The Czech Ministry of Culture appointed economist Anne-Marie Nedoma interim director of the National Gallery in Prague, Monopol reports. Nedoma will be responsible for managing the museum while it looks for the right candidate for its top post, which has been vacant since Jiří Fajt was dismissed in April. The search will be led by a newly formed advisory board, chaired by architect Josef Pleskot.
Fajt, a German-Czech art historian who helmed the gallery for five years, was unexpectedly fired by former Minister of Culture Antonin Stanek, who also dismissed Michal Soukup, the head of the Olomouc Museum of Art. Some suspected the controversial decisions were politically motivated, which sparked national and international protests and led to Stanek’s resignation. Stanek was replaced last month by his Social Democratic Party colleague, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomir Zaoralek.
When Fait’s employment was terminated, Stanek cited financial concerns. Czech media outlets also reported that there was a dispute over a panel painting, circa 1350, attributed to a master from Vyšší Brod in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic that Fait wanted to purchase for the gallery’s collection. Stanek had ordered an investigation after Fait allegedly wanted to pay $6.6 million for the work, even though it had been sold for around $77,000 only a few years earlier. According to a report released by the Czech Academy’s Institute of Art History the work is in poor condition.
In an interview with the Art Newspaper, Fait defended his tenure. “I tried to change the gallery into a platform for critical thinking and artistic freedom. I have always faced occasional attacks, but I never expected anything like this to happen,” he said. Under Fajt’s leadership, the National Gallery’s attendance increased threefold, rising to almost 712,000 visitors last year. He staged exhibitions of artists Ai Weiwei, Gerhard Richter, Frantisek Kupka, and Josef Koudelka, among others.