The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava was established on June 9, 1949 by the Slovak National Council. It wasn´t a unique cultural initiative at that time. Around the same time, the Academy of Performing Arts and the Slovak National Gallery were founded, as well as the Bratislava city theatre was transformed into Slovak National Theatre. Thus the beginning of the socialist era was marked by creating uniform framework for the national cultural politics and education.
The original idea of the newly established school was the connection of the traditional academy of fine arts and the school of aplied arts. Although this idea wasn´t fulfilled in the first years of the Academy´s existence, the keystone of connection of the free fine arts and appled arts has persisted up to the present day. In the first academic year 1949/50, two schools of painting (Ján Mudroch, Ľudovít Fulla) and two schools of sculpture (Jozef Kostka, Fraňo Štefunko) were established, together whith a restoration studio (Karel Veselý). First-rate pedagogical staff in the very beginning of the Academy´s existence denoted continuation of tradition of the interwar modern art, as well as reflection of artistic and intelectual values of the internationally recognized School of Arts and Crafts (1928 – 1939). Within one year a department of printmaking was established (Dezider Milly, Vincent Hložník) and great attention was paid to evening classes of painting (Ladislav Čemický). Although the fifties of the past century were politically and historically problematic, and marked by eradication of personnel who was unacceptable by the regime, such personnel was always replaced by high quality teachers, educated at the Prague Academy and in the Czechoslovak cultural and artistic traditions. (Ján Želibský, Peter Matejka, Rudolf Pribiš, Bedrich Hoffstädter and others). The core of the pedagogical staff consisted mainly of the members of Generation 1909 (artists born around 1909), who established themselves in the fine art scene in late thirties and early forties. Interconnection of the Academy pedagogues with the Czech environment was apparent in teaching of the theoretical subjects. These were taught by prominent Czech art historians and aesthetists (Jiří Kotalík, Vojtěch Volavka, Zdenka Volavková-Skořepová, Václav Zykmund). It is to their merit, that the Deparment of theoretical subjects was established in 1957 and a specialized library was set up. Eventhough in the first decade the Academy had to face the normative aesthetics of the socialist realism, there are prominent representatives of Slovak fine art of the 20th century among the first Academy graduates, as for example leading members of the Mikuláš Galanda group (Milan Paštéka, Vladimír Kompánek). Many of them had significantly influenced the nature of visual art of the sixties. It was in those relatively free years, when the floor for a discussion on the original idea of the AFAD was opened again. Discussion on the idea of balanced education of fine ats and applied arts. Establishing the Department of Architecture in 1960 was a first step of this process. There were two schools of architecture formed shortly (Dušan Kuzma, Vojtech Vilhan). Inclusion of architecture in the curricula followed the Bauhaus´ synthesis of the arts, which represented unification of free fine art and applied arts in one department – Deparment of Architecture. The study programmes of the Academy deparmtnents were updated according to this philosophy, and based on the requirements of those times. Monumental painting and gobelin creation were taught, as well as ceramics (later glass as well) in combination with architecure. This trend was to be seen for many decades from then on not only at the Academy as such, but also in its newly established divisions at the Department of sculpture: ceramics (Teodor Baník) and welded sculpture (Ján Kulich). Other divisions were established as well, e.g. division of glass in the architecture (Václav Cigler) or division of industrial products forming (1966), which represented first penetration of the design as such at the Academy (Václav Kautman). Probably the most significant changes in the sixties were performed at the department of theoretical subjects. Some of the Czech teachers left the pedagogical staff, but soon afterwards prominent personalities of Slovak history of art took up the theoretical subjects and thus the department was revived again (Martin Kusý, Alžbeta Güntherová-Mayerová, Ľudmila Peterajová). More open cultural atmosphere and liberalism present in art of the sixties brought new life to AFAD: various exhibitions or cultural events were organised in cooperation with foreign universities. Together with the change of the political system in 1968, the nature of the Academy had to undergo dramatic changes. The normalization period had brought many ideological obstacles and many pedagogues were forced to leave. Despite these political peripetia, many Academy´s divisions were lead by internationally recognized artists, who had created professional background for their students (Albín Brunovský, Rastislav Janák, Miloslav Mudrončík).
A turning point in the history of the Academy had come in the revolution year of 1989. The revolution had drawn a new starting line in the history of the Academy – with new study concepts, new pedagogues and newly established activities. The Academy has been organized as a „joint school“ with easily crossable borders between various departments, divisions and studios. The mobility of the students has been highly supported by the pedagogues. Around that time, the process of accrediting of those art disciplines, that hadn´t been taught until then at the level of university education, was completed. In the beginning of the nineties, a Department of visual media with specialization in photography was founded, as well as Studio of Fashion Design and Studio of Jewel. One of the youngest departments of the Academy is a Department of Intermedia and Multimedia, which was established in a reaction to current needs of the society, whose problems and attitudes require more differentiated visualisation. Last two decades can be described as a period of intensive transformation, which copies the fast changes in our society. The Academy has to face frequent legislative changes, that integrate principles of Bologna declaration into regulations of the university education. At the same time, the Academy opens itself for cooperation with foreign institutions and organisations, and international mobility of students and pedagogues is being developed.
Mgr. Bohunka Koklesová, PhD.
History of the Academy buildings
When the Academy of Fine Arts and Design was established in 1949, its departments, studios as well as its seat were diffused in various historical buildings around the town, which caused considerable difficulties in the teaching process. Ceremonial neo-baroque Pálffy palace at Hviezdoslav square built around 1885 has become one of the first buildings of the AFAD. The four-storey building with two short court annexes, designed by prominent architect Viktor Rumpelmeyer, has been dedicated to the art since the very beginning – it was home to Palffy´s wide artistic collections. Today the building is a seat of the Rector´s office and three deparments – Department of Painting and Other Media, Department of Architecture, Department of Theory and History of Art. In the nineties, the attic for architecture studios was adjusted as a homogenous space, the courtyard, which now belongs to the Bratislava City Galery, was adapted for exhibitions and social gatherings, and space was released for newly established Gallery Medium. In 1954 the AFAD obtained premises of the scultpural yard on Koceľová street, where the town markets are located. These architectonically dull buildings, concentrated in a U-shaped courtyard, are today the seat of the Department of Painting and Other Media.
The disfavourable situation has changed in the seventies, when a space for building a new AFAD complex was allocated at the uphill of Machnáč. After including various changes to the original project, the proposal by Dušan Kuzma (founder and long-term chairman of the Department of Architecture of AFAD) was approved and partly implemented in 1981. The proposal has taken into account the allocation in an exposed area and the complex has been divided into two interconnected pavilions which compose the center of the teaching process. In the original proposal, a sport tract and catering tract, as well as an academy hall were included, but these were withdrawn. The three-storey building is simple, schematic, but functionally dispositional. Workshops are located in the basement, two other storeys serve as a seat of studios, auditoriums and teacher´s rooms. Better lighting and more efficient use of space were emphasized when designing the premises.
Due to further expansion of the Academy, new premises were demanded. Thus in the late nineties, another storey had to be build in the Kuzma pavilions. The project was lead by AFAD pedagogue Ján Bahna and AFAD graduate Igor Palčo. These architects also emphasized need for natural source of light and open space.
But in contrast to Kuzma´s static and repetitive segmentation of the facilities, Bahna and Palčo used dynamic solution of dismountable gallery in accordance with the principles of then popular technicism. Thus the space was not only amplified, but also became variable, which demonstrates the inconsistence of the artistic trends. Exterier of the extension corresponds with the lower storeys and the lenticular roof visually softens the complex. Most of the departments are seated in this building today – Department of Photography and New Media, Department of Printmaking and Other Media, Department of Intermedia and Multimedia, Department of Design, Department of Restoration, Department of Sculpture – Object – Installation, Department of Textiles, Department of Applied Arts, Department of Visual Communication and the Division of Drawing.
When considering architectural styles, the oldest AFAD building is the Specialized Facility in Kremnica. The building represents mining type of a burgeois house. It was probably built in the second third of the 16th century, which is documented by late-gothic window chambranies and renaissance cornice. The building is used for workshops and creative activities.
Mgr. Barbora Tribulová