A David Cerny Sculpture Walk in Prague

The Guardian - Cerny's exercising bus sculpture may have delighted Londoners during the Olympics, but in his native Prague lurk many far wittier, more subversive creations. Discover them on this unusual tour of the Czech capital


Double-decker buses typically provoke an irksome reaction in Londoners. Crowded, late and plagued with chewing gum-abandoning teens, they are rarely the subject of mirth. However, David Cerny's "London Booster" sculpture – a 1957 Routemaster which does push-ups while groaning – has raised a big, transport-related smile from the capital's commuters during the Olympics.

Situated outside the Czech HQ in Islington, the wheezing, working-out vehicle is one of many tongue-in-cheek installations from the Prague-born artist. A rebellious mix of Antony Gormley and Damien Hirst, the enfant terrible is as controversial as he is amusing. In 2009, he was supposed to collaborate with 26 artists on a piece promoting the EU. Instead, he faked the names of the other sculptors and made the giant collage himself, perpetuating crude stereotypes of its member states: Bulgaria was shown as a squat toilet; Italy was a football pitch of masturbating footballers.

Subtlety might not be his strong point, but his larger-than-life social comment pieces are certainly intriguing. Many of his most famous creations lurk tantalisingly in Prague's historic crevices, providing a refreshing and quirky way to explore the capital's centre.


A perfect starting point is the middle of Wenceslas Square, inside Lucerna Pasaz on Vodickova. Here, you will find 'Horse' – a dark, bastardised version of the imposing kingly statue situated in the square behind you. Hanging, Damocles-like, from a lime-tiled dome ceiling sits Wenceslas, astride his now dead, upside-down steed. Though Cerny never comments publicly on his work, the piece is seen to be a damning attack on current Czech President, Václav Klaus – a frequent subject for Cerny derision.

Next, head down Spalena towards Old Town Square. When you reach U Medvidku beer hall on Na Perstyne, look up. In the distance, a diminutive, Colonel Sanders-esque figure dangles suicidally from a rooftop. This tiny, bearded figure of "Hanging Out" is, in fact, Sigmund Freud, casually swinging from a beam with his hand in his pocket. Created in 1997, it is Cerny's ambiguous response to the question of what role the intellectual would play in the new millennium; an absorbing sight regularly missed by tourists watching their footing on the cobbles.


Over Charles Bridge, the Franz Kafka museum immediately to the right (Cihelná 2b) harbours one of Cerny's most humorous creations. Affectionately titled, "Piss", it features two gyrating, mechanical men urinating on a map of the Czech Republic. Text a personal message to the number next to the exhibit and these chaps will happily waggle their bronze penises around to spell it out for you.

Skip past the gorgeous Malostranske namesti (Lesser Town Square) and head up Trziste, into Vlasska – a cobbled hill lined with large, grandiose buildings. The German Embassy is an imposing sight, and hidden within its huge, maze-like gardens, stands "Quo Vadis" (walk 100m past the embassy, left into a children's playground and peer through the railings). This post-Velvet Revolution sculpture, a fibreglass Trabant car on four, giant tree-trunk legs, is a tribute to the 4,000 East German asylum seekers who, in 1989, stationed themselves here until they were granted political asylum back into West Germany. Many left their Trabants behind, hence Cerny's choice of motor.


Double back on yourself towards the river and head right, along the Vltava's edge, to Kampa Island. Three giant babies guard the entrance to Museum Kampa (U Sovovych mlynu 2). These crawling, Lynchian creatures, with imploded slot-machine faces, are part of Cerny's "Babies" project – a commission to make the notoriously ugly Zizkov TV Tower more attractive. Look beyond the museum into the distance and you will see the result: swarms of these weird mutants scaling the futuristic eyesore, with atmospheric red and blue neon lighting them at night.

For the last stop, head south past the funicular railway, and turn right up Holeckova street. A brisk 10-minute walk and you'll reach Futura, a contemporary, free art space (Holeckova 49, Wed-Sun 11-6 pm), which hosts the permanent Cerny installation, "Brownnosers". Weave through the underground vaults to the tiny garden at the back to find it – two giant pairs of legs bent over and moulded into the wall. Viewers are invited to climb up the ladders and stare into the fibreglass anus. Inside, a video of Cerny's old adversary President Klaus is shown, in which he and the Head of the National Gallery are spoon-feeding each other slop to the sound of Queen's "We Are The Champions". Crude, unsubtle, comical, it is yet another example of Cerny's displeasure with post-revolution democracy; the fates of the Czech people, he feels, rest uneasily in the dictatorial, money-grabbing hands of inept politicians.

A fitting, relaxing, antidote to the day's walking would be to catch a band at Cerny's very own club, Meet Factory (Ke sklarne 15). Part music venue, part gallery, it is a converted glass warehouse in the Smichov district, with two melted red cars nonchalantly hanging on pegs outside ("Meat"). The club regularly hosts electro and indie, and you can regularly find the floppy-haired man in question, David Cerny, beer in hand, enjoying the bands.

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Topics: David Cerny