Czech EU presidency artwork provokes outcry in Brussels

Photo: CTK

A piece of public art commissioned by the Czech Republic to mark the country’s EU presidency has set tongues wagging in Brussels. ‘Entropa’ sees each of the EU’s 27 member states represented in all of their clichés and stereotypes as part of a larger piece assembled by Czech artist David Černý. Some in Brussels are praising the sculpture as thought-provoking, while others are dismissing it as downright crass.

Photo: CTK
France is draped in a banner reading “strike!”, Sweden comes flat-packed in an IKEA box, and Germany is criss-crossed by autobahns, whose outline, some say, traces a swastika. ‘Entropa’, the artwork the Czech Republic commissioned to hang in the Council of the EU, plays upon the stereotypes and sore points of each of the union’s member states. The renowned Czech sculptor David Černý welded each of the 27 pieces into what looks like a giant ‘Airfix’ model. His map of the Czech Republic features some of President Vaclav Klaus’s most eurosceptic comments. The other 26 parts were credited to artists from the relevant EU states, though on Tuesday it emerged that the Czech sculptor may have created all of them himself, using false names.

David Černý
Before putting the work up on Monday, Czech officials said they hoped it would provoke discussion, and that it certainly has. Pavel Novák is one of Czech Radio’s Brussels correspondents. He says the installation has been stopping crowds of EU employees in their tracks:

“Some of them were satisfied and said ‘okay, this is fun’. But some weren’t so happy. For example, one lady from Bulgaria was a little bit upset when she saw that Bulgaria is depicted as a so-called Turkish toilet.”

The Czech Republic has maybe built up a bit of a reputation as being rather difficult in Brussels over the last couple of years. Does this not further damage the Czech Republic’s reputation in the EU?

“Yes, I think that this installation also alludes to our reputation of being an enfant terrible and not so easy a member of the European Union. It shows that really we want to encourage Europe not to be so serious, and to solve its problems using a little bit more humour.”

Depending on which way you look at it, ‘Entropa’ will be jollying up, or defacing, the EU’s Justus Lipsius building until the end of the Czechs’ presidency in June. Then it will be put on display in Prague.