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Czech EU art stokes controversy

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Czech artist David Cerny explains his inspiration for 'Entropa'

A new art installation going on display at the European Council building in Brussels has angered EU members with its lampoons of national stereotypes.

Entropa portrays Bulgaria as a toilet, Romania as a Dracula theme-park and France as a country on strike.

The Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency, thought it had commissioned work from 27 European artists.

But it turned out to have been entirely completed by Czech artist David Cerny and two associates.

The eight-tonne mosaic is held together by snap-out plastic parts similar to those used in modelling kits.

The Netherlands is shown as series of minarets submerged by a flood - a possible reference to the nation's simmering religious tensions.

Germany is shown as a network of motorways vaguely resembling a swastika, while the UK - criticised by some for being one of EU's most eurosceptic members - is absent from Europe altogether.

Raised eyebrows

The 16-square-metre (172-square-foot) work was installed at the weekend to mark the start of the six-month Czech presidency of the EU.

There has already been an angry reaction to the piece from Bulgaria, which has summoned the Czech ambassador to Sofia to explain.

The three artists responsible for Entropa were led by David Cerny who, says the BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague, is the enfant terrible of the Czech art world.

A close-up of the Entropa installation which shows Bulgaria as a basic toilet, Brussels, Belgium, 13 January 2009

When his government commissioned him to create the installation, several eyebrows were raised, and they were not raised in vain, our correspondent adds.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said he was only informed on Monday that the installation was not the work of 27 European artists, but David Cerny and two colleagues.

Mr Vondra condemned Mr Cerny and said the Czech EU presidency was considering what steps to take before Thursday's official launch.

"An agreement of the office of the government with the artist clearly stated that this will be a common work of artists from 27 EU states," he said.

"The full responsibility for violating this assignment and this promise lies with David Cerny."

Mr Cerny, who presented Entropa to his government with a brochure describing each of the artwork's 27 supposed contributors from each member state, has apologised for misleading ministers, but not for the installation itself.

"We knew the truth would come out," said Mr Cerny. "But before that we wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself."

He added that Entropa "lampoons the socially activist art that balances on the verge between would-be controversial attacks on national character and undisturbing decoration of an official space".

Mr Cerny first created a splash in the early 1990s when he painted a Soviet tank, a Second World War memorial in a Prague square, bright pink.

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