Institution history

The residence of the Gallery of West Bohemia is situated in close proximity to Pilsen’s historical square and cathedral. Its original Gothic-Renaissance corner house, reconstructed in the Classicist style, is located at 13/83 Pražská Street No. 13/83 and hosts “The 13” Exhibition Hall, the administration of the Gallery, a public library and a lecture room. Further down the street, at the corner of the Křižíkovy sady gardens, the building hosting “Masné krámy” (Meat market) Exhibition Hall is located. Its basilica-shaped picturesque front is crowned with slim crenelation. The building of the former medieval meat market underwent a Neo-Gothic reconstruction maintaining its original layout and was later changed into an exhibition hall. Adjoined to the Masné krámy building, the Křižíkovy sady park zone spreads along the former city walls. A route among cafés and restaurants brings the visitor to the historical building of the Museum of West Bohemia.


The Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen, originally the Regional Gallery, was founded in 1953 as a part of establishing a national network of arts museums. It opened to the public on January 1st, 1954. As it did not have its own building, its administration and exhibition spaces were hosted by the Museum of West Bohemia during the first few decades. In 1958–1960, the Gallery, as well as the newly founded Regional Centre for National Heritage and Environmental Protection (Krajské středisko státní památkové péče a ochrany přírody), were joined into one administrative unit with the Museum of West Bohemia. In 1960, it acquired its independent status again, together with a new name, under which it has been operating to the present. Since 2001, the Gallery has been a contributory organization of the Pilsen Region according to Act No. 157/2000.

The Gallery of West Bohemia used administrative and exposition spaces in the Museum of West Bohemia in Pilsen until 1985. In the exhibition hall of the Museum, there was a chronologically ordered exposition of the selected best pieces from the Gallery’s collection; temporary exhibitions were organized there, too. The union with the Museum ended with the reconstruction of its building, which started in 1985. After the reconstruction, it was not planned for the Gallery to return to the museum.

From the 1950s to the beginning of the 1970s, the Gallery strived for a new building to locate its permanent exposition and temporary exhibitions. In Pilsen, the intention of constructing a gallery building existed from before 1910. In 1935, the city was even preparing a project for it. However, this plan was thwarted by World War II. The construction of a new gallery building did not succeed in the mentioned period of the 1950s–1970s either. A kind of compensation was the building of the former meat market in Pražská Street No.18/353, which was, upon a decision made in 1965, reconstructed into the exhibition hall of the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen. It also had an integrated concert space, which allowed the gallery to organize a broader cultural program. The exhibition hall of Masné krámy (Meat Market) formally opened in 1972 with the exhibition Josef Mánes a rodina Mánesů (Josef Mánes and the Mánes Family). At the same time, the neighbouring historical house in Pražská Street No. 16/86 was reconstructed to provide space for administration offices and the collection depository; it was taken over by the Gallery in 1975. In 1997, the Gallery acquired the newly reconstructed corner house in Pražská Street No. 13/83. On the ground floor, a small exhibition hall was built, the first floor was allocated to the administration, and on the third floor a lecture hall and library were built.
The Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen thus has two exhibition spaces for temporary exhibitions. However, the main problem – the lack of a gallery building which will allow the opening of collections of exceptional quality in permanent exhibitions – still persists.

The first director of the Gallery, Oldřich Kuba (1954–1985), extended through his ambitious acquisition activities the initial collection of the gallery, which was centred on the art of the 19th century and the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, adding a rich and high quality collection of modern Czech art, within which the prime attraction was a collection of cubist art. Under the management of Oldřich Kuba, the Gallery acquired the aforesaid exhibition hall of Masné krámy in Pražská Street No. 18/353, and the house No. 16/86 in the same street.

Under the management of the second director, Jana Potužáková (1985–2007), the collection of the art of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was extended by further acquisitions; the collection of post-World War II art was replenished, as the existing extent was insufficient. After the fall of the totalitarian regime, during the 1990s the Gallery succeeded in replenishing the Czech art of the 1960s. Thanks to Jana Potužáková, the Gallery acquired the aforesaid building in Pražská Street No.13/83, where the second, smaller gallery was built for the purposes of short-term exhibitions. The spaces of the Masné krámy Exhibition Hall were used, as a replacement for the missing permanent exposition, for long-term exhibitions of artefacts from the collection of the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen. These exhibitions over time presented collections of art of the 19th century and the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries; these were also published in catalogues. Under Potužáková’s leadership, plentiful cultural programs including forums, lectures, and music and literature events became a core part of the gallery’s activities. Also, the Gallery’s department of education started an active cooperation with the Department of Art Culture in the Faculty of Education at the University of West Bohemia.

Under the management of the present director, Roman Musil, (since December, 2007), the Strategy of Development of the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen in 2008–2012 was prepared. It defines all its activities and predicts their further development. A new exhibition conception was developed and the Gallery, by organizing special thematic exhibitions, restored its cooperation with the Interdisciplinary Scientific Symposium on 19th Century Culture, which has taken place in Pilsen annually since 1981. The publishing activities of the Gallery acquired a prestigious level in editing, expertise, and graphic design. The Gallery also started working with science institutes and expert institutions within the country, especially with the Institute of Art History in the Faculty of Arts at Charles University, the Institute of Art History in the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and the National Gallery in Prague.

The acquisition programme is presently focusing on replenishing the institution’s collection profile with top Central-European artefacts as well as outstanding regional works. The structure of the gallery’s collection was extended to also include the field of architecture in 2009 (under the leadership of Petr Domanický).

In 2009, the entire visual style of the Gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen was changed using a design by prominent graphic designer Robert V. Novák. A new gallery website was also created, designed by Novák & Balihar graphic studio. Based on a design by architects Roman Koucký and Šárka Malá, a reconstruction of the exhibition halls Masné krámy and “The 13” was also carried out.