New butterfly Spitfires on Prague's Máj honor WWII heroes

Attached to World War II fighter models, Černý says his goal is to show the balance between conflict and peace.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 20.05.2024 10:31:00 (updated on 20.05.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Builders over the weekend installed two butterfly sculptures on the facade of Prague’s Máj Národní building ahead of the department store’s reopening in June. The installations, created by renowned artist David Černý, show butterfly wings affixed to two purple-blue World War II fighter plane models.

The sculptures, commissioned by Amadeus Real Estate, pay tribute to Czechoslovak fighter pilots who served with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II. “Butterflies symbolize peace, and the Spitfire is a weapon; a symbol of war. There is a fine line between peace and war, and current global events make this appeal even stronger,” explained Martin Klán, a member of the Amadeus board of directors.

Ingrained in symbolism

According to Klán, the idea for the artwork came from the Černý himself. "When he brought us his proposal years ago, our jaws dropped," says Klán. "The work contains many important references, symbols, and messages."

Černý explained the inspiration for his work: “Which war machine is the most beautiful symbol of the freedom struggle? For me, it is the Spitfire." Černý, who grew up with a passion for aviation, considers the Spitfire as a symbol of victory over evil.

Amadeus had initially approached the artist to participate in an internal competition for a work of art to be installed in the renovated Máj store. Černý says that his plane-animal artwork is a blend of surrealism, Dadaism, and other artistic movements.

Speaking of the artwork's location, Černý said: “I was also inspired by May as a symbol of the end of World War II and the beginning of spring.” He commented that Národní Street, where Máj stands, was an important part of the end of communism; several demonstrations took place in the area in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Referencing his art and its symbolism, Černý commented on the importance of the so-called butterfly effect: that small motions (such as the flapping of wings) can trigger a chain of events that causes a “hurricane on the opposite side of the planet.”

The butterfly-plane sculptures stand several meters tall with a wingspan of around eight meters. They will also reportedly flap their wings and glow at night.

Developers over the weekend also unveiled a mosaic comprising 359 small silhouettes of fighter planes created from cobblestones – 359 marks the number of Czechoslovak pilots fighting for the RAF. A QR code sits beside the mosaic, providing information about the Czechoslovak fighter air force in World War II.

The Máj Národní building will reopen to the public on June 24. The 11-floor multi-purpose center will feature over 17,000 square meters of retail, dining, and entertainment space. 

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