Czech Photography

Legendary art dealers Anne and Jacques Baruch opened a gallery in Chicago in 1967 to feature the work of Central European artists, especially those based in what was then Czechoslovakia. Their mission was to buy as much work as possible and exhibit it in Chicago in order to give exposure to the Slavic art that Jacques once described as “the finest work of tomorrow—not what is known—the new blood.” The Baruchs began collecting during the infamous Prague Spring in 1968--a period of relative freedom and reform under President Alexander Dubček. The bulk of their collection was later smuggled out of Prague by Anne after the Soviets began to restore the hard-line communist political and economic policies that had been in place before Dubček came to power. Since many of the artists Anne wanted to work with were not sanctioned by the authorities, she began smuggling art out of the country, often at great risk to everyone involved.

Although government agents would seal her packages of officially sanctioned art before her departure, she would often alter or remake the seals with the help of artists in order to add more to her packages. She always traveled to Prague with a bright red Hartman suitcase equipped with a false bottom. On the way there she would fill it with art supplies that the artists could not buy, and on the return it would have artworks hidden inside. Through her travels Anne amassed a remarkable collection of both historical and contemporary Czech photography.

The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago is honored to be the recipient of many works from the Baruch’s collection of Czech photography. As a collecting institution, it is our duty to preserve and make works of art as accessible as possible through exhibition, print viewings, and our website. This, in our opinion, is the best way to pay tribute to the artists and to the democratic, curious spirits of art lovers like Anne and Jacques Baruch.

View by artist