DAVID CERNY: PRAGUE’S REBEL ARTIST

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At this point, Prague without David Cerny wouldn’t be Prague. At least not as we know it. Born in 1967, this enfant terrible re-shapes cities with his defiant and controversial sculptures. He first gained notoriety when he painted a soviet tank pink:

Pink Soviet Tank
Pink Tank, 1991, Prague.

I was 23 years old, in the University of Applied Arts and I had already had a couple of shows when I did the pink tank. What actually helped me with the tank mess was that I had already done Quo Vadis, which is now placed in the German Embassy, so I was already known around the city (Prague). I was investigated. First they confiscated my father’s car, because they found out that it was used to transport the paint, and then they tried to arrest me; but they didn’t succeed. I turned myself in 6 days later, and they just asked me a couple of questions and that was it. Then, two weeks later the MPs re-painted the tank pink.

Quo Vadis, 1991, Prague.
Quo Vadis, 1991, Prague.

Of course I signed it (the pink tank). It’s hard to distinguish whether I was being defiant or just having fun. You have to realize that we had been living under Russian occupation for over 20 years, so anything that resembled the Russian Army was very unwanted in that time, and after getting rid off the Russians, this monument, which was actually just a part of the Russian Army, exhibited, reminded all of us “WE were here, and we can come back whenever we want”. The tank wasn’t a symbol of the liberation, but of the occupation of the Russian Army.

 Shark, an image of Saddam Hussein in a tank of formaldehyde.
Shark, an image of Saddam Hussein in a tank of formaldehyde, 2005.

I was in Baghdad as camera man at the end of the war, so I had my personal experience with it. I was doing a documentary, so it was a very real experience. I represented him getting caught and imprisioned but no executed. I got many threats for that particular one and many other reasons. I actually get death threats pretty often. If I’m scared? Well, you never know, but anyway, besides flying or diving, cycling around Prague is probably the most dangerous thing I do.

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Metalmorphosis, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

I’m a figurative rather than an abstract sculptor.

Gesture, by Czech sculptor David Černý, 21 October 2013, Prague.
Gesture, by Czech sculptor David Černý, 2013, Prague.

If my work upsets people, that’s their problem.

Tower Babies, Žižkov Television Tower, Prague, 2000.
Tower Babies, Žižkov Television Tower, Prague, 2000.

I try to do things that actually please people, but very often it ends up upsetting them.

Brownnosing . You can climb a ladder and stick your head in the sculpture’s arse to see a video of two Czech politicians feeding each other slop to a soundtrack of “We are the Champions”. Futura Gallery, Prague, 2003 (permanent exhibition).
Brownnosing . You can climb a ladder and stick your head in the sculpture’s arse to see a video of two Czech politicians feeding each other slop to a soundtrack of “We are the Champions”. Futura Gallery, Prague, 2003 (permanent exhibition).

Sometimes I’m inspired by the location. My mother was a restaurateur and my father was a graphic designer; my grandmother was a painter so yes, art runs in the family.

Svaty Vaclav, Prague, 1999.
Svaty Vaclav, Prague, 1999.

The most special art-work is the one that I haven’t done yet.

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Nation for Itself Forever (Narod sobe navzdy), Prague’s National Theatre, 2002.

Almost all my sculptures belong to me, actually. Sometimes I’m pissed when the owner doesn’t take good care.

Adam and Eve from the cycle Kites, 1993.
Adam and Eve from the cycle Kites, 1993.

The life-size sculptures I did that you can put together, like the Adam and Eve, that look like snap-together kits, those are pieces I did in 1992 and they were exhibited  in New York. Since then, hundreds of people have copied the idea. That’s why I did Entropa. I was once driving in Berlin about a year ago and I saw an exact copy of what I did.

Entropa, 2009.
Entropa, 2009.
Pisss, in Prague.
Pisss, in Prague.

The problem is that if you do something and it’s stolen by somebody, then you don’t really have a chance to argue. I saw recently that Anish Kapoor did a layer-by-layer sculpture which looks so similar to my own. I was the first one to do digital layer sculpture. I work a lot with 3D. If it’s stolen by someone who is famous, you’re fucked… so yeah, then it bothers me.

There have been artists who congratulated me on my work, attended my shows and less than a year later exhibited pieces that were exactly like mine. You can see a red bus doing push-ups in the main street of Dubai which is an exact copy of the one I did for the London Olympics in 2012.

 

London Booster, 2012. London Booster, 2012.

Now I’m currently working on a proposal for a public piece in LA and a building here in Prague. My newest one is Trifoot! You can already visit it in Prague. Its eyes move, so if you walk by, it looks at you, the eyes follow you.

Trifoot, Prague, 2016.
Trifoot, Prague, 2016.

KEEP UP WITH DAVID:

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