The City of a Hundred Spires may be famous for its architecture, but there’s more to Prague than its skyline. Home to an exciting avant-garde art scene that spills out of the museums and onto the streets, you’ll find plenty of public art on display across the city. Something of a household name in the Czech Republic, David Černý has created many of the most famous Prague sculptures, with his Tower Babies and upside down horse among the best known (and most bizarre) public artworks on display. You could spend your time taking a tour of just Černý’s artwork but that would be a mistake as there are many other sculptural highlights that should not be ignored, including the many statues on show at the Vyšehrad Cemetery and the works of sculptor Jaroslav Rona. Here are a few of our favourite Prague sculptures to see on your next trip.
A tribute to over 4000 East Germans who stationed themselves on this spot while awaiting political asylum and the freedom to travel back to Germany, David Černý uses a bronze Trabant car (a typical car at the time, which many Germans were forced to leave behind) positioned on cartoon legs for this particular statue. Located in the German Embassy, you’ll have to peer through the garden gates of a children’s playground to see this unusual piece.
The highest tower in the Czech Republic – and also the least attractive – David Černý decided to add crawling babies to the Zizkov Tower in an attempt to make it more aesthetically pleasing. But whether the Tower babies’ distorted, machine-like faces and glow-in-the-dark capabilities constitute an aesthetic improvement is a matter of opinion.
Another eccentric piece by David Černý, and one of the most striking Prague sculptures, Horse depicts St Wenceslas sitting astride an upside-down steed. A subversion of the original imposing statue just around the corner in Wenceslas Square, Černý’s horse is quite clearly dead, despite the triumphant pose. You can find it hanging in Prague’s Lucerna shopping center, naturally.
Another unusual David Černý sculpture, Piss does exactly what it says on the tin. Set at the entrance to the Kafka Museum, two male figures stand urinating in a pool of water shaped like the Czech Republic – the statues move mechanically to spell out quotes from political leaders in “piss”. Should you so desire, you can also have your own message spelled out by the obliging gentlemen by sending a text to the number provided.
For modern art in Prague, the premiere destination is the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. Tucked away in the Holešovice neighbourhood, the progressive gallery in a former warehouse showcases Czech art that is at once challenging, thought-provoking and ultra-cool. From illustrations and photography to sculptures and installations, you’ll find all manner of contemporary art at DOX, including the giant Gulliver Airship that deftly rests upon the main building.
Over in the Smíchov district, FUTURA Center for Contemporary Art hosts avant-garde exhibitions by cutting-edge international and local names. Spread over three floors, the hip gallery presents an ever-changing showcase of works by the likes of Korean multimedia artist Sinae Yoo and Czech installation artist Marketa Magidova.
If you like your art edgy and alternative, world-renowned artist David Černý’s MeetFactory is a dynamic multi-purpose art space in a 1920s glass factory. The non-profit organisation gives a leg-up to upcoming local talent, and you can expect to see anything from radical socio-political commentary to theatrical and musical performances.
Like London, Lisbon and Berlin, Prague has some seriously cool street art. The trendy Žižkov district is home to the finest examples of giant illustrative murals and quirky, colourful graffiti. Perhaps the most famous Prague mural is the Lennon Wall – an ever-changing brick canvas, daubed in ‘peace and love’-inspired messages – that has been present since the 1980s. The best street art in Prague isn’t on building façades, however. It’s David Černý’s incredible sculptures. His signature crawling babies can be found scaling their way up the Žižkov TV Tower and across Kampa Park. Meanwhile, his 39-tonne steel bust of Franz Kafka next to the Quadrio business centre is a kinetic masterpiece, whose layers slowly rotate and metamorphosize.