You never know what you’re going to find at the end of a long hallway in an elegant European shopping arcade – but this wasn’t what I expected!
We’d escaped to Prague for a couple of weeks in the dead of winter. And as you’d expect it was cold – bone-breaking cold. But that didn’t stop us. The bargain airline ticket and amazing apartment deal were just too good to pass up.
We bundled up and scurried around town, taking in the sights and ducking into any heated building on our path. In the Nové Město (New Town) we discovered the striking Lucerna Palace near Wenceslas Square, with a chic Art Nouveau shopping arcade flowing through it. So we perused the shops, soaking up the heat, and ended up in a marble-clad atrium illuminated by a stained glass dome. Suspended in midair was a man sitting astride a dead, upside-down horse!
Not your usual mall fare.
Kun (Horse) is a sculpture by controversial Czech artist David Černý, who’s been turning heads and making tongues wag across Europe for two decades. He’s the “shock-jock” of sculptors, with works banned in several countries. Of course, that aroused my interest.
Although Černý rarely comments on the meaning of his work, it’s thought that the Kun sculpture represents St. Wenceslas (the “Good King” of Christmas carol fame and patron saint of the Czech Republic), and is a parody of his “normal” statue in the nearby square. Others posit that since it was created after the end of the nation’s Communist rule, it represents the topsy-turvy days of free enterprise – a far cry from the days when Wenceslas lived.
Černý’s other works are equally amusing in their own tongue-in-cheek ways. Some installations feature giant babies climbing towers and crawling through the woods.
And a recent crowd-pleaser was designed for the London Olympics titled the “London Booster.” Here it is in action.
No matter what your taste is in art, David Černý’s works will certainly make you do a double take!
P.S. “As an aside, on this trip to Prague we learned a valuable travel lesson. Frequently, in the slow days of Christmas and New Years, we’re on the lookout for great travel deals – particularly cheap flights to fun places. We spent a week in Paris one January, and even though it was cold, the city was deserted, and we had a super time.
But on our trip to Prague we learned the lesson that anytime your rationalization to travel starts with the words: “How bad can it be?” … well Brother it can be bad. We were in Prague in early January for what turned out to be a life-threatening, record cold wave all across Russia and Eastern Europe with freezing deaths daily. We probably won’t get much sympathy from a few of our northern readers (a couple of Canadians come to mind), but for a southern duo going from 65°F to -25°F it was quite a shock to the system to say the least. Prague is a magical place, and we plan on returning. But you can bet that next time we’ll pay a bit more attention to the temps. Caveat emptor: there’s a reason when airfares are cheap.” ~James
3. By Prazak via Wikimedia Commons
5. Stephen McKay via Wikimedia Commons
6. By Heinz-Josef Lücking via Wikimedia Commons
Wonderful! I love this kind of art that gives you a little jolt and a laugh!
Emma, I’m with you! I particularly like his sense of humor in these pieces. Some of his other works are more politically dark, but they certainly get people talking about what they represent. So glad you stopped by. How are things in Jamaica? All the best, Terri
Yet another reason I need to go to Prague
We certainly enjoyed the city. Next time I think we’ll go when it’s not so cold! 🙂 ~Terri
yes, i chuckled as well! thanks so much for this fun post! z
You’re welcome Lisa – so glad you enjoyed it. Cerny is definitely an entertaining guy, although controversial. All the best, Terri
I regularly send friends who are going to Prague to look for Černý’s hanging horse without telling my friends exactly what to seek. (I simply smile mysteriously and say, “Oh, you’ll know when you’ve found it….”) 🙂 —Jadi
Jadi that is so cute, “You’ll know it when you’ve found it!” That sure is right! We didn’t have a clue, so we were totally surprised. I bet your friends come back full of stories. All the best, Terri
NIce start to my morning
Dallas, it was a pretty funny “icing on the cake” for just trying to get warm. We were totally gobsmacked! ~Terri
Lately the phrase ‘beating a dead horse’ has been coming to mind. Now I know why.
Too funny Tom! And then there’s also “Hung out to dry!’ 🙂 Hope you had a great birthday. ~Terri
HA! Great wakeup for a Yucky Monday morning! ~maria
Hi Maria. Always glad to help on a Monday morning … a little kickstart! Have a great week! ~Terri
What a fun, interesting difference from the bland junk we usually see in malls! Many thanks– I’ll be grinning all day 🙂
You’re welcome! It certainly added an unexpected twist to the whole “mall experience.” 🙂 ~Terri
I would love to know what passes through Cherny’s mind when he comes up with these!
Now that’s the question of the day, Laura. He seems to be an “equal opportunity shock jock!” – amusing and offending individuals and nations alike! ~Terri
Art was once defined for me as ‘whatever evokes an emotional response.’ Given that definition, Cerny’s work certainly qualifies as art. I love the video of “The Booster” along with the artist’s explanation: Push-ups are for exercise, but also a form of punishment, a quirky bit of insight into the artist’s thinking.
I believe your post also qualifies as art. Nicely done. 🙂
Mike that’s a fantastic definition of art! I’ve always been fascinated by large-scale public installations – the artists, and how the works are perceived by the public. Given Cerny’s numerous installations in the Czech Republic, it says a lot about the Czech people – tolerant, politically active … with a great sense of humor. Thanks for your very kind compliment – much appreciated. When are you off to your next destination? All the best, Terri
We will be in Perth, Scotland in late June hunting for an apartment – perhaps in Edinburgh.
His work is fascinating! 🙂
That’s for sure LuAnn. And you should see the ones I didn’t post! Wow! 🙂 Terri
Very interesting indeed!
He is pretty fascinating Amy … and obviously at no loss for ideas! 🙂 ~Terri
Definitely outside the box thinking, but anything to keep warm. 🙂
Jo, it was the coldest we’ve been in a very long time – way below zero° every day. And since we live in the steamy southern US we’re not so tough! 🙂 ~Terri
What a unique city !!!!
Truly Deepak – with a fascinating history! ~Terri
Very original. Enjoyed
Thanks so much Lin. Hope you’re doing well. ~Terri
Oh my, we are in Paris now and have been debating of maybe going to Prague. You may have convinced me with this blog. 🙂
Hey Lidia. It’s good to hear from you again. Prague is very scenic and is old Europe. We were there in January, and it was super cold, but it was good fun when we weren’t shivering. If you get a chance, check it out. BTW, I enjoyed your London posts. When we lived there, my office was in Covent Garden, and if you have to work, this is a nice place to do it. I still miss the wonderful Indian food that’s available just about anywhere in London. Have a good time in Paris. ~James
Certain Canadians come to mind eh? All you need is a sleeping bag coat and you are set! 🙂 I will lend you my antlers for good measure.
The sculptures are incredible! Shock jock indeed! Wowza. 🙂
Sue, I don’t think that a sleeping bag coat and a Michelin-Man outfit would have kept me warm in Prague. These were the coldest temps my southern self had seen in many moons. We visited a castle on the hillside overlooking the Charles Bridge, and I swear, I’ve I been in warmer freezers. ~James
All right I would have had to thrown in my heated boots as well. 🙂
I’m not a fan of being cold myself James so really just teasing. Indeed no wonder the flights were such a good deal.
Prague is beautiful – anytime 🙂 but fro me is the best season for visiting from May – October! So green and colorful! Thanks for info about D. Cerny- his work is fabulous. Bye. Kamila
Kamila, I think you have the right idea. I’m sure that Prague is a great shoulder-season destination. We’ll try that next time. ~James
Hi Terri! Loved this post! How interesting those photos are! I think the one of the baby climbing up the tower was my favorite! I’ve always admired large art installations that make you stop and think. If you are ever in the Cleveland area, check out American sculptor, Claes Oldenburg’s, “Free Stamp” located downtown. It has quite a cult following and came to mind after reading your post. Looking forward to more of your weird and wonderfulness – 🙂
Kelly, I checked out the Free Stamp online, and my first thought was that it reminded me of the giant typewriter eraser in the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Art in DC. And guess what? It’s by the same artist. But interestingly, most people these days probably don’t know what a typewriter eraser is. So the Stamp will certainly have more longevity. ~James
That’s for sure! Interesting that the artist likes office supplies as subject matter!
This is like something we saw in Figures Spain at the Salvador Dali Museum- the Cadillac art installation. Here’s a link just in case you haven’t visited this corner of weirdness- It’s priceless! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dal%C3%AD_Theatre_and_Museum#mediaviewer/File:Museu_Dal%C3%AD_pati.JPG
Thanks for the link Jonelle. We’ve visited most parts of Spain, but for some reason missed Figures. This looks like a fun exhibit and the building is wonderful. Dali was one of a kind for sure, and all of his art fits in the weird and wonderful category. ~James
Oh, if you have never gotten up that way, put Figueres (corrected spelling) on your map. Once you start looking at their website, it will fit your weird and wonderful to a T (tee?) … perfectly! Where else do you go to an art museum with a deep sea diver on the roof and Mae West’s lips as a sofa… need I say more?
It is more bizarre and fascinating than most anything I have ever seen (and you know that’s saying something! I loved the whole place!
In fact, I purchased a “Hallucinogenic Torreador” tie for Joe, which he wore on our wedding day… maybe it’s just us, but i think you might find it just wacky enough to be great fun.
Those are some cool sculptures. I am going to assume a mental disorder or hallucinogenic drugs were at play there. Thanks for sharing. Those babies are creepy.
Jeff, if you watch the video the artist does a bit of explaining about the bus. He’s well spoken and makes an interesting point about push-ups. But, you’re right, all his art that we saw was pretty wacky. ~James
He had a lot of time indoors during those very cold winters to dream up these wonderful, humor-filled pieces! Love the photos.
Thanks for the comment Susan and for dropping by the blog. I hope that all the winters in Prague aren’t as fierce as the one we experienced. But that’s an interesting point. Are cold-weather artists more productive than their warm-weather counterparts? ~James
First of all, I can imagine the bitter cold you experienced in Prague was the reason for the low prices but as you say, it was a trip not to pass up! I’ve heard great things about Prague…everyone who has visited, loved it!
Now about this sculptor…Hmmm, I’m a bit disturbed by the faceless babies and the upside-down dead horse but I do like the London bus! I envy its push-up form!
Thanks for posting and for sharing the world with us!
Lia, the bus is my favorite as well. Given his other art, it seems such a radical departure of form. I enjoyed his explanation for the bus, and would be interested to hear the idea behind each of the other pieces. A creative (and unusual) artist. ~James
Indeed I would be curious to hear too… Thanks for sharing with us! I didn’t know him before reading you!
We saw this on our trip to Prague. It wasn’t quite as cold then but there was snow and I was stuck by the searing heat inside all the buildings. Their heating bills must be enormous.
Marie, as you can imagine, we were looking for any and all the heat we could find. Our hotel room was our cozy cocoon at the end of the day. We’d usually had a long, slow breakfast to drag our feet until the temps got up to -5° F. Man, it was cold! ~James
The horse by David Černý! I took hundreds of pictures, the first time I saw it. I actually also like very much the café behind Cerny’s horse – sitting there you really jump into another century…
Thanks for the comment Chiara and for dropping by the blog. I don’t think that we visited the café in this arcade, but it must have been one of the only ones we missed. It was sooooo cold, that we would drop in anywhere just to warm up. I love these small shopping arcades. They must have been quite popular thing in the early days – particularly in cold climates. ~James