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Artist apologizes after EU artwork sparks diplomatic row

  • Story Highlights
  • Czech Republic assumed six-month presidency of European Union this month
  • Czech artists has apologized for artwork that has sparked diplomatic protests
  • "Entropa" is due to be officially unveiled at EU HQ in Brussels Thursday
  • Bulgarian EU representative: A humiliation for the Bulgarian nation
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By Nick Hunt
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(CNN) -- Bulgaria is a Turkish toilet, France is always on strike, Romania is a vampire theme-park and the UK... Well the UK doesn't exist.

The piece "Entropa" shows Romania as a giant Dracula-inspired theme park.

The piece "Entropa" shows Romania as a giant Dracula-inspired theme park.

That's the view of the European Union according to a controversial art installation by Czech artist David Cerny, commissioned by his government to mark its six-month presidency of the pan-continental body.

The work, "Entropa," frames various representations of each member state as components of a giant multimedia model kit.

But the piece, scheduled to have its official unveiling Thursday at the EU headquarters in Brussels, has sparked controversy. Photo Look at images of European nations »

Bulgaria's foreign ministry has summoned the Czech ambassador in Sofia to lodge a protest about the piece, according to the Czech News Agency. What do you think about images?

And Betina Joteva, spokesperson of the Bulgarian permanent representation to the EU, said in comments reported by EUObserver.com: "It [the work] is preposterous, a disgrace. It is a humiliation for the Bulgarian nation and an offence to [our] national dignity."

Bulgaria is not the only nation to suffer an unflattering depiction.

Germany is criss-crossed by a series of autobahns in what some critics say is a close approximation of a swastika; Spain is a giant construction site in a dig at its building boom; and Luxembourg is a gold covered nugget sporting a "For Sale" sign.

The Netherlands is depicted as a submerged land with only minarets peeking through the waves in an apparent reference to its religious tensions.

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Poland recreates the WWII flag-raising at Iwo Jima, only with the U.S. Marines and the Stars and Stripes replaced with Catholic clergy brandishing the multi-colored gay pride flag.

The UK is absent from the work -- possibly because of its on-off relationship with the rest of the continent.

The Czech government said in a statement on its presidency Web site Tuesday that the original brief was for the work to be created by 27 artists representing all EU Member States -- and that it was "unpleasantly surprised" to learn that this was not the case.

"David Cerny bears full responsibility for not fulfilling his assignment and promise," said Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister. "In this situation we are now considering further steps. The government said it will issue a further statement Thursday.

The comments were in contrast to a statement issued by Vondra Monday, when he said that "sculpture, and art more generally, can speak where words fail. I am confident in Europe's open mind and capacity to appreciate such a project."

Cerny is no stranger to controversy. In 1991 he was arrested after painting pink a Soviet tank that served as a Prague war memorial.

His Web site shows other examples of his work, including previous kit-style installations entitled "Jesus Christ" and "Dead Raped Woman"; and a life-size bronze fountain that depicts two men standing opposite each other, urinating.

Cerny, and his main collaborators Kristof Kintera and Tomas Pospiszyl apologized to Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and other government ministers Tuesday, according to a statement on the artist's Web site, for " not having informed them about what is true and for having misled them.

The statement adds that Cerny and his colleagues initially wanted to use 27 European artists for "Entropa", but fell short due to lack of time and money. Instead, they say, they decided to create fictional artists, some of whom have even been given their own Web sites.

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Cerny says he knew the truth would eventually come out but adds: "We believe that the environment of Brussels is capable of ironic self-reflection, we believe in the sense of humor of European nations and their representatives."

Try telling that to Bulgaria.

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