David Černy Strikes Again!

  • October 23, 2013 - 8:49 pm
  • Czech Republic
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File:Gesto, David Černý(sochař), 21.10.2013, Praha.jpg
Photo by Jindřich Nosek via Wikimedia Commons: Gesture, by Czech sculptor David Černý. October 21, 2013, Prague
David Černý, the Czech artist perhaps best known for the Pink Tank and for Entropa, has struck again!
Here's some detail from the NYT . . .
New York Times
October 21, 2013

Angry at Prague, Artist Ensures He’s Understood


PARIS — “The finger,” said the Czech sculptor David Cerny, “speaks for itself.” On that point, at least, everyone could agree.

Mr. Cerny is not known for understatement or diplomacy, from depicting Germany as a network of motorways resembling a swastika to displaying a caricature of a former Czech president inside an enormous fiberglass rear end.

But on Monday, Mr. Cerny, 45, took his political satire to new heights — or depths, depending on your perspective — when, on the eve of Czech general elections this weekend, he installed on the Vltava River a 30-foot-high plastic purple hand with a raised middle finger. It is a symbol, he said, that points directly at the Prague Castle, the seat of the current Czech president, Milos Zeman.

Mr. Cerny said the monumental hand with its 16-foot-long outstretched middle finger, placed on a float facing the castle, was a “scream of alarm” against the state of politics in the Czech Republic, endemic corruption and Mr. Zeman, a former leftist prime minister, whom he accused of becoming intoxicated with power.

He said the sculpture, which he gave an unprintable title, was also aimed at the country’s Communist Party, which could gain a share of power in the coming elections for the first time since the revolution that overthrew communism more than two decades ago.

“This finger is aimed straight at the castle politics,” Mr. Cerny said by phone from Prague, the Czech capital. “After 23 years, I am horrified at the prospect of the Communists returning to power and of Mr. Zeman helping them to do so.”

Mr. Zeman, who was visiting Ukraine on Monday, declined to comment through a spokeswoman, who told the Czech news media that he had not yet seen the sculpture.

The sculpture is part of a Czech tradition of cultural rebellion dating to communist times, when artists, writers and musicians like the Plastic People of the Universe used subversive lyrics or gestures to revolt against authority.

But while challenging the government could land you in a prison cell during the communist era, Mr. Cerny’s floating installation was authorized by the local nautical authority. Even so, he came under criticism, with some accusing him of turning the country and its famously pristine capital into an international laughingstock.

“First we are made to look like thieves before the world,” said a reader in the discussion forum on the online version of Hospodarske Noviny, a leading newspaper. “And now we look like idiots at the center of Europe. It is not funny at all.”

But analysts said the subversive hand gesture accurately reflected the intensifying frustration of many Czechs and a growing feeling that the 1989 revolution has failed to deliver on its promises.

In August, the Czech Parliament voted to dissolve itself, setting off early elections after an anticorruption investigation uncovered safes stuffed with millions of dollars in cash and stashes of gold that prosecutors suspect may have been used in an elaborate influence-peddling scheme.

A former prime minister, Petr Necas, was forced to resign amid accusations that his chief of staff, Jana Nagyova, who was also his girlfriend at the time, had used the country’s security services to spy on the prime minister’s wife, whom Mr. Necas subsequently divorced. He and Ms. Nagyova have since married in a secret ceremony.

Mr. Cerny first came to prominence in May 1991 when, at the age of 23, he was arrested after painting a giant Soviet tank pink, turning a work meant to commemorate the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army in 1945 into something that looked like a giant child’s toy.

Mr. Cerny said Monday that he feared the finger risked being defaced or even removed by vandals. He said he had been barraged by criticism on Facebook by communist and Zeman supporters calling him “a capitalist pig.”

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting from Prague.