BOLT 958 pouring an unknown substance into Prague’s Vltava River to protest the commercial use of the Mánes exhibition hall. Photo: BOLT 958

Artists Dye Prague’s Vltava River Red in Act of Protest

After an unknown substance reddened Prague’s Vltava River last Monday, artist group Bolt958 took credit for coloring the river as an act of protest against the commercial use of the historic Mánes exhibition hall, located on the river’s bank, Monopol reports.

Built sometime between 1928 and 1930 by the Mánes Association of Fine Artists—an artists’ association and exhibition society named after painter Josef Mánes and founded in 1887—the Functionalist building complex is part of the Czech Foundation for Fine Arts. After the city landmark underwent a roughly $7 million renovation in 2014, it has been rented out to commercial businesses. Currently, the gallery has been transformed into a makeshift gym after being rented out by Reebok.

Angry over this use of the exhibition space, Bolt958 decided to pour an unidentified substance into the river that turned it bright red. “Mánes is bleeding, and starting to sink,” the group wrote on Facebook. ‎‎They added, “Mánes is supposed to serve artists, but it is currently dividing them.”

The public’s reaction to the stunt was mixed. While some viewed it as a successful way to draw attention to an issue that should be addressed by the city, others thought the coloring caused panic, which unnecessarily distracted the local fire and police departments. Authorities initially expressed concern about whether the unknown substance was polluting the river, which flows into the Elbe. However, the fire department has since officially declared the pigment benign. Even though the pigment has dissolved, it is uncertain whether the artists will face any charges.