How to Visit the Mucha Museum, Prague

The Mucha Museum, in Prague, is one of my favorite “almost hidden” treasures in the City of 100 Spires. Located in Nové Město, just a quick walk from Wenceslaus Square, it should be on your must-see list of things to do in Prague.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link for an item or service I recommend and make a booking or purchase, I may get a small commission on that sale. It won’t affect the price you pay. Also I was offered a discount on this tour to be able to write about it for you. But that has not affected my opinion. My enthusiasm for this experience is genuine.

December 26,1894 – The workshop office of Lemercier Printers, Paris:

The phone rings and Maurice de Brunhoff, manager of the publishing firm, picks up. On the other end is the most famous actress in Paris, if not the world, Sarah Bernhardt. Her current production of Gismonda is being extended and she wants a new poster designed at once. Of course, Madame, M. de Brunhoff replies. Then Bernhardt drops the bomb; she wants the poster ready to distribute by January 1.

Let’s imagine the rest of the conversation, shall we?

“But, ma chère madame, that is only one week away!”

“Mais oui, mon chèr Maurice. And I want something different, non? Something unique. I am going to plaster Paris with them. See to it, please, will you, mon chèr?”

Well, clearly, M. de Brunhoff now found himself in a pickle. You just did not say no to the world’s greatest actress, not to mention one of your firm’s best customers, as they had been printing Bernhardt’s posters for some time. But it was the holidays; all his artists were unavailable. Where was he to find someone to design such an important commission and get it ready and printed in seven days?

Fortunately for him, and for the future of the art world, a not-well-known but talented artist/illustrator, a fellow from Moravia, was in the print shop at that moment, correcting some proofs. “Can you do it?” the manager asked after explaining the problem. Well, of course he could, replied Alphonse Mucha. And he did.

The Sarah Bernhardt poster for Gismondo, her gown in shades of gold, as seen at the Mucha Museum, Prague.

One week later, Paris was indeed plastered with Mucha’s 6 ½’ high poster. Bernhardt was delighted with the design, full of complex details and subtle colorations. It showed her full length and bigger than life, dressed as a Byzantine princess with orchids in her hair, holding a palm frond. Her head was outlined with an arc that looked like a halo, a design feature that would become a signature element of Mucha’s work. So popular was the piece that people were pulling it off walls and kiosks, taking it home to decorate their own walls. 4000 posters were printed. Bernhardt immediately offered Mucha a six-year contract to design posters, costumes, and stage sets for her.

Alphonse Mucha, who had been struggling to make his name known, to say nothing of paying his café bill and the rent on his atelier, had been designing restaurant menus, advertising posters, and illustrating popular novels. With this poster, he became one of the most popular artists in Paris almost overnight.

You can see this beautiful Gismonda poster—yes, the original proof print, from 1894—at the Mucha Museum in Prague. And I heartily suggest you do.

How to Get the Most Out of a Mucha Museum Visit

I have been a fan of Mucha’s work since my college days—a long time ago!—so I was thrilled to see so many of his pieces in person. Also, since I knew almost nothing about his life, I enjoyed seeing the photos, drawings, and the reproduction of his Paris studio. The museum is small, but rich for anyone who loves the work of Mucha or Art Nouveau in general.

I suggest you plan to spend at least an hour here—I stayed closer to two—and that you begin your visit by watching the excellent 30-minute film—in English—shown in the video room at the very back. It gives a great overview of the artist’s life and work, and is the perfect introduction, especially if you are not familiar with the breadth of his work.

After the film, return to the front of the museum and work your way through the sections one by one.

“The purpose of my work was never to destroy but always to create, to construct bridges, because we must live in the hope that humankind will draw together and that the better we understand each other the easier this will become.”

– Alphonse Mucha

The Decorative Panels and Posters

The first sections are where you’ll see the Mucha works you probably know best—decorative panels and posters. In fin-de-siècle Paris, there was a hunger among the middle class for beautiful but affordable artworks to adorn their homes. Mucha was happy to supply them with a stream of decorative panels, calendars, and prints. He developed an archetypal style that would forever mark his work—flattened, subtle colors, curved lines, flowing hair and fabrics, and strong outlines.

He often worked in series—The Four Seasons, The Four Flowers, The Four Times of Day. I particularly loved The Four Arts–Dance, Poetry, Painting and Music. Its warm golden tones, the lushness of its flowing lines contrasted with the rigidly round crescent behind each figure, drew me in.

Mucha's The Four Arts, a four-panel piece. Each panel has a woman in slowing dress and hair, in warm colors of yellows and golds.
The Four Arts, by Alphonse Mucha–Dance, Poetry, Painting, & Music

The Four Flowers has a quite different feel, although a similar palette. The thing that most struck me about it was how modern the flowing dresses on the four women seemed. You could put these gowns on any woman walking the red carpet at a celebrity-heavy awards ceremony and they would not look out of place.

A set of four tall, narrow panels, each with a woman adorned with a different flower. The shades are pastel pinks, yellows and golden tones. At the Mucha Museum, Prague.
For Mucha, The Flowers are a full-blown expression of his Art Nouveau style.

This is also where you can see some of the famous Bernhardt posters. I was intrigued by the Medée poster, which captures the actress’s powerful presence in the look of horror on her face as she stands over the bodies of the children she has killed. The snake bracelet she is wearing was a design detail the artist added. Bernhardt liked it so much, she commissioned the jeweler Georges Fouquet to make her one just like it.

Mucha’s style was also perfectly adapted to the growing need for printed advertising materials in turn-of-the-century France, and he was glad for the commissions. He designed advertising prints for champagne and chocolate, beer and Benedictine, bicycles and corsets. And his ads sold merchandise, making him much in demand.

In this section, you can see his famous ad for JOB cigarette papers, featuring a scantily clad woman in flowing fabric and even more flowing long black hair. This wild mass of almost Medusa-like hair was another signature of Mucha’s work, often called “macaroni” or “vermicelli.” The woman’s pose is flirty and sensual. Even in such early advertising, it was already clear that “sex sells.”

An advertising poster for JOB cigarette papers, it features a woman in a strapless red gown with exaggerated long black hair that flows around her in waves. She holds a cigarette in one hand.
The Alphonse Mucha JOB cigarette papers ad shows that
even 125 years ago, he knew. “Sex sells.”

Documents Décoratifs and Czech Posters

The next section of the museum contains a number of what are called Documents Décoratifs. These are primarily pencil drawings highlighted with white paint showing his designs for everything from furniture to fireplaces, tableware to cutlery, hair combs, fans, chandeliers, and jewelry (much of which was produced by the famous Parisian jeweler Fouquet).

These works are followed by more posters, Czech ones this time, created after he returned to his country of birth in 1910. He was very much a Slavic nationalist, and the work he created at this time shows a distinct difference from the Paris posters. Folk costumes, Slavic faces, and strong Slav sports figures replace the flowing, almost liquid lines of so much of the Parisian work. Social commentary in speaking out against the Germanization of the Czechs is also present.

Alphonse Mucha Paintings

Although Mucha made his name and fame as an illustrator and graphic designer, his first love had been painting, which he studied in Munich. There are not a lot of examples of his painting work here, but one drew me to it and I stared for a long time, taking in every detail. It is a powerful work, called variously “Star,” “Woman in the Wilderness,” and “Siberia.” It shows a Russian peasant woman, wrapped in a shawl, sitting alone on a field of snow, her face turned upward to the night sky with a single bright star hanging above her. There is defeat, acceptance, and finally a sense of peace in her posture. The artist’s wife, Marie, posed for the painting.

Mucha's painting "Woman in the Wilderness," also called "Star" and "Siberia." A field of snow and a blue-gray night sky with a single bright star lighting a Russian peasant woman wrapped in a shawl sitting on the ground.
“Star,” by Alphonse Mucha, is also called “Siberia” and “Woman in the Wilderness.” It is a powerful evocation of aloneness, defeat, and acceptance.

A Man of Many Talents

The final section of the museum seems specifically designed for the artist to just show off his astonishing versatility. There are drawings and pastels and studies, jewelry and sculpture, a design for a stained-glass window at St. Vitus’ Cathedral (which you can see while you are in Prague). There are examples of the Czech banknotes and stamps he designed.

You’ll also see here a small reconstruction of part of his Paris studio. That studio must have been a lively, happening place (especially when the painter Paul Gauguin lived with him for awhile). You can tell by looking at the many photographs on display. Mucha made glass-plate photos of models in preparation for many of his pieces, and they are fascinating. Look beyond the models at the studio itself, the furnishings and objects of the exotic Bohemian interior.

Paul Gauguin (left) lived in Mucha’s studio in Paris for a time. On the right is Gauguin’s teenage mistress and model, Annah la Javanaise.

“Advised to “Find a Different Career”

This is the feast of the Mucha Museum. Once you have seen the astonishing brilliance and breadth of his work here, it’s amusing to learn that in 1878, when the budding young artist was 18 years old and applied to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, he was rejected. The person rejecting him told him to “find a different career.” I don’t suppose anyone remembers that man’s name. While Mucha went on to be hailed not only as the greatest of the Art Nouveau artists, but even as “the most famous artist in the world.”

After working your way through the entire Mucha Museum, I hope you end up loving Alphonse Mucha and his work as much as I do. This visit was one of the high points of my time in Prague. See this post for other high points and “insider tips” to what you should see in Prague.

If you’d like to get a good meal near the museum, I suggest heading to Bistro Spejle, just a block away; good food and a fun concept, with everything served on a skewer, with your bill calculated by how many skewers you consume. You can read my full review of Bistro Spejle here.

Fast Facts for Visiting the Mucha Museum:

Where: The museum is located at Panská 7 in the Kaunický Palace. This is in Nové Město, just a short walk from Wenceslaus Square. With your back to the National Museum at the top of the square and the venerable good King Wenceslaus astride his horse, walk about 2/3 the length of the square to Jindřišská and turn right. Go one block to Panská. You will see the museum on your right.

When: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm

Cost: Regular admission tickets are 300 CZK, about US$13.25. NOTE: There is a senior discount for visitors over 65 with tickets costing 200 CZK, about US$8.85

Amenities: There is a wonderful gift shop at the front near the entrance, full of Mucha inspired gifts, books, posters and other items.

Accessibility: The museum is wheelchair accessible.

Facilities: Clean, free restrooms are located near the front of the museum across from the ticket desk.

Banksy's "Forgive Us Our Trespassing" shows a young boy in jeans and a gray hoodie kneeling in prayer before a heavily graffitied stained-glass window. It is displayed in front of another staind-glass window, which frames it perfectly. At the Moco Museum Amsterdam.

Moco Museum – Amsterdam’s Newest Home for Modern & Contemporary Art

Amsterdam’s Moco Museum of Contemporary Art has taken root beside its bigger brothers on the city’s Museumplein. And if you like edgy, subversive, and provocative art by the likes of Banksy, Andy Warhol, Dali, and Roy Lichtenstein, you need to see it. Also, if you love beautiful vintage architecture, you get a sweet bonus at what some are calling the Banksy Museum, Amsterdam.

The 1904 Alsberg House, an elegant 3-story house brick house neo-Renaissance details, home to the Moco Museum of Contemporary Art.

The 1904 stately Villa Alsberg on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, home of the Moco Museum. Amsterdam’s newest venue for contemporary, opinionated, subversive and controversial art has also been called the Banksy Museum Amsterdam.
Photo by C. Messier CC license

Amsterdam is a city where museum lovers are spoiled for choice. There are more than 90 museums in the city. They honor everything from historic art masterpieces to kitsch, from tulips to cheese to cigars. There’s a handbag museum, a Bibles museum, and a sex museum. Whether you want to see Rembrandts and Van Goghs, world-class photography, or the rooms where Anne Frank hid with her family, whether you love cats or science or vintage ships, whether its spectacles, pipes, or diamonds that get you going … there’s a museum for that in Amsterdam.

Moco Museum of Modern Contemporary Art Enters the Scene

In 2016, Moco—Museum of Modern Contemporary Art—joined the list as a home for exhibits featuring popular culture icons of op, pop, street art and other contemporary funk. Underground-gone-mainstream artists like Banksy and Warhol, Koons and Haring, Yayoi Kusama and Roy Lichtenstein and others are filling the walls and spaces of a graceful and distinctly non-contemporary 19th-century townhouse on the city’s Museumplein.

Moco is a private museum. Owners Lionel and Kim Logchies have a long-established presence in Europe’s contemporary art scene. Their Lionel Gallery, in Amsterdam’s Spiegel Quarter, was named one of Europe’s top galleries by ArtNet. They have long had an affinity for so-called “subversive art,” like the clandestine street work of the mysterious Banksy. So opening a museum was a logical extension of what they’ve been doing for years. And Banksy and Andy Warhol were the no-brainer choices for Moco’s first star-turn exhibit.

Contemporary Art – Vintage Home

The stately Villa Alsberg was a less obvious choice of venue to house their new contemporary art museum. Built as a family home in 1904, it was designed by Edward Cuypers, whose uncle, Pierre Cuypers, designed the massive and distinctive neo-Gothic style Rijksmuseum and Amsterdam’s Central Station. Edward was trained by his uncle, but developed a different style, with elements of Neo-Renaissance and Jugendstil. Against the elegant backdrop of beamed ceilings, polished wainscoting, and stained-glass windows, the cheekiness of the young, vibrant, edgy art pops out even more. The dichotomy works.

An elegant room in the Moco Museum, with yellow walls and a heavily beamed ceiling, showing two "Stormtrooper" paintings by Banksy on one wall, below vintage beveled glass windows.

The contemporary, humorous, and sometimes subversive art exhibited by the Moco Museum offers a sly, delightful counterpoint to the elegant early 20th-century style of it’s Villa Alsberg home, like these Banksy stormtroopers.

I visited Moco Amsterdam shortly after it opened and was fortunate to spend time with that original Banksy-Warhol exhibit. I was delighted at every turn, both by the whimsical, colorful, or anarchic art and the beauty of its new housing. Although the small size of some of the rooms and stairways works against the flow of the large crowds, the curators have used the layout well.

A large black-and-white self portrait of Andy Warhol sits against an elegant glass and wainscoting wall at Moco Museum, Amsterdam

The contemporary art at Moco makes for a whimsical counterpoint to the elegant building.

The First Banksy Exhibition in Amsterdam

I’ve been a Warhol groupie for decades, but I was fairly new to Banksy’s work. I’m now a confirmed fan. I love the irony and humor with which he expresses his subversive ideas. I also love the mystery of him. The fact that no one seems to know who he is simply makes the work more intriguing. And after the 2018 stunt he pulled at Sotheby’s, when a shredder he’d built into the frame of one of his paintings kicked in just as the gavel came down on the $1.2 million price, leaving the painting of the girl with a red balloon in shreds, I loved him even more.

This unauthorized exhibit, called “Laugh Now,” is a grouping of works from private collections. It is comprised of more than 50 pieces, including his huge “Beanfield” painting. Some of the original street pieces look like they’ve been physically cut from their original outside walls, still attached to concrete slabs, or appear on traffic cones, metal signs and other surfaces. The parade of monkeys, rats, children, British policemen, soldiers and street fighters send the artist’s anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment message with both power and humor.

"Beanfield" is one of Banksy's largest work, a classical pastoral village scene overlaid with a cartoon mouse about to set the world on fire.

Banksy’s very large canvas, “Beanfield” combines whimsy and anarchy in his unique style.

One of many instances of Banky's "Girl with Balloon," showing a young girl who has just let go of (or lost) a red, heart-shaped balloon.

One of Banksy’s most famous images is his stenciled girl with a red balloon. It was a print of this image that was rigged to self-destruct as soon as the hammer came down on its auction at Sotheby’s.

To see the actual semi-destruction of the print at Sotheby’s, watch this video. For some reason, the shredder only worked on half the print, leaving the piece perhaps even more valuable than it was before.

My favorite work in the group was “Forgive Us Our Trespassing.” This large painting shows a young boy in cap and hoodie, praying on his knees, in front of a large stained-glass window covered with graffiti. Moco has placed it by one of the house’s original stained-glass windows, and the result is stunning.

Banksy's "Forgive Us Our Trespassing" shows a young boy in jeans and a gray hoodie kneeling in prayer before a heavily graffitied stained-glass window. It is displayed in front of another stained-glass window, which frames it perfectly. At the Moco Museum Amsterdam.

Banksy’s “Forgive Us Our Trespassing” showing a young boy in a hoodie praying for forgiveness before a graffitied window. It fits perfectly against the stained-glass window of the Villa Alsberg, home of Moco Museum. Banksy has been a perennial favorite at the museum since it opened in 2016. The current exhibit runs through September, 2019.

That original Banksy Amsterdam exhibit proved so popular that Moco brought it back. It has been extended several times and is now scheduled to remain through September, 2019. It’s quite possible that some Banksy pieces will continue to show up in the museum’s ongoing shows. But despite the strong Moco Banksy connection among locals, the museum has shown a range of contemporary artists. Salvador Dali was a popular recent choice, as was the primary-colored cartoon style of Roy Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein, Kusama, et al at Moco

Bold, clean lines over flat, strong colors, regularly spaced dots like an amplified half-tone… these are the hallmarks of much of Roy Lichtenstein’s work. One of the most popular pieces from Moco’s exhibit of his work, the 3-D “The Artist’s Room at Arles” installation, remains in place. A reimagining of van Gogh’s iconic yellow room in the French city, its showing here has been extended indefinitely.

At Moco Museum, Lichtenstein's "The Artist's Bedroom at Arles" is a bold, "cleaned-up" version of the famous van Gogh painting, with strong primary colors, bold lines, and a diagonally striped wall.

You can walk into the 3-D isntallation of Roy Lichtenstein’s reimagined and “cleaned-up” version of van Gogh’s
bedroom at Arles. I wonder if Vincent would recognize it.

Two pieces by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama are currently on show through September, 2019: “Pumpkin” and “Night of Stars.” Easily recognizable from their strong lines and polka dots, the pieces have a joy about them that fills the room. An earlier show featured Icy and Sot. Two Iranian street artist brothers, sometimes called “The Banksy of Iran,” their work has been banned in their own country.

A big, bold, orange, polka-dot pumpkin painting by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

“Pumpkin,” by Yayoi Kusama, is one of two of the artist’s pieces that have been shown at Moco, Amsterdam.

While visiting Moco, be sure to check out the garden. Filled with a constantly changing, evolving parade of whimsical and unexpected sculptures and installations, it’s always a fun discovery. Drool over a giant red Gummy Bear; puzzle over a big bronze melting Dali pocket watch; or climb aboard Marcel Wanders’ “Tempter,” a giant hobby horse, and have yourself a ride. There is a very nice gift shop in the basement of the house.

While it’s possible, and even likely, that few or none of these specific works and artists will still be showing when you make your own way to Moco, I hope they convince you that whatever is on display is certain to be interesting, thought provoking, probably subversive, whimsical, and something you’re not likely to see in most other museums. And it will be a delightful counterbalance to all those Rembrandt’s and Vermeers and van Goghs filling your other museum hours in Amsterdam.

Moco Amsterdam has already become very popular in its short life. I recommend you buy tickets online before you go. It will definitely ease your entry. Book your Moco Museum tickets online at the Moco website.

If You Go to Moco Museum Amsterdam:

Opening Times:

Sunday – Thursday, 9 am to 7 pm
Friday-Saturday, 9 am – 8 pm
(Open one hour later each day in July and August)

Admission Prices: (2019)

Adults €14
Students and Youth (16-17) €12.50
Youth (10-15) €9.50,
Children under 10 free
€1 Discount for tickets purchased online

Location and Contact:

Moco Museum Amsterdam is on the western edge of the Museumplein, between the Rijksmuseum and the van Gogh Museum.
Address: Honthorststraat 20
Telephone: +31 (0) 20-3701997
email: hello@mocomuseum.com

Getting There:

Trams #2, 3, 5, 12 stop at van Baerlestraat.
Trams 16, 24 stop at Museumplein

Accessibility:

Moco Museum is located in a vintage home with many steps and no elevator. Consequently, it is unfortunately NOT wheelchair accessible.

Photography is allowed. Flash is not.