Culture Minister Antonin Stanek will step down at the end of this month amid a wave of protests at his sudden dismissal of Jiri Fajt, the director of Prague’s National Gallery, a move widely criticized as politically motivated.
In April, Stanek fired Fajt and Michal Soukup, the head of the Museum of Art in Olomouc, saying that he had lost faith in their ability to manage museum finances after audits of their institutions. Fajt had run the National Gallery since 2014, increasing footfall threefold and staging a number of successful exhibitions, often as international cooperations.
Stanek tweeted late yesterday that he will resign on 31 May at the personal request of Interior Minister Jan Hamacek. A petition calling for the minister’s departure had garnered 6,500 signatures by 13 May and protest concerts were planned in Olomouc and Prague later this month.
Forty international museum directors signed a letter of protest to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis on 7 May. Fajt’s “excellent communication skills are indispensable for our cooperation partnerships,” they wrote, expressing “astonishment and dismay” at his dismissal.
“This is not acceptable in a 21st-century democracy,” Ackermann said. “Fajt has been one of the best ambassadors for the Czech Republic. He has put so much energy into creating an international network and we all admire him enormously. This will cause a big rupture—it’s a great shame.”
“The reasons given for my dismissal are all excuses,” Fajt said in an interview earlier this week. “This was a political decision. 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.”