The Best Little Hoax in Brussels

Adam’s dear friend was in town last week and over dinner, he told us a hilarious story that we’d missed in recent European news…and made us instantly want to return to Brussels, a city we already love.

The Czech Republic, which has been chosen the new home of the EU Presidency, commissioned Czech artist David Cerny to create a unique sculpture to reside permanently in the Belgian capital of Brussels, the freshly-minted former home of the EU Presidency.  Cerny pitched the project as the joint effort of 27 EU artists, the Czech government signed off, and the result is a brilliant hoax.

It turns out the 41 year-old Cerny created all 27 artists out of whole…clay.

 All of the artists were figments of his imagination, and he in fact did all of the work for the 8-ton, $350,000 US sculpture called Entropa with only the help of a friend or two.  His sculpture, which has really and truly been erected in front of Brussels’ former EU headquarters for throngs to see, is a mosaic of tableux that each illustrate a mockable aspect of every European country in the EU.

Romania is depicted as a Dracula theme park, Denmark is made of LEGOs, and Holland is underwater with only the minarets of mosques sticking up. (This one isn’t actually so funny:  In the last few years, Holland has had an increasingly miserable track record of violence against its Muslim immigrants.)

This creation almost beats Brussels’ famous Manneken Pis, a cheeky sculpture of a naked little boy taking a wee into a public fountain.  And people send him outfits from around the world.

What has generated the most press for Entropa is Bulgaria’s outrage at their country being depicted as…a toilet.  The flap has been so loud that Cerny, in attempt to appease also-angry Czech officials, has returned his commission.  Much like the 2006 feud between Sascha Baron Cohen and Kazhakstan, this spat can only serve to make Cerny eternally famous and Bulgaria look like it can’t take it a joke.  

That is, a great, big, colorful public joke that resides at the entrance to the former headquarters of the European Union.

But this isn’t even our favorite part of the story.  

Cerny, in making up his imaginary artists, created 27 separate websites for all of them.  As an artist myself with a pretty extensive website, this absolutely floors me, and makes graphic designer Adam’s head spin.  We’re talking artwork, photos, bios, artist statements….This isn’t a project for the fainthearted.  

To do it 27 times is a truly staggering commitment to social satire.  

For more detailed descriptions and pictures of the sculpture, check out this article in London’s Daily Mail.


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