Famous for outraging everybody from the Soviets to the upper echelons of the EU with his artistic antics, David Cerny has always believed that a message should stand out in his art: “That’s why it’s called art and not “design” – it must have something behind it”. Here, we let Prague’s foremost artist speak for himself about some of the feelings behind his powerful public sculptures, as well as his take on his hometown.
Quo Vadis is one of your most famous sculptures. Can you tell us about its background and meaning?
I based that piece on the reunion of Germany. It symbolised the movement’s beginning. Prague played a major role in the collapse of Communism in the so called ‘Velvet’ Revolution.
Do you have any projects on the go at the moment?
So many. Perhaps five right now. But that’s nothing compared to the dozen more I have on post-it notes stuck all over my computer screen.
Can you give us any details?
I have, rather surprisingly perhaps, four building designs in process as I’m working on establishing an architectural studio. That’s alongside a few international and local sculpture enquiries I’m dealing with.
Are there any particular works that you’re especially proud of?
Well, of course, but I can’t point the good ones out because that’ll show you the bad ones!
What’s your favourite medium to work with?
I like outdoor materials because they are idiot-proof. Not just conceptually, but because people who attempt to destroy them usually fail.
Do you feel that art has become a sophisticated means of self-promotion for artists?
Yes, I’d say so. Artists are rapidly transforming into mere performers. They’re so used to getting money for their works; their openings; their words, that the content of their pieces has ceased to matter – it’s the financial end that counts.
Are there other conceptual artists, like Jiří Kovanda, you consider precursors to your own oeuvre?
I prefer other Czech artists to Kovanda. The reality is, if I do have any precursors then I’m not aware of them. I’m a rather solitary person.
Where do you go on a night out in Prague?
I often spend my nights at MEETFACTORY, a space for performing arts on Ke Sklárně.
You founded MEETFACTORY. What was the inspiration behind it?
After spending two years doing art programs in New York, when I returned to Prague I felt it was missing something like a residency program. So I started one myself.
What would you recommend visitors experience on their first trip to Prague?
DOX, the Technical Museum, and one of the National Gallery exhibitions.