Controversial statue inspired by Francisco Goya gets new lease on life

Pink Rabbit in Pilsen

In the West Bohemian city of Plzeň there is a modern sculpture that people either love or hate. Its official name is The Panopticon, but in Plzeň everybody calls it “the pink rabbit”. Why is it there? And is it art or a terrible kitsch?

Pink Rabbit in Pilsen | Photo: Soňa Vaicenbacherová,  Czech Radio

The concrete sculpture of a gigantic pink rabbit eating a human being was erected in Plzeň’s Lochotín district in 2015. Ever since it was unveiled, it has been a point of controversy among both locals and visitors. Miroslav Brabec, the mayor of the Lochotin district where it stands, says that he too suffered an initial shock on seeing it.

"I confess that when I first saw the sculpture I almost fainted. But eventually, I grew to like the rabbit. I even married a young couple there once, and many young people now use it as a meeting point. But the beginnings were tough. The things that people said to me, you would not believe. I stood there for a week in the rain talking to people and trying to explain why they should give it a chance. I would be there for four or five hours a day. "

Pink Rabbit in Pilsen | Photo: Soňa Vaicenbacherová,  Czech Radio

So how did the bizarre sculpture come to be there in the first place? In 2014, the municipality asked the University of West Bohemia to create three modern sculptures in Lochotín at the cost of 500,000 crowns. The university announced a competition among its art students and one of the three winners of the competition was Adam Trbušek, at the time a student of the Faculty of Design and Art. His avant-garde sculpture was the most shocking of all the designs put forward and somewhat paradoxically the only one of the three art objects selected by the jury to survive to the present day. He says the sculpture of a huge rabbit devouring a human being was a protest against consumerism.

"The sculpture is inspired by the painting of Saturn Devouring His Son by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya which depicts the Titan Cronus who, fearing that he would be overthrown by one of his children, ate each one upon their birth. Goya’s painting depicts a fear of a growing threat and I had a similar feeling about what is happening today in terms not only of consumerism, but also everything that surrounds it, the various marketing tricks, the game that is being played with ordinary people."

Pink Rabbit in Pilsen | Photo: Soňa Vaicenbacherová,  Czech Radio

Needless to say, the sculpture sparked controversy particularly among the locals who see it every day. Many Lochotín residents protested against it. Mothers said that it terrified their children. It was repeatedly damaged by vandals. Polls were held to settle its fate and it always survived by a close vote.

Over time, the statue deteriorated due to age and weather exposure and waited a long time for repair. In the autumn of 2023, the rabbit received a new coat of paint, more resistant to corrosion thanks to the use of nanotechnology, and the solar lamps in its eyes were replaced by phosphorescent material.

The municipality wants to give the sculpture more publicity so as to attract visitors from further afield to come and see it. The first move in this direction should be an information board with a QR code designed by students of the Pilsen Faculty of Art and Design. The pink rabbit should get it for his 10th birthday and with it - a new lease on life.

Pink Rabbit in Pilsen | Photo: Soňa Vaicenbacherová,  Czech Radio
Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Soňa Vaicenbacherová | Source: Český rozhlas
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