David Černý


David Černý [chair-nee] (b. 1967) is a controversial Czech sculptor. He gained notoriety in 1991 by painting a Soviet tank pink, to serve as a war memorial in central Prague.

As the Monument to Soviet tank crews was still a national cultural monument at that time, his act of civil disobedience was considered ‘hooliganism’ and he was briefly arrested. Another of his conspicuous contributions to Prague is ‘Tower Babies,’ a series of cast figures of crawling infants attached to Žižkov Television Tower. For the 2012 Summer Olympics Černý created ‘London Booster’ – a double decker bus with mechanical arms for doing push-ups.

In 2005, Černý created ‘Shark,’ an image of Saddam Hussein in a tank of formaldehyde, a parody of a 1991 work by Damien Hirst, ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde). In 2006, the work was banned twice, first in Middelkerke, Belgium, then in Bielsko-Biała, Poland. With respect to the Belgian situation, the mayor of that town, Michel Landuyt, admitted that he was worried that the exhibit could ‘shock people, including Muslims’ in a year already marred by tensions associated with Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.

His sculpture ‘Entropa,’ created to mark the Czech presidency of the European Union Council during the first half of 2009, attracted controversy both for its stereotyped depictions of the various EU member states, and because it turned out to have been created by Černý and two friends rather than, as promised, being a collaboration between artists from each of the member states. Some EU members states reacted negatively to the depiction of their country. For instance, Bulgaria decided to summon the Czech Ambassador to Sofia in order to discuss the illustration of the Balkan country as a collection of squat toilets.

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