Prague gets a new "bridge": a 70-meter-long wall mural by world-renowned Czech illustrator Peter Sís

"Bridges connect people, walls divide them...I'm glad this wall is turning into a bridge,” says the artist

Katrina Modrá

Written by Katrina Modrá Published on 22.11.2019 07:00:32 (updated on 22.11.2019) Reading time: 3 minutes

From September, Prague’s DOX Centre for contemporary art opened an extensive exhibition devoted to world-renowned Czech artist and author of children’s books Peter Sís.

The exhibit “On Flying and Other Dreams” features illustrations from five of Sís’s acclaimed books in which flying and dreaming are linked with freedom, a recurring theme in the work of an artist who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, a reality captured vividly in his book The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.

The artists at the announcement of the Kampa mural with a copy of The Wall

On the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which saw the end to communist rule, the city of Prague has announced that Sís will once again captivate the public imagination.

A faded wall on the banks of the Vltava, on Kampa, opposite the Střelecký Island, is due to be revitalized by a new drawing from the world-renowned artist and illustrator whose work can be viewed in public spaces from New York to Lisbon and Cape Town.

The 70-meter “Velvet Bridge,” which will be crafted from a mosaic of azulejo tiles, handmade in Portugal, is meant to visually represent the history of Czechoslovakia between 1918 and 1989. The work will be installed in Kampa in the spring of 2020. 

A rendering of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

“Some time ago we were approached with this idea and we supported the project as a city council. It is symbolic that from this wall we can almost see the windows of Václav Havel’s former apartment, which is a symbol of the struggle for humanity all over the world,” says Pavel Čižinský, Mayor of Prague 1.

He adds, “I am delighted that this wall will now become a kind of intersection of worldliness and Prague, just through the work and personality of Petr Sis, who grew up here in the Lesser Town.”

The artist with Prague 1 Mayor Pavel Čižinský

Čižinský goes on to say that he hopes the wall with the Velvet Bridge will become a new favorite spot for walking through Prague.

The project is sponsored Amnesty International and will represent the second Sís work in the Prague public space. The tapestry “After Flying Man” dedicated to Václav Havel, was installed at Prague Airport in 2012. It is currently on display at the DOX retrospective.

Tapestry “After Flying Man”, currently on display at DOX

Sís, who splits his time between New York and Prague, living on Nerudova Street, is pleased with the project and at the same time recognizes the sense responsibility that goes with the project.

“I grew up in the Lesser Town and I am very glad that the arrangement with Prague 1 was successful and the work will be located here,” the artist told the press. “The theme of the bridge is quite symbolic — bridges connect people, walls divide them. So I’m glad this wall is basically turning into a bridge.”

Scene from The Wall

He continues, “I am still adding some elements of the work, and even because I like to come back here, I really care about every dot.” 

Two panels of original tiles were installed on the Kampa wall on Sunday, one depicting Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and the other depicting Václav Havel in a cartoon design by Sis. 

A visualization of part of the work will be placed on the wall on a hanging banner until the end of the year. 

In a recent interview with Czech daily, Sís candidly talks about emigrating to the US and how he was helped by Czech director Milos Forman who commissioned him to design the poster for his film Amadeus, as well as children’s book illustrator Maurice Sendak.

Sís has written 26 books, illustrated 60 books, and has made almost 30 animated films. He has also designed a mosaic mural for the New York City subway.

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