Art Hoax Unites Europe in Displeasure
LONDON — Why didn’t anyone realize right away that there was something seriously weird about the new piece of art in Brussels?
The piece, an enormous mosaic installed in the European Council building over the weekend, was meant to symbolize the glory of a unified Europe by reflecting something special about each country in the European Union.
But wait. Here is Bulgaria, represented as a series of crude, hole-in-the-floor toilets. Here is the Netherlands, subsumed by floods, with only a few minarets peeping out from the water. Luxembourg is depicted as a tiny lump of gold marked by a “for sale” sign, while five Lithuanian soldiers are apparently urinating on Russia.
France? On strike.
The 172-square-foot, eight-ton installation, titled “Entropa,” consists of a sort of puzzle formed by the geographical shapes of European countries. It was proudly commissioned by the Czech Republic to mark the start of its six-month presidency of the European Union. But the Czechs made the mistake of hiring the artist David Cerny to put together the project.
Mr. Cerny is notorious for thumbing his nose at the establishment. He was arrested in 1991 for painting a tank, a Soviet war memorial in a Prague square, bright pink.
In the case of “Entropa,” Mr. Cerny presented the piece as the work of 27 artists, one from each country. But it was all a huge hoax.
After being challenged by reporters this week, Mr. Cerny admitted that he and two of his friends constructed the whole thing themselves, making up the names of artists, giving some of them Web sites and writing pretentious, absurd statements to go with their supposed contributions.
For example, next to the piece for Italy — depicted as a huge soccer field with little soccer players on it — it says, “It appears to be an autoerotic system of sensational spectacle with no climax in sight.”
The fake British entry, a kit of Europe in which the piece representing Britain has been taken out, says, “This improvement of exactness means that its individual selective sieve can cover the so-called objective sieve.”
Before the hoax was discovered, the Czech deputy prime minister, Alexandr Vondra, said “Entropa” — whose name alone should perhaps have been a sign that all was not as it seemed — epitomized the motto for the Czech presidency in Europe, “A Europe Without Borders.”
“Sculpture, and art more generally, can speak where words fail,” he said in a statement on Monday. “I am confident in Europe’s open mind and capacity to appreciate such a project.”
But he does not feel that way now.
“An agreement of the office of the government with the artist clearly stated that this would be the common work of artists from 27 E.U. states,” he said. “The full responsibility for violating this assignment and this promise lays with David Cerny.”
On its Web site, the Czech government said that it was “unpleasantly surprised” to learn the truth behind the mosaic.
The work has undoubtedly upset other people, too. The Germans are probably not too thrilled that their country is represented as a series of highways that, looked at a certain way, possibly bring to mind a swastika. Spain has to settle with being a huge construction site, while Romania is shown as a Dracula-themed amusement park.
According to the Czech News Agency, the Bulgarian government — the one whose country is shown as a bunch of toilets — summoned the Czech ambassador in Sofia to lodge an official protest. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian permanent representative to the European Union was quoted as saying: “It is preposterous, a disgrace. It is a humiliation for the Bulgarian nation and an offense to our national dignity.”
The Czechs have said that they are not sure what steps they will take before the official unveiling, scheduled for Thursday.
As for Mr. Cerny, on his Web site he said, “We knew the truth would come out.”He added, “But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself.”
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The New York Times today --Apparently not.