Just the other day I wrote about a shock-o-latier in Belgium. Today’s provocateur comes from Prague and his name is David Černý. Although Černý’s sculptures may not be as pleasing to the palate as chocolate (at least I wouldn’t recommend licking any one of his works), his sculptures are food for the mind.
My husband and I tried to visit as many of Černý’s sculptures as we could while in Prague, but only made it to five.
“Horse” represents Wenceslas (or Václav) sitting on the belly of his dead, upside-down horse. The sculpture hangs in the atrium of an art nouveau shopping arcade that runs below the Lucerna Palace off Wenceslas Square between Štěpánská and Vodičkova streets. Compare Černý’s “Horse” to the statue of the Good King Wenceslas just outside in Wenceslas Square.
“Hanging Out,” or “Visalec” in Czech, is a bearded, bespectacled man dangling from a pole high above a street. He’s easy to miss. We were actively looking for him, but could not find him. When we knew we’d gone too far, we turned around to retrace our steps and there he was! We’d walked right under him. So if you’d like to visit, keep a sharp eye at the corner of Husova and Skořepka streets.
The gentleman who’s just “Hanging Out” is said to bear a strong resemblance to Sigmund Freud. Was that Černý’s intention?
“Proudy,” which translates to “stream” is affectionately called “Piss.” Two men peeing in a courtyard might be controversial enough, but these two men are animatronic, micro-chip controlled statues writing famous Prague literary quotations with moving hips and penises. And that puddle? It’s in the shape of the Czech Republic.
“Proudy” can be found in front of the Kafka Museum.
The most memorable Černý sculpture also happens to be the subject of my worst photo. “Quo Vadis” is a Trabant car on four legs located behind the German Embassy in Prague. The sculpture is a tribute to 4,000 East Germans who, in 1989, occupied the then West German Embassy’s garden before being granted political asylum, leaving their Trabants behind.
Our guidebook reads that the German Embassy is “happy for you to peer through its back fence at the sculpture.” Sounds great in daylight, but what about if you’re skulking around a muddy back lane late at night before poking your camera through the fence to take photos in the German Embassy’s direction? My heart was pounding as I quickly took two very bad pictures. I tell you, I had visions of stormtroopers streaming out of the building with guns pointed, then whisking us into the embassy’s bowels for endless interrogations, never to be heard from again. Thankfully, my imagination is far more active than the German Embassy’s rear exterior after dark. However, the fear of being caught felt real, perhaps helping me to appreciate just a little bit more what the sculpture represents. If you’d like to see what Quo Vadis looks like in daylight, pop over to German Wikipedia.
I don’t know David Černý and haven’t even seen much of his work, but I like his style. His sculptures make me feel something, and isn’t that what art is all about?
Most of the information in this post came from the guidebook that we used while in Prague, which was Lonely Planet’s “Prague Encounter” (2009).