Inflatable giant billiard balls appear on Prague's Vltava

The aqua-based exhibition shows the power of water and incorporates a centuries-old relief designed to monitor rising river levels.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 28.06.2023 11:00:00 (updated on 29.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Giant billiard balls have this month appeared on the surface of the Vltava River near Prague’s Střelecký ostrov and will remain there until the end of August.

Hungarian author and artist Ottó Vincze is behind the creation, known as River-Pool. The balls react to water movement and ripples generated by passing pedal boats, thereby making the boat passengers part of the actual work.

Oil and gas company MOL is the primary sponsor, and has placed a QR code for a free coffee at its Fresh Corner on one of the billiard balls.

The aquatic exhibition commemorates the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Hungarian Cultural Center in Prague.

Vincze’s work shows the inherent power and significance of water, which dictates the art’s movement. According to the artist, he tries to adapt each type of his artwork to the character of a city.

The white billiard ball – the most crucial one in the game of billiards – is stylized to represent the centuries-old Bradáč (Bearded Man) relief, important in monitoring potential floods in Prague.

This stone depicting a bearded man is located on the retaining wall next to Charles Bridge and had served to warn people in Prague of rising water levels. If water from the Vltava reached the relief’s beard, it would be a signal to start evacuating the Old Town.

The Bearded Man relief near Charles Bridge, known as Bradáč (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
Bradáč, a relief of a bearded man, near Charles Bridge. Photo: Raymond Johnston

"[The ballls] draw our attention to the power of and respect for the most important element of our life, water. Its shortage or its overflowing – as has been witnessed so many times in Prague's history – can create dramatic situations"

Ottó Vincze

Vincze says that Bradáč, symbolized by the white ball, “is no longer bound strictly to the post of his profession, but can now freely follow the movement of the water...he escapes for the sake of the game and docks on the unmarked white ball, which always must remain above the surface.”

River-Pool exhibits have also featured in the Hungarian town of Szentendre (on the Danube River), the Old Lake of Tata (also in Hungary), and in Venice, Italy.

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