Author of Entropa to return government money

David Černý, photo: CTK

David Černý, the author of the controversial artwork Entropa unveiled by the Czech EU presidency last week in Brussels, has agreed to give the government back the money he received for the work. Meanwhile, an internet petition has been started in Bulgaria protesting against the Bulgarian part of the mosaic having been covered up.

David Černý,  photo: CTK
Apologies all around from the Czech EU presidency and David Černý, the author of the controversial artwork Entropa unveiled in Brussels last week to mark the start of the Czech presidency. It was not what the government had in mind or expected, but there is no denying that it made an impact – Černý’s controversial artwork, depicting EU member states through crude stereotypes, has appeared in the media in and outside Europe and Czech officials are still dealing with the after-effects.

The Czech EU presidency has emphasized that Entropa is merely a piece of art –nothing less nothing more – and it has now emerged that its author David Černý will not get paid for it. After getting duped once, Czech government officials have asked Mr. Černý to sign a new contract with the Czech government. Under it, he will only receive one Czech crown for the piece instead of the original fee of nearly two million, some 90,000 US dollars. He will also get no fees for the six-month lease of his work which will stay in Brussels until the end of the Czech EU presidency in June. David Černý has no problem with this. Speaking at the launch of Entropa last week, he said he intended to give the money back because it was not used as originally planned.

“The money I received for this project was actually state money – I never used it because I knew that it wouldn’t be used for the purpose we said it would. So I’m going to send the money back to the government.”

Bulgarian part of Entropa is hidden,  photo: CTK
Two countries have officially complained about the piece so far: Bulgaria, depicted as a squat, “Turkish” toilet, and Slovakia, which is wrapped in paper and depicted as a Hungarian salami. While the Slovaks settled for an apology from Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, the Bulgarians demanded that the respective piece of the mosaic be removed or hidden from sight. The Czech authorities complied with this request and it was draped with a black sheet on Wednesday. However it is not clear if this will be enough to mollify some outraged Bulgarian officials. The head of the Bulgarian National Bank, Ivan Iskrov said he would not attend a meeting of EU finance ministers and heads of central banks in Prague in April if the Bulgarian part of the EU mosaic was not removed completely.

Also, the Czech ambassador to Bulgaria was summoned by the Bulgarian foreign minister and asked for an explanation. He later received a gift from the host nation when a local youth organization presented him with a porcelain toilet bowl. It was graciously accepted and tongue-in-check, the ambassador enquired whether he was to get it hoisted up on the map of Bulgaria in place of the Turkish toilet.

Still, not everybody in Bulgaria thinks the artwork is offensive: more than six hundred Bulgarians have singed an on-line petition calling for the return of their country onto Černý’s EU map. Most comments by the petitioners point out that it’s only a piece of art, and as such should be taken with a pinch of salt and not be censored by any government.

Mr. Vondra has said the Czech government is prepared to remove or cover up any part of the artwork that it is asked to, so it is not clear how much of it will remain on show by the end of June. Meanwhile, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek remains unfazed by the media circus surrounding the piece. Asked to comment on the affair in an English-language online chat Mr. Topolánek said that as head of the government he was “strictly neutral”, but as a private person he was “laughing as much as anyone else”.