Shock, anger, laughter at David Černý “art hoax” in Brussels

Photo: CTK

The dust is still settling from the controversial art installation that’s appeared at the European Union Council building in Brussels. The piece was commissioned by the Czech EU Presidency, who asked sculptor and well-known provocateur David Černý to bring together 27 European artists for the work. However David Černý has now admitted duping the government, which has been left trying to explain some highly offensive depictions to its EU partners.

Photo: CTK
David Černý has been called the enfant terrible of the Czech art world, and so when the government commissioned him to oversee an installation for the EU Presidency, several eyebrows were raised. Earlier this week a brochure containing sketches of the piece was distributed by the Czech EU Presidency, who initially praised the artwork, saying the best way to destroy Europe's prejudices was to laugh at them. That was before they saw the finished result, which went on display on Monday.

The giant sculpture, called Entropa, shows the EU's 27 members as larger-than-life plastic parts of the sort used in modelling kits. Each represents a country according to the crudest national stereotypes. Bulgaria is depicted as a Turkish squat-toilet, Germany is shown as a network of motorways which faintly resembles a swastika, while Denmark appears - at a distance at least - to be a rendition of the Prophet Mohammed caricature in Lego.

After doubts were raised as to the existence of the artists, David Černý finally came clean, admitting that he and two fellow artists were responsible for the work – the artists' identities and CVs had all been fabricated. David Černý published this statement on his website.

David Černý, photo: CTK
“The original intention was indeed to ask 27 European artists for participation. But it became apparent that this plan could not be realised, due to time, production, and financial constraints. The team therefore, without the knowledge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, decided to create fictitious artists who would represent various European national and artistic stereotypes. We apologise to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and their departments that we did not inform them of the true state of affairs and thus misguided them. We did not want them to bear the responsibility for this kind of politically incorrect satire. We knew the truth would come out. But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself.”

The problem is, it seems, Europe doesn't see the joke. The Bulgarian government has summoned the Czech ambassador to Sofia for an explanation, and more protests could follow. That leaves the Czech government in a awkward position – deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra is due to switch on the 16 square meter work at Thursday's official launch; he must now decide whether the giant-sized model kit shouldn't be put back in its box.