The ubiquitous signs of soviet propaganda that lined every street corner of Prague have disappeared. In their place are the new images of capitalism: advertisements. But one prime spot remained empty and forgotten; facing the Vltava river adjacent to the tunnel to Letná are 8 large niches built into the wall of Nabřeží Edvarda Beneše . For ten years (1979–89) on visits to Prague I would look at that emptiness, in the prime public spot of the city, [where over a million people pass daily as of 2010]1, and think of the possibilities in a world where the concept of 'polis' was banned. Finally, in 1997 after the political changes, working with the Center for Contemporary Art, we proposed to the City of Prague to once again activate that space, but with art. My idea was to create a new public space outside of the gallery system (which anyway barely existed in Czech Republic), a rotating exhibition, with various artists putting up images each month. It would not only enhance the beauty and interest of the city, but make a statement to the future that not all of Prague's prime public areas are dedicated to advertisement. Three years and dozens of permits later, my project “flower power” launched what is today's “artwall2”.
Eight hand-painted billboards on metal were installed one quiet weekend morning, stopping traffic and causing consternation to early morning 'prazaci” heading to their chatas in the countryside. Where once were communist hammer and sickles, brightly colored abstract images of flowers and purposefully "pretty" designs were installed, inspired by children's drawings, andy warhol ad designs, russian constructivism. This was a direct engagement with the politicized history of the space (where once stood the largest statue of Stalin in the world). The 'posters' were decorative, banal images inspired from the 1960's hippy movement called "flower power"- another utopian movement of the West, historically paralleling totalitarianism in the East.
Excerpted from initial proposal for Center for Contemporary Art, Prague: Public Art Installation, 1997. Veletrzni Palac, Praha. (catalogue) curated by Ludvik Hlavacek.
The installation was installed in 2000: the first of what would become "ArtWall", the most viewed public art forum in the country. www.artwall.cz