David Cerný & other Art in Prague

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When I arrived in Prague, I wasn’t really sure what to expect in the art scene. I knew that there would be some pretty modern artists, but I hadn’t done a lot of research on the subject. Within the first few days of my visit, it quickly became apparent that the artistic community was thriving here and I would be at no shortage of unique works to view.

On my first guided tour of Prague, we walked into a small alley way that opened up into an urban courtyard between some old buildings. Hanging in the middle, high above my head, were a set of four large guns. This was my first encounter with David Cerný, and it was a great introduction.

The pieces are suspended by wires in the courtyard of the Artbanka Museum of Young Art, and the fact that each weapon is pointing at the others makes it feel like a bit of a stand-off. Every once in awhile the guns make movement and noise. a shot here and a trigger pull there, it is actually pretty entertaining to witness.

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Before you have a moment to think that David Cerný was a one-hit (no pun intended) wonder, take a few paces to your left. Inside a dark doorway is a dimly lit room housing a large tank of water. Only, it’s not water, and it’s not empty.

This piece is called “The Shark“, and it consists of the body of Saddam Hussein floating in a tank of formaldehyde. It’s definitely a controversial installation and it feels even more shocking because of it’s environment within the cryptic cellar-like room that it sits.

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Next,  we entered what I thought was going to simply be a fancy atrium mall. We waked past store fronts and into a large high-ceilinged room with detailed glass designs. But what was hanging from the centre of the room is what was most eye-catching.

It was a statue of  St. Wenceslas riding an upside down dead horse. This was another piece by the talented David Cerný.

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Soon it was time to go on a segway tour of the city. Thinking that we would be sightseeing and adventuring up to great lookout points, I didn’t expect that we would be seeing more art, but I was wrong. As soon as we set off, we immediately rolled up to a beautifully graffitied wall, named “The John Lennon Wall“.

In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint.

After this, we drove past yet another two more works by David Cerný. The first were a set of giant baby statues, with no faces, crawling around on the ground in a park. These babies can also be seen in other areas of the city, including a few which are crawling up the  Žižkov Television Tower, above the city.

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Then we pulled up beside what appeared to be two men standing in a fountain. Only, it wasn’t a fountain, and then two men weren’t exactly just standing in it. The “fountain” was a small body of water in the shape of the Czech  Republic, and the two men that weren’t only standing on it, were in fact peeing on it.

To make matters a little more controversial, they were swivelling their hips and their… selves… from side to side , almost making a mockery of the country as they defaced it with their urine.

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David Cerný certainly knows how to cause a stir.

On another day, we made a trip to the ultra-modern DOX museum over in Praha 7. The building itself was painted in bright neon colours that made the building pop compared to its surroundings. On the roof was a rotating giant red skull that looped out over the street above.

There were a few different exhibitions going on at the time, including works by Karel Nepraš, Veronika Psotková and curators Michelle Šiml and Lukáš Houdek. These included intricate pencil drawings, unique metal sculptures, creative wired shapes and a feature titled “transgendered me”. The gallery was a bit of maze, but we all had a nice time wandering around and getting lost among the art.

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Lastly, the city itself was a large blank canvas. I don’t mean that in the cheesy sense of saying that it’s a beautiful city (although, it definitely is). However, I mean that the people of Prague literally turn it into art. The most common form is to spraypaint the uncovered walls. I constantly found myself admiring everything from the little scribbles on the sidewalk to the huge illustrations on the walls.

Graffiti may not be legal, but it is something that gives the city its individuality and unique artistic place in the world. The rest of the city is full of art. It can be seen in the rebellious forms of expression in throwing shoes over the power lines, artists working on the bridges, or even in the interior design or youthful hotels like Fusion. Prague really is a city of art.

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This trip was made possible by Czech Tourism
All views and opinions are my own.

 

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7 Responses to “David Cerný & other Art in Prague”

  1. Ayngelina
    September 11, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Incredible art. I had never heard of this guy but did you hear Natalie T. met him, apparently a very “interesting” guy.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Eiffel Tower Reunites in New York City

    • Seattle
      September 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      whaaat no way–she didn’t mention that, that’s awesome!

  2. Jackie D
    September 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Love this — art is always one of the first things I look for when I arrive in a new place. When I was in Prague I stumbled across the peeing statues but I don’t think I saw any of these others, bummer. Those guns look so awesome!
    Jackie D recently posted..Places: Garfield Park Conservatory (by way of bizarre plant names)

    • Seattle
      September 24, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

      It’d be great if you could made it back there again to see the rest. But, art is definitely one of the first things I look for too :]

  3. Janie
    September 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Very cool work. I don’t like all of it but the crawling babies are really interesting.

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