David Černý mulls New York relocation
Famous Czech 'bad boy' artist talks about art, politics, and interesting future plans
Posted: September 4, 2013
By Kirsty Rigg
For the Post
More than half an hour late, yet clutching an empty beer glass, artist David Černý strides over to the pub table where I am waiting with my notepad, and throws himself into his seat. "Sorry, I had a bit of business" he says casually, and sits back to make himself comfortable. The 45-year-old Prague celebrity appears to know of his status and carries it with him without an ounce of modesty. This boldness is undoubtedly the main ingredient to his artwork, which has landed him in the headlines numerous times in recent years.
Laughter was the reaction when he was asked what he thought of his nickname as the "Czech Banksy," a British street artist known for his radical political paintings. "Now that's just funny," he said while grinning and playing with his beer glass. "First I'm the Czech Andy Warhol, and now I'm the Czech Banksy. I wouldn't mind, but Banksy ripped off my ideas, especially with the whole art terrorism thing. I hardly see how I'm the Czech version of him," he said.
As any fan would know, much of Černý's art is seen as sarcastic and politically charged, much like that of Banksy. His work tends to leave onlookers conflicted between being disgusted or completely impressed. In 1991, there was a mix of outrage and applause when he took an old Soviet tank, originally thought to be the first Red Army tank to arrive in the Czech capital in 1945, and painted it a glaring shade of bright pink - with a giant middle finger stuck to the top. It wasn't long before the authorities had it removed, and painted back to military green.
Arguably his most controversial work, Černý is also responsible for a huge "hoax" art piece at the European Council buildings in Brussels in 2009. First intended to be a proud display of each country in the EU, it instead showed Catholic Poland as priests raising a gay flag, Bulgaria as a toilet, and Italy as a football pitch with masturbating football players. Parts of it had to be covered over due to the objections of the countries that were depicted.
A perhaps previously unseen piece of art is a photo for the artist's official ID card, done about four years ago. The photo shows a quite obvious 'third eye' which was put there sneakily with Photoshop, before being sent to the Czech authorities. "I remember getting a phone call from a woman who was really angry. She was shouting at me down the phone, about how it's stupid to think I could ever get away with it," Černý said.
He also announced his support for Brno man Lukaš Nový, who was granted permission to wear a plastic sieve on his head for his ID card photo last month, having claimed it was part of his religion. "That was pretty funny", Černý said. "It's good that there are people out there with a sense of humor."
He would rather forward than back. "I am proud of my work," he said. "But the thing I am proud of the most, is not what I have done, but what I know I am capable of doing in the future. The future is what I have to the most proud of. You will just have to wait and see."
Not only is the middle-aged artist is looking toward the future, he is considering leaving the Czech Republic altogether - a decision that came after presidential elections earlier this year.
He leaned forward and the smile temporarily dropped from his face. "Our president is just another reason not to live in the Czech Republic," he said, sternly. "The political system here is not good, most people know that. I think I'd be happy to live in New York and not come back. I mean, I would come back, maybe for like three months in the year or something."
Having spent some years in New York back when he was studying, Černý also has an American fan base. In 2009, The New York Times branded him the "bad boy of the eastern European art world" and reported that he resembles rock legend Mick Jagger.
Milan Knížák, the director of Prague's National Gallery, in the same year told The Times: "There is nothing special about David Cerny's art, other than that he is more visible than other artists and talented at marketing. But artists like Černý who are in headlines today will be forgotten tomorrow. His work is destined for the amusement park and won't stand the test of time."
David claimed to be working on some new projects for the future, but hasn't yet said what they will entail.
Kirsty Rigg can be reached at email@example.com
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