Free Minds & Free Markets

Europe Gets Punk'd

An artist pulls a prank on the E.U.

When the Czech Republic took over the rotating presidency of the European Union, it asked David Cerny, the enfant terrible of the Czech art world, to produce a sculpture symbolizing European unity and cooperation. The result was an eight-ton installation entitled Entropa, allegedly a collaboration between Cerny and artists from each of the other 26 E.U. member countries, aimed at exploring the “original characteristics of the individual cultural identities.”

For those familiar with Cerny’s work—he shot to fame in 1991 after painting a Soviet tank memorial in Prague bubble-gum pink—it was an invitation for hijinks. Sure enough, the sculpture angered Bulgaria, hich complained that its country was represented by a “Turkish toilet.” The Netherlands were submerged in the ocean, with a series of minarets poking out from the water. In the exhibit catalog, the French section was left blank because—“as a result of the global and local political, economic and cultural situation”—the French artist had gone on strike.

Cerny soon admitted that his collaborators were fictional and the entire project was an elaborate “joke.” The sculpture remains in Brussels, but only after Cerny agreed to return $50,000 in public funding, remove the fake catalog from the E.U. website, and cover up the offending Turkish toilet.

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