David Černý – a rebel with a cause

A pink tank stands in front of the Red Church at the end of Husova street. It was originally a WWII national memorial located in Prague, painted pink in 1991 by a 23-year old arts student called David Černý and his friends, to mock a national memorial that had come to symbolise Soviet occupation rather than WWII. Seeing this powerful machine transformed into into a pretty, pink, decorative object made me want to know more about David Černý.

Born in Prague in 1967, Černý grew up under communism and was a student during the Velvet Revolution. It’s no wonder therefore that he is called a rebel and that his work has its political denotation.

His first piece, in 1990, was a rendition of a Trabant on legs. The Trabant car was made in East Germany and this work was inspired by the many East Germans who sought refuge in the grounds of the West German Embassy in Prague during 1989, leaving their Trabants littered about the surrounding streets.

His later sculptures are much more shocking and controversial, beginning with the aforementioned pink tank, on the turret of which he constructed an erect middle finger. This tank was painted and repainted many times before being moved to its permanent location in a military museum south of Prague.

It is being displayed in Brno for the first time as part of the TRIBES 90 exhibition project at the Moravian Museum in Husova. The exhibition is not about the 90’s as most expats would remember them, but about the alternative culture of the 90’s in the Czech Republic.

There are many of Černý’s sculptures in Prague. Two of the best known are the creepy, giant babies crawling outside Kampa Park, with smooth bottoms and smashed-in faces, and the nine babies climbing up the Žizkov Television Tower.

One unusual Černý work, because it’s more serious and straightforward than his others, is the massive, rotating Kafka head located near the office building where Kafka worked briefly as an unhappy clerk at an insurance company.  One reviewer wrote that this “enormous mirrored bust brilliantly reveals Kafka’s tortured personality and unrelenting self-doubt”.

The young rebel is now a renowned contemporary Czech sculptor whose work is anti-communist and anti-politician. For me, the works which encapsulate him as an artist are the giant human buttocks at the Futura Gallery in Prague’s Smíchov district. I am told that, if you climb the ladder, inside the hole is a television screen showing a video of two Czech politicians feeding each other slop to a soundtrack of “We are the Champions”. It’s shocking to many people, it’s political, it’s funny.

When interviewed by Prague Compass, Černý said that what inspires him the most is anger but also that he “just enjoys pissing people off’. I think that sums up David Černý.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Brno Expat Centre.

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