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Czech artist admits deception in EU art exhibit

Prague — A Czech sculptor says he deceived EU officials with an exposition displaying prejudices as art, having created it with a small group of Czechs and not with artists from across the 27-nation bloc as earlier claimed.

"Grotesque exaggeration and mystification is a hallmark of Czech culture, and creating false identities is one of the strategies of contemporary art," David Cerny said in a statement of the exhibition in Brussels organized by the Czech EU presidency.

The artwork is a symbolic map of Europe depicting stereotypes attributed to European Union member countries, such as Romania with Dracula’s castle or Denmark with Lego cubes evoking the Prophet Mohammed’s caricature that caused uproar in the Muslim world.

In an invitation to the official opening scheduled for Thursday, the Czech EU presidency said the deal with Cerny "clearly stipulated that the work should be a joint project of artists from the 27 EU member states."

"I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that the creator of the work of art Entropa was in fact David Cerny and that it was not made by 27 artists representing all the EU member states," Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs Alexandr Vondra said in a statement.

Cerny said he had wanted to include 27 European artists but failed for different reasons and decided to invent the names instead, working with only a small group of Czechs on the project.

"We apologize … for our failure to tell (Czech officials) about the real state of things and for misleading them," said the statement.

"We knew the truth would surface, but before that, we wanted to find out whether Europe canlaugh at itself."

When unveiled in the EU presidency building on Monday, the work made most officials and journalists laugh.

Bulgarian authorities meanwhile said they were not amused by the exhibit representing their country — a map of Bulgaria dominated by a "Turkish" squat toilet.

The foreign ministry in Sofia called in Czech Ambassador Martin Klepetko to "explain the Czech presidency’s Entropa project".

A senior official of the ministry told Klepetko he was "shocked at the way Bulgaria is represented" and asked that the exhibit be removed before the official opening on Thursday.

"We have no doubt that the way Bulgaria has been represented is in bad taste," the ministry said in a statement.

Bulgaria has a large Turkish minority but it only freed itself from the Turks’ Ottoman rule in 1878 with Russian help after five centuries.

The exhibition was scheduled to run until June 30.