Lucerna Palace, Štěpánská 61, Prague, Czechia
For reasons that are obvious, this sculpture has been nicknamed the Dead Horse. Except that, strictly speaking, it’s a dead mare. But either way, it’s been stung up by the legs and isn’t looking healthy. The statue, by Prague-born artist David Černý is an inversion, a parody, of another statue by another Prague-born artist, Josef Václav Myslbek. Myslbek’s statue stands at the top of Wenceslaus Sqaure. It shows Saint Wenceslaus, patron Saint of Czechia, looking very proud astride a mighty, and healthy-looking, steed. There’s more or less a hundred years between the two statues. Mylsbek’s dates from 1912. And Černý’s from the early 2000s, when Václav Klaus was president of the Czechia. Which has led some critics to interpret Černý’s work as a criticism, or attack on Václav Klaus. Whereas Saint Wenceslaus is shown in Mylsbek’s work as strong, valiant, dignified, he is shown as weak and foolish in Černý’s. Only a weak and foolish man would ride a dead horse. Václav Klaus was a controversial leader. He doesn’t think global warming as a big deal, and he has compared the EU to the Soviet Union. He called his predecessor a ‘tool of Satan’. And when his Deputy Chancellor Petr Hajek described gay people as ‘deviant’ on the occasion of Prague’s first Pride event, Václav Klaus defended the use of the word ‘deviant’, saying it was ‘value-neutral’. The order and good represented by Saint Wenceslaus and his healthy mare is turned on its head (literally) by this figure of a leader on a dead horse. A leader who is going nowhere. However, Czech legend has it that Saint Wenceslaus never died. He is in fact just asleep, underneath a mountain. When the going gets tough for his country he’ll wake, ride around on his healthy-looking horse and sort everything out. That day is yet to come.