Controversial butterfly sculptures to adorn Prague's Máj department store

The Prague landmark will be adorned by giant butterflies that flap their wings and glow at night when it reopens later this spring following renovations.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 16.03.2024 10:52:00 (updated on 19.03.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague’s landmark Máj department store on Národní třída is gearing up to reopen in the coming months, and it is poised to undergo a striking transformation as it emerges from a two-year cocoon of renovations. The city has given developers the go-ahead on two controversial butterfly sculptures that will adorn the building’s exterior.

The two giant structures, standing several meters tall with a wingspan of around eight meters, merge the fuselages of Spitfire WWII aircrafts with the graceful wings of butterflies. Scheduled to be placed on the building in May, they will also reportedly flap their wings and illuminate the night sky.

The sculptures had previously been criticized by the Czech National Heritage Institute (NPÚ), while the Club for Old Prague (Klub Za starou Prahu) called them kitsch. However, the butterflies were formally approved by Prague City Hall's Department of Monument Care last week.

The shopping center's two-year reconstruction, which began in 2022, marches towards a completion date slated for May. Official word from the city and developer Amadeus Real Estate has not been made.

"Amadeus Real Estate, as the owner and investor of the reconstruction, will publish details regarding the final appearance of the interior and exterior of the house, as well as a detailed overview of services and shops, only within the planned opening schedule, which is expected to be May 2024," Amadeus spokesperson Karel Samec noted before the approval.

"For now, we don't want to comment on any behind-the-scenes information."

The exterior sculptures have drawn sharp criticism for their departure from the original look of the building, which has been listed as a protected national landmark by the NPÚ since 2006. The reconstruction had been carried out with input from the architects of the original design.

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Despite its objections to the sculptures, however, the NPÚ has not filed an official complaint with the Czech Ministry of Culture. In addition to the butterflies, the new building will reportedly also feature statues depicting Czechoslovak soldiers from World War II.

Beyond the controversy surrounding the look of the butterfly sculptures, there is also mystery surrounding their creator. The Club for Old Prague tied them to David Černý, known for his striking artwork that dots Prague's landscape, but the artist has denied involvement.

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