See a new side to the Czech capital by viewing the weird and wonderful art of David Černý. When most people think of sculpture in Prague, they think of the Baroque statues lining Charles Bridge. But over the last two decades, one man has been on a mission to bring the city’s public art into the 21st century.
David Černý is an acclaimed artist, known internationally for provocative sculptures like Entropa, a 3D map that hung outside the Council of the European Union in Brussels and famously depicted EU countries as crude national stereotypes (like Bulgaria as a squat toilet and France entirely on strike) and London Booster, a Routemaster bus with hydraulic arms that did constant press-ups throughout the 2012 Olympics. Yet Černý’s most interesting and provocative works are in his hometown of Prague. His art is included in our most popular tours of Prague, but let us take you on a virtual tour:
As with most Prague city tours, the perfect place to start is Wenceslas Square. Halfway down the famous square, within the pretty Lucerna Passage, lies a dead, upside-down nag that hangs limply from the ceiling, as King Wenceslas sits proudly astride his belly. This is Horse, a clear parody of the heroic equine statue at the top of the square. Černý is renowned for never explaining his work, so you can interpret it how you like.
A short walk brings you to one of Černý’s most famous sculptures. Situated in the plaza behind the Quadrio shopping centre is Kafka, also known as Metalmorphosis. This giant metal head sculpture is more than 10 metres high and consists of 42 mechanical, rotating slices. As the name suggests, the figure is Franz Kafka, so maybe it’s a comment of the Katkaesque bureaucracy taking place in the nearby administrative buildings?
Man Hanging Out
From Kafka to Freud. Although created way back in 1996, this sculpture of Sigmund Freud hanging one-handed off a pole over the cobblestones of the Old Town still draws shock (and the occasional police callout) from passers-by. Although the statue on the corner of Husova and Betlémské náměstí is often mistaken for a real person, it is widely seen as a metaphor for the precariousness of intellectualism in the modern world.
A five-minute walk from Sigmund Freud brings you to another of Černý’s early installations, Embryo. This bizarre foam blob on the side of the Na Zábradlí Theatre is supposed to look like an alien embryo that has latched onto the building’s drainpipe. Although easily missed during the day, it is dramatically lit up at night.
Walk across Charles Bridge to the courtyard of the Franz Karka Museum and you will be confronted with one of the artist’s most humorous sculptures. Piss depicts two men standing on – and peeing on – a large map of the Czech Republic. It is a provocative image, and that’s before you realise that this is an interactive artwork: text a message to a special number and the men’s appendages will write your message out in pee.
Head south down the river – back past Charles Bridge – and you will quickly find yourself in lovely Kampa Park. Here, you will find some of what are David Cerný’s most well-known creations, Babies. These three giant, crawling babies seem nice enough, until you realise that their faces seem to have imploded and been replaced with barcodes. More Babies can be seen climbing the eyesore Žižkov Television Tower across town.
Last but certainly not least, a 20-minute walk takes you to Futura art gallery. In the garden lies the sculpture Brownnosers, featuring giant, naked, lower halves of bodies bent over and leaning against the wall. Climb a ladder to peer into an anus, where a video plays of ex-President Václav Klaus being spoon-fed faeces to the soundtrack of We Are the Champions. It is crude, weird and comical - the perfect distillation of David Cerný.