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Arthur Fleischmann: travelling sculptor

Part 1: Bratislava before and since 1990

In the summer of 2003 Sky-Europe Airlines started the first commercial passenger service providing direct flights from London Stanstead to Bratislava. It’s already hard to remember the intolerable inconvenience of the old route to Bratislava from the West that involved a bus journey across the border at Petrzalka from Vienna. I always seemed to be doing the journey in wintertime. The Slovak customs officials wore badly fitting khaki trench coats and stamped their feet on the snowy ground to keep warm. Now the journey is a short glide along a smooth newly surfaced highway from M. R. Stefanik Airport. Within minutes one is at the river Danube and the historical centre of the capital of Slovakia.

Remarkably the Bratislava of today resembles more the splendour of the late 19th Century than it did when I visited for the first time in the summer of 1990 just after the Velvet Revolution. A few months earlier in March 1990 my father Arthur Fleischmann passed away and, taking advantage of the relaxed travel restrictions, I travelled for the first time to Bratislava to discover his roots. The trip was filled with emotions. For the first time I was seeing the place my father had left for the last time over 60 years earlier and about which I had heard him speak so little. In the dim store rooms of the City Museum I saw his earliest sculptures - done in the late 1920s and early 30s and which had been left behind when he left Czechoslovakia on his travels in 1937.

Luckily the Old Centre of Bratislava - for so long neglected and run down - has survived the upheaval of the 20th Century unscathed with the exception of the old Jewish quarter that was raised to the ground. It was the very neglect during the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s that preserved the historical centre, and today it emerges relatively unspoiled. Hviezdoslavovo Nameste that stretches east from the Opera House is now an elegant pedestrian area where families promenade in the evenings. The town hall (now the City Museum) glows at Christmas time as a laser aimed from across the square plays on the face of the clock at midnight. The bridge built during the communist era has mellowed now too and seems to be blending in with the old town as it becomes more weather beaten and shabby.

Today the public can visit the Arthur Fleischmann House at 6, Biela Ulice in the centre of Bratislava. They can start their tour of the house by visiting the Museum Arthur Fleischmann located on the first floor that presents works of art spanning over 60 years of the artist’s creative period from early ceramics loaned by the historical museum at Bratislava Castle through carvings in clear blocks of Perspex made in the 1960’s and works created in Silver in the late 1980’s loaned by the Arthur Fleischmann Foundation. After the right side of the brain has been thus stimulated, the visitor can dine in the "Café Philip" on the ground floor before joining the audience in the basement for a fringe theatre production.

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