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Is there anything to connects glassmaking and bicycling? These worlds seem so far apart at first sight. Yet there are many common grounds. To mention just one that is well presented in the media – for years now, the winners of the Tour de France (along with other competitions), receive glass trophies that were made, surprise, in the Czech Republic, specifically in the Nový Bor region. Glassmakers and cyclists also share the burden of massive sweat, barely imaginable strain and individual mastery that, none-the-less, requires practiced team work. Additionally, glassmaking and cycling share a great tradition on one hand and the tireless quest for new ways to improve performance, innovate technology and fine-tune strategy and tactics on the other. And, last but not least, both these fields display ongoing changes of visual principles. In our contemplation and with due respect to all forms of cycling, we will narrow the subject to road cycling. There is a good reason, for anyone who has ridden in a road race or participated in an intensive group training, got to feel the incredible energy and atmosphere of ‘the pack’ of colorful bicycles with strong individuals who share a particularly strange type of love. Aside from this, for decades, racing bicycles blended exceptional elegance, refinement, craft, top technologies and a century-long continuity. Each year, hundreds of thousands of viewers appreciate the beauty of a speeding peloton along the routes of road races, along with millions more at their televisions. Many of them only enjoyed recreational cycling. Those visiting glassworks are similarly enchanted.

The glassmaking craft is as beautiful and attractive as the Tour de France. Those who mastered and perform it are similarly ‘crazy’ as bicycle racers. They chose a form of self-actualization that is among the most difficult and strenuous the world offers. Just as riders in a peloton, glassmakers find themselves sweating in the midst of a dynamic beehive, the buzz of which is irreplaceable. Here we purposefully narrowed glassmaking to at-furnace operations, but glassmaking, just as cycling, has many intertwined forms. In both fields the fuel mix includes passion, hard work and rivalry. These are tied to respect, strong individuals supported by teamwork, a sense of togetherness and the need to combine all the components.

Filip and Lukáš Houdek, known as the Glassbrothers, are clearly fascinated by both cycling and glassmaking, as is apparent from their creation of the Posedlost (Bicycle Obsession) exhibition. At the opening, visitors realized that this is not a random or utilitarian connection, as they admired wooden-style bicycles on which both the brothers and their colleagues arrived in Prague on the day of the opening, dressed in style.

But the Houdek brothers’ unique work is appreciated by those with no particular connection to road racing who don’t know the stories behind the names of the exhibited artworks. Luckily, glassmaking art is still a field of visual culture, where a concept requires physical processing with an exceptionally high ratio of craft material, attractive on its own. At times, certain glass artists rely excessively on this, thinking they can get along without a concept. In an ideal case, they achieve harmony. The Houdek brothers’ Bicycle Obsession collection manages to persuade those who love both concepts and glass craft; bicycle fans, as well as those who have only a vague idea about their obsession with bicycle seats, road racing and its key attributes and individuals. Simply put, these people seek in galleries something artistically interesting, beautiful and executed in fine materials. Without a doubt, they will find it. Yet, consider this – those cycling stories with a glassmaking climax are certainly worth exploring.

PhDr. Jaroslav Polanecký - curator