Czech Artist Aims to Stop Communists’ Return With Finger

A Czech artist waded into the election campaign by floating a giant purple hand on the Vltava river with its middle finger aimed at the Prague Castle, where he says President Milos Zeman is helping bring the Communists back to power.

David Cerny, who first gained notoriety by painting a Soviet tank pink following the 1989 Velvet Revolution, said the sculpture is a warning to Czechs about giving the Communist Party a role in government for the first time in 24 years during Oct. 25-26 elections. Last year, he designed a poster for Karel Schwarzenberg’s failed presidential run against Zeman by portraying the 75-year-old nobleman with a multi-colored Mohawk.

Zeman has been criticized for breaking presidential tradition by naming a hand-picked government to replace Premier Petr Necas’s cabinet after it collapsed in June. Schwarzenberg said Zeman interpreted the constitution as the Nazis and Communists once had, Lidove Noviny reported July 14, while his opponents claim he favors Russian business interests.

The hand is “there to remind people Communism wasn’t any golden age as some still believe,” Cerny, 45, said by phone today. “And it’s also there to remind them that the current Czech president Milos Zeman and his crew are doing everything to bring them back.”

The president, who is on a state visit to Ukraine, wouldn’t immediately comment, his spokeswoman, Hana Burianova, said by phone.

Communist Support

While Zeman has said that Communists shouldn’t be directly in the government, he has also said they may be allowed to give unofficial support to a minority government led by the Social Democrats, who lead in all polls.

After more than two decades of democratic rule and membership in the European Union, the Czech Communist Party is among the top three parties in all pre-election opinion polls.

The 10-meter (30 feet) hand with the outstretched middle finger, which was set up yesterday, is the latest controversial piece commissioned by Cerny.

He first broke into the Czech art scene in 1991 when he painted a Soviet tank monument pink, drawing a sharp rebuke from Russia. In 2011, he put the tank on a pontoon with another gigantic hand on the turret, with the extended middle finger pointing to the sky.

Cerny’s “Entropa” sculpture, which he said depicted stereotypes of all the European Union’s 27 nations at the time and was installed in Brussels when the Czech Republic assumed the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in 2009, caused loud protests from other EU states.

Political Prisoners

In a separate action, a civic group hanged five mannequins on street lamps in Prague’s central Klarov neighborhood this morning with slogans “he was against Communists” to commemorate some 250 political prisoners executed in the country under the former regime from 1948 through 1989. They also placed mannequins in Hradec Kralove, a city about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Prague.

The group, called “Decommunisation,” said in an e-mailed statement today it wants to point out the party’s unscrupulous methods it used to stay in power during totalitarian times.

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