If you find yourself on Národní třída this summer and happen to wander into the National Theatre’s immense piazzetta, you will discover a new burst of color amid the staid architecture. There―bright, red, and blooming―is a strikingly large rendering of a crimson poppy flower. Now through August, tourists and locals who happen upon this surprising piece of art will, if all goes according to the artist’s wishes, pause to marvel and take pictures next to it (or even below or inside of it).
All of this begs the question―who is behind this glossy giant, and what is it doing in Prague?
Czech capital one of many hosts
The 15-foot-high red flower is the work of Croatian artist, Ana Tzarev. And it isn’t a single display, rather part of a larger international exhibit, with identical floral sculptures blooming in cities all across the world, including Istanbul, Rome, New York, London, Beijing, and now Prague.
Now 75-years-old, Ms. Tzarev was born in Croatia in 1937. Her work can be loosely characterized by the use of a bold color palette and a rich use of texture. Critics have lauded her approach to painting, where she brings a vitality rarely seen in the medium―her work has been exhibited at museums all across the world.
Breaking the language barrier
The idea behind this flower project, titled LOVE & PEACE, is one of cross-cultural understanding through beauty. “My flowers are my love letters to the future generations,” Tzarev has said. Even if we don’t share a common language, Ms. Tzarev believes that the “wordless language of beauty” can bring us together.
As the website for the project says, “Art is the bridge by which the world shall be connected.”
The artist’s Prague connection
Ms. Tzarev chose Prague as a destination for the exhibit because of the city’s rich history of art and culture. “Twenty years ago, under communism, we wouldn’t have been able to take part in this project,” says Milosh Harajda, the creative producer for Pavleye Art and Culture agency, the promotor of the exhibit. “This is one of the reasons why Ana decided that Prague would be a great place for this project.”
However, there was also a more sentimental reason. “Growing up, Ana had a childhood friend from Prague with whom she was especially close,” says Mr. Harajda. “So it is also a tribute to her friend.”
Additionally, the piazzetta was the perfect location because it is home to the National Theatre, one of the major cultural institutions in Prague and the premiere place for opera, theater, and many other artistic events. “For example, if you placed it outside of New Yorker or H&M, it would lose its value; the context would be missing,” says Mr. Harajda. “The piazzetta is great because it’s pure concrete there―no trees. This work by Ana, which is glossy and shining and inviting, stands out here more than it would anywhere else in the city.”
For Milosh and his art promotion agency, it was also a perfect fit. “My business partner and I like to bring unconventional works to the city,” he says, “anything that places Prague on the international cultural map.”
An interactive installation
To foster better connectedness and participation with the sculpture, the installation has an interactive element: People are encouraged to take photos of the flower and then upload them to an on-line gallery. There are even associated iPhone and Android apps for the exhibit which allow you to, “share your love-and-peace photos and stories with the world, as well as track Ana Tzarev’s exhibitions across the globe.” As Mr. Harajda tells us, “You simply take a picture, pass it through Instagram, and it will load automatically to the website.”
Of this component of the exhibit Ms. Tzarev herself writes, “I want these striking and vibrant sculptures to attract people and encourage them to tell their stories and share their experiences.”
On the website, you can also view a live webcast of the sculpture, where scores of residents and tourists alike have been stopping to stare at the flower and marvel at its incongruity with the colorless architecture around it.
The statue will be on view in Prague until August 31, after which the future is slightly unclear. Mr. Harajda says there is a plan afoot to transport the flower to Slovakia, an idea which Ana is fond of. “[She] loves the idea because everyone in the world thinks that Prague is in Czechoslovakia,” Mr. Harajda says. “So if we have it first in Prague and then in Slovakia, maybe people will realize that they are not the same country.”
For more information and to view user-generated photos, visit the LOVE & PEACE website.