Prague planning a sculpture park

Some controversial artworks may be moved to single location outside the center

Prague City Hall is considering moving some municipal sculptures, monuments and fountains to a new sculpture park at the edge of the city. The city is cataloging public art and deciding on what to do with it. Letňany is being considered as a location for a sculpture park for the artworks moved out of the center.

Critics, though, say the artworks belong where they have been, and that sculptures of communist leaders, for example, were removed from the city long ago. There is no need to create a park like Szoborpark in Budapest and Fallen Monument Park in Moscow to hold such sculptures.

In most cases, metal sculptures of communist leaders were melted down.

“We have asked the city districts to make an inventory of all the works entrusted to our care,” Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová (ANO), chairwoman of the City Hall Culture Committee, told daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

A preliminary count shows some 4,500 works while in 1999 only 350 were counted. The city is now making a photographic survey of all of the pieces to make a database, and this should be finished by the end of the year. Damages pieces will be repaired, but only if they are significant.

Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) told MfD that the city was overwhelmed by works that could hardly be called art, that have been damaged or are works of social realism from the communist era.

Kaplický Fuchsová said the sculptures that can be found in panelák housing projects no longer have any significant meaning, but they could be given a new context in a sculpture park. During communism, 1 to 4 percent of the construction budget had to be allocated for art, and these often abstract works can still be found at housing developments.

Letňany is being considered as a location for the sculpture park because it is accessible by metro but far from the city center.

Not everyone is opposed to works of art made under socialism. Sculptor and art historian Pavel Karous has written a comprehensive guide to communist era public art called Aliens and Herons, and created a related website.

He said that the statues of Soviet leaders like Lenin and Czechoslovak leader Klement Gottwald were taken down decades ago, and that current politicians take a negative stance on anything created in the communist era. The works represent a historical era and should be protected, he added.

Mayor Krnáčová told MfD the idea wasn't only about communist art. There are other works that placed in public without being evaluated beforehand.

The committee to evaluate the public art should be composed of art experts and politicians, Kaplický Fuchsová said.

Karous told MfD that politicians should not be on the committee, and it was more common in the west to use just art experts to make such decisions about public art.

Examples of recent artworks that have spurred controversy and mixed opinions include Garden Butterfly by Brazilian artist Romero Britto in Ortenovo náměstí and the Winged Lion Memorial at Klárov. The Winged Lion was made in memory of Czechoslovak pilots who served in the RAF in World War II.

There was already a controversy over the sculpture when it was proposed, but eventually the issues were resolved and the sculpture was unveiled in 2014 in the presence of British Member of Parliament Sir Nicholas Soames, a grandson of Sir Winston Churchill.

While Kaplický Fuchsová says that a different more suitable memorial for the pilots could be placed elsewhere in the city center. Prague 1 Mayor Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09), however, considers the issue closed and intends to defend the statue and it placement.

A sculpture of Franz Schubert in the courtyard of the Academy of Performing Arts, unveiled in the spring, has also met with a negative reaction.

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