“He really moved me”: David Černý on creating David Lynch head for LA

A new work by David Černý – a five-tonne kinetic metal head of iconic movie director David Lynch – was recently unveiled at an apartment complex in Santa Monica, LA. The Czech sculptor is perhaps best known for works that have made their mark on Prague, such as the babies crawling on Žižkov TV Tower. So how did this project in California come about?

Kafka head in Prague | Photo: Juan Pablo Bertazza,  Radio Prague International

“I was reached by the developer via an art agent. That’s a normal way how I am reached. So it wasn’t even via my American gallerist, it was direct.”

But was it the case that they had seen your Kafka head in Prague and were looking for something similar? Because it is quite similar.

“Yes, actually, they did see what I was doing here. Generally they told me that they would like to have a piece that would resemble, somehow, the piece in Prague.”

Why David Lynch?

“Well, I was asked to do something similar [to the Kafka]. They wanted a portrait or a bust or whatever: a head.

David Černý | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

“And I was thinking what would be the first thing related to me in terms of a personality in Hollywood that I would be interested in.

“When I thought about who really moved me, it was David Lynch, in terms of an artist, or filmmaker.

“So in the first place I was thinking about him. And also about having somebody from Hollywood who would somehow be related to Prague.

“He was the first to come to my mind, because not only was he working here while he was recording quite a lot of music for his movies. But also there was his relationship – probably a deep soul relationship – to Franz Kafka.

“There is a very nice shot of him sitting with a portrait of Franz Kafka on his knees. And he was saying if he had the chance to choose who would be his brother it would be Franz Kafka.”

Did you get to meet David Lynch in connection with this piece? Or get any feedback?

“Of course I asked him, not directly but through his assistant, if he would agree to me doing a portrait of him, and he did agree.

“Then I spoke with him, unfortunately not personally but via video conference. So we had a brief chat when we finished the installation, two years ago.”

You say it was finished two years ago and I know the whole thing began many years before that. Why did it take so long to get from start to finish with this project?

“Well, my projects regularly take one to three years. That’s the normal time, because they are huge and of course you do all the preparations and paperwork and permits and whatever.

“I had been to LA two times before we began to work on it. But then there was the big delay because of Covid. So the piece was shipped and it was sitting in containers for a year and a half.

“After a year and a half we are able to come and install it. And then there was a problem with the actual building, because it didn’t get an occupancy permit for almost a year and a half.”

Obviously this is a rather old project for you. What are you working on these days, David?

“Well. You will see, shortly. I promise [laughs].”

Recently you put on social media an image of, how should I put this, a figure on the National Theatre in Prague masturbating. That is not actually going to happen, is it?

“You will see.”