Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Czechs apologise for hoax EU art


Czech artist David Cerny explains his inspiration for 'Entropa'

The Czech EU presidency has apologised for an art installation it commissioned that lampoons national stereotypes.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra apologised directly to Bulgaria, which has formally complained over its depiction as a toilet in the art work.

He said the image, at the European Council building in Brussels, would be removed if Sofia insisted.

David Cerny, the Czech artist behind the work, admits misleading officials over his intentions with the project.

He said he had "wanted to find out if Europe is able to laugh at itself".

The Czech Republic thought it had commissioned work from 27 European artists for the Entropa display, which was installed at the weekend to mark the start of its six-month presidency.

But it turned out the work - an eight-tonne mosaic resembling a snap-out plastic modelling kit - was entirely completed by Mr Cerny and two associates.

'No censorship'

At the official unveiling of Entropa on Thursday, the artwork "came to life", emitting noises and flashing lights, to general applause - a sound not often heard in the EU Council building in Brussels, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra apologised to anyone who was offended by the work.

A close-up of the Entropa installation which shows Bulgaria as a basic toilet, Brussels, Belgium, 13 January 2009
I apologise to Bulgaria and its government if it feels offended
Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra

"I apologise to Bulgaria and its government if it feels offended, and I think we are certainly ready to engage in a dialogue," he said, quoted by the AFP news agency.

Sofia summoned the Czech ambassador on Wednesday to complain.

"If you stand by your request to remove it," he told a Bulgarian diplomat at the ceremony, "of course we will certainly do that".

But he said the rest of the installation would stay.

"We wanted to prove that 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, there is no censorship," said the former Czech dissident.

But he refused to share the platform with the artist, who insisted his piece was in the European tradition of satire, like Monty Python and France's Les Guignols.

He also denied that the Lego entry for Denmark was a representation of one of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared in 2005.

As well as portraying Bulgaria as a toilet, Entropa depicts Romania as a Dracula theme-park and France as a country on strike.

The Netherlands is shown as a 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 the EU's most Eurosceptic members - is absent from Europe altogether.

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