní galerie) Hana Seifertová.
Despite the auspicious atmosphere of the time, she had only one solo exhibition of her work in this period, in 1966, at Charles Square Gallery (Galerie na Karlově náměstí), curated by Ludmila Vachtová. However, Vinopalová’s participation in exhibition of 5 sculptors (výstavě 5 sochařů; Kmentová, Pacík, Prachatická, Vinopalová, Zoubek), the idea for which was conceived by Jindřich Chalupecký and which was in 1967 at Václav Špála Gallery (Galerie Václava Špály) in Prague, symbolically confirmed her status as one of the top Czech sculptors.
Outside of the Czech Republic, Vinopalová received early international recognition from Enrico Crispolti, one of the most important Italian critics and historians of modern and contemporary art. Crispolti included three Vinopalova sculptures in Alternative attuali in L’Aquila, Italy, in 1968.
The 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslavakia brought the promising chapter of cultural ferment in the sixties to definitive end. For Vinopalová, like many other artists identified with the liberal scene of the preceding decade, the ‘normalisation’ era meant the end of any opportunity to exhibit work or to even be a part of public cultural life.
After the return of democracy in 1989, the 1990s reintroduced longed-for freedom and, for those who had been forced out of the art scene in the early 1970s, the opportunity to exhibit work and to take part in public cultural life. In 1996 (after a thirty-year pause!), she had her second solo exhibition. Curator Adriana Primusová has written, ‘the high point of her post-1989 work was the sculpture Thanksgiving/Díkůvzdání (2007), in which the artist expressed thanks for everything that exists beyond humanity, and, after suffering from some illnesses, for the opportunity to be able to devote herself to her work again. After many years she again created a soldered structure of wires, which she used to create drawings in space, filled them in with mesh, gauze, and plaster. The work captured the flow of invisible lines of energy marking out a spiritual zone in the shape of a ‘cosmic egg’.
Interest among the young generation of curators in the work of Daniela Vinopalová was signalled by an invitation to her in 2014 to take part in the Grey Gold exhibition at the Moravian Gallery (Moravská galerie) in Brno and in late 2015, The Sculpture – Daniela Vinopalová and Monika Immrová (Socha - Daniela Vinopalová a Monika Immrová), an exhibition organised at the Gallery of the Central Bohemia Region (Galerie Středočeského kraje).
Vinopalaová represented Czech female sculptors amongst the most influential artists of post-war Europe with her inclusion in Art in Europe 1945-1968: Facing the Future, in 2016-2017, curated by Eckhart Gillen and Peter Weibel, and hosted by the Center for Fine Arts in Brussels (BOZAR), the Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM), and Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.
Daniela Vinopalová died in Prague in 2017. Her legacy continues with the efforts of the artist’s family and the London based advisory Stephenson art. The digital scanning by Factum Foundation and casting in bronze by HVH Artist Foundry, of her more fragile plaster work, like Thanksgiving, 2007, ensures that Vinopalová’s work will be preserved for and appreciated by new audiences internationally.
Materials from the monograph, Daniela Vinopalová, 2015, authored by Richard Drury, Pavla Pečinková and Adriana Primusová, were used in this text.