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 sculpture 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 centre, 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.
Kafka is also commemorated in Dusni Street Square, though this time by sculptor Jaroslav Rona. A large headless man carrying a smaller figure on his shoulders (supposedly a representation of Franz Kafka), this image is taken from Kafka’s “Description of a Struggle”. A somewhat haunting piece.
Prague’s City Hall offers a particularly chilling public artwork in Ladislav Šaloun’s Faceless Knight, who was supposedly cast to stone for murdering his lover. The Legend goes that every hundred years there is the brief chance to free the knight with the pure love of a woman – not the most conventional of holiday romances.
Vyšehrad Cemetery is the resting ground of over 600 famous Czech figures, including writers Karel Čapek and Svatopluk Čech. The medieval cemetery features a number of unusual sculptures, counting a ‘buried alive’ piece and a hair-raising ghostly woman amongst the most famous Prague sculptures on display.
The Memorial to the Victims of Communism by Olbram Zoubek (in collaboration with architects Zdeněk Hölzel and Jan Kerel), presents a line of disintegrating men, with the last barely recognisable. Located on Ujezd Street, the sculpture shocks, with its poignant visuals and bronze wording that details the horrific records of those affected by the violence of the Communist period.
Statues of the mysterious Prague Golem can be found all over the city, particularly in the Jewish Quarter. Supposedly formed out of the clay from the banks of the River Moldau, the creature was intended to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attacks. Today, visitors can find many of these Prague statues dotted around town.
Kurt Gebauer’s sculpture of a naked woman overlooking a pond was created back in 1989, at a time when there was a large focus (and funding) on producing public art. As a result, many statues from this time can be found all over Prague, and Gebauer’s statue is typical of the popular nude or semi-dressed human form. Painted bright red, this unusual statue stands on a stone ledge in Prague’s Stodůlky neighbourhood. While she might look like a futuristic character from a science-fiction movie, she actually belongs to a past artistic era that is referred to as Normalization.