Street art isn’t rare in Prague — saints line Charles Bridge and disappearing men from the Memorial to the Victims of Communism stand near the foot of Petřín Hill. Just about every náměstí (square) in the city has a statue.
Few, though, are as strange as those of artist David Černý. If you just clicked on that link — especially if you had your sound on — you see why researching the man himself was a challenge. The best info comes from an interview he had with Dominik Jun of the Prague Compass. His site DOES say he was born in Prague in 1967, studied at the Academy of Applied Arts there from 1988-94, and was part of New York’s Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in the mid-90s. He now has permanent installations in the Czech Republic, Belgium, Poland, Germany and Charlotte, North Carolina. (Metamorphosis — a ways down the page)
More interesting were the the places his work DIDN’T go. He was the 2004 winner, chosen to create a World War II memorial in Prague — but, according to his website, this was “not realized because of political statement of author.”
His statue of King Wenceslas astride his upside down dead horse was first created in 1999 for the newly opened hall of the Prague Post Office on Jindřišská Street. But, as Černý’s website explains, the post office director said it was “‘way too much,’ without specifying what was too much.” It now hangs in the Lucerna shopping mall in Prague. It definitely doesn’t look like the statue of Wencelas at the top of the square bearing his name.
His “Piss” statue, permanently displayed outside the Kafka Museum, probably makes more sense in the video form from his website than my attention-grabbing still photo at the top of the page. (Scroll down on that link — it’s from 2004.) That site reports the men “write” messages in the Czech-shaped pool where they stand, sent to them from bystanders. I’ve never seen the mobile phone number to text to make that happen. That’s not in my AT&T plan, but I would be willing to get an overage charge if I could do it.
And then there are the babies. First designed to decorate the The Žižkov Television Tower, a Communist-era structure many say is the ugliest place in Prague, these 10 giant sculptures made of fiberglass crawl up the tower, visible from all across the city. Their three identical cousins in Kampa Park are bronze. All have non-faces that look a bit like bar codes.
Other notable art around the city include “In Utero,” a giant pregnant woman, who looks like she’s made out of shiny, silver Legos, Sigmund Freud “Hanging Out” from a pole high above a small cobblestone street in Old Town, and a 45-ton stainless steel Kafka that turns much like the statue in Charlotte, sitting outside the downtown Tesco.
Of course that’s not all. Černý’s Meet Factory, described on its website as “a place for live art, music, theatre, residency, gallery, workshops and more…,” includes a white room with a Clorox bottle that periodically erupts with confetti and a row of about 20 twin-sized mattresses, lined up on their ends with a three-foot-in-diameter hole through them all. When we visited — two tram rides and a trek behind the railroad yard — they were also producing an Indian clothing commercial. “It’s hard to find a red bathroom where you can shoot video,” one of the crew explained.