Art might annoy, irritate, amuse, surprise, bore, encourage, discourage, disturb, connect, divide, provoke, relax, fascinate.
The art in urban space is watched as if by accident – it stops you on the way to a bar or a cafe, we walk past when going to work or we glance at it resting on a bench in a park. The art in urban space is perfect for those who seem to have deep dislike for art in general, as it just happens.
However, there are cities where you could and should actually plan an artistic walk, and one of them is undoubtedly Prague.
You won’t find many of his works in museums, if you want to see his art you need to look around. This almost 50 year-old artist with his sculptures and installations makes ironic and provocative comments on contemporary world.
Even you’re not an art afficionado, take this walk in Prague – you’re bound to take many quirky photos!
Horse is a parody of a well-known sculpture made by one of the most prominent Czech artists, Josef Vaclav Myslbek which depicts a figure of St. Wenceslas on a horse.
However, Cerny’s horse seems to be dead, hangs upside down and only the figure of the saint is posed exactly the same with the same proud expression. The artis never commented on the meaning of his work, but it is believed to criticise Vaclav Klaus, a former Czech president
Location: Lucerna Palace, Štěpánská 61 (enter from Václavskiego námesti 38 or Štepanskiej 1)
The head of Kafka closely reminds us of Cerny’s earlier work Metamorphosis which is now located in Charlotte, North Carolina, the USA.
Kafka’s head weighs 39 tonnes, measures 11 meters and consists of 42 movable parts which revolve around.
Location: Spálená 22 (next to a shopping centre)
The sculpture that appeared here in 2013 shows a pregnant woman – you can ‘go inside’ experience the feeling of being in a womb.
How does it feel? Uncomfortable, and you can hurt yourself on the sharp edges of it.
Location: Dlouhá street
The figure of Sigmund Freud can be noticed only if you forget about looking down at the cobbled street and look up. You might also see tourists pointing their cameras into the sky. There is a tiny sculpture near the top of the building.
Freud was born in the town of Příbor (Germ. Frieberg, now in the Czech Republic) and he ended his life committing suicide. The hanging figure looks as if he was just about to kill himself – one hand holding onto the pole, and the other casually put in a pocket.
This piece of art that was created at the end of the 20th century was meant to be ” Cerny’s ambiguous response to the question of what role the intellectual would play in the new millennium”.
What kind of answer? Well, I guess you need to figure it out for yourself!
Location: Intersection of Husova and Skořepka street near Old Town Square.
This is a small fountain in the yard of Kafka Museum made in 2004. The basin of the fountain is made in the shape of the Czech Republic and two standing men facing each other appear to be peeing onto the country.
You can send a text to the number given there and the men will write your message with their piss into the water.
Location: Franz Kafka Museum, Cihelná 2b
Crawling babies with their slot-machine faces can be seen next to the entrance to the Kampa Museum. They are part of Cerny’s ‘babies’ project which also includes babies on the TV tower
Location: U Sovovych mlynu 2 (at the entrance to Kampa Museum)
Quo vadis? / Where are you going?
A sculpture of a Trabant car on four giant legs is hidden behind the German Embassy, but you just need to go past the embassy for about 100 meters, turn left, cross the playground and have a peek through the railings.
The Trabant is a tribute to about 4,000 East Germany asylum seekers who waited here in 1989 until they were granted political asylum in West Germany. They often left their trabants behind, a popular car back then.
Embryo (created in 1996) doesn’t really draw your attention, as it looks as a broken, distorted pipe, and if you don’t know it’s art you will neither notice it nor think it’s art.
At least not during the day. It might be worth coming here after dark when it’s brightly lit.
I looked for the meaning on the net and found a note that “this represents a fetus going through a drain-pipe. Is this perhaps how art pieces are born and a representation of how artists and art find it hard to fit in this narrow-minded world?”
Well, call me narrow-minded but this is one those pieces of art where I stand staring and thinking, “What the hell is that?”
Location: Namesti U Sv. Anny, close to the Charles bridge
I wish I’d had more time and I promise I’ll see the rest of the works when I’m back in Prague, as it was a truly fascinating walk.
If you, unlike me, have more time, the following are worth visiting:
1. Žižkov TV tower, with mutant babies crawling up a 216 meter high TV tower that at night is lit up in the colours of the Czech flag.
Location: Mahlerovy sady 1
2. Brownnosers. You can climb the ladder up the backside of the oversised naked statues, look inside and watch a video of Vaclav Klaus, a former Czech president and Milan Knížák, the head of the National Gallery, feeding each other to the looped melody of Queen’s We Are the Champions.
You climb up, you become a brownnoser yourself.
Location: Futura Gallery, Holečkova 49
3. Pink tank. In 1991 Cerny painted the Soviet Tank Monument commemorating the Soviet liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945. He painted it pink and was arrested for it (temporarily).
Location: Military Museum, 20km south of Prague
4. Feast of Giants is a bus stop shelter in the town of Liberec. The table top is the roof shelter so it looks as if people were waiting under a huge table. The table is set with a head with a fork and knife sticking out of the head, a carnivorous plant, knocked over menora and beer mugs – their all refer to complex Czech history where big countries decided on the fate of the country without Czech even realising it.
Location: Liberec, Sokolská street
5. Meat - red cars hanging on the walls of the Center for Contemporary Art look like meat pieces hanging down a bucher’s hooks.
Location: Meet Factory, Ke Sklárně 15, Praga 5 (przystanek Lihovar)
David Cerny’s works in other countries?
If you happen to be in Poznań, Poland, walk down Aleje Marcinkowskiego where you’ll find one more of his works: the statue of Golem.
It’s not controversial because the authorities asked for it. Only vandals don’t like it as it’s already suffered damage a few times.
PS. I came with the idea of walk that follows David Cerny in Prague after reading Kamila’s post in Kami and the Rest of the World.
The walk from one sculpture to the other with some stops on the way to taste Czech beer and eat knedliki with goulash is a perfect way to spend a day in Prague – I highly recommend it!