Head of Franz Kafka by David Černý to be restored to original glory

The Head of Franz Kafka, a kinetic sculpture located near Prague’s Národní třída boulevard, is to undergo a thorough restoration in the coming weeks. Over several days at the end of September, the outdoor piece of art by David Černý will be taken completely apart. Each of the 42 stainless rotating discs that make up the sculpture will be treated to a thorough check-up and required repairs. The restoration will take several months and will include the installation of a modern rotating system, very much like those used in wind turbines.

“A complete overhaul of the sculpture has been on the cards for some time already. Originally, the sculpture was rotating non-stop. However, advancing wear and tear forced us to keep reducing the time during which the piece remained in motion during the day. Discussing the matter with our servicing partner, Deus Automation, we agreed on the need for the installation of a new rotating mechanism that spins the individual discs. The new mechanism should come with more resilient bearings with a longer life. It should also make maintenance easier,” said František Šlapák, Asset Manager at CPI Property Group. “The Head of Franz Kafka has become one of the city’s most popular pieces of art in the public space. We want to make sure that the necessary repairs are completed as soon as possible and that the sculpture, which has already become an inseparable part of Quadrio, the commercial and office building alongside, will keep drawing and entertaining crowds for at least another 15 years,” added František Šlapák.

Scaffolding will be erected around the sculpture on Monday 25 September. The scaffolding will be covered with a fabric displaying information about the project. The sculpture will then be dismantled and removed from the site. In order to ensure the safety of both the public and the engineers taking the sculpture apart, the space will be fenced off. The individual discs will be removed from the sculpture with a crane, starting from the top. “Any undertaking of this scale is a proper challenge. But barring unforeseen obstacles, we believe that the sculpture will be reassembled and ready to be admired again by locals and tourists alike before the year is out,” said František Šlapák, hinting at the expected completion date.

The Head of Franz Kafka is 10.6 metres tall and weighs some 39 tonnes. It was unveiled on 31 October 2014 outside Quadrio shopping centre in the heart of Prague. The unique piece of art brings together modern mechanical engineering and exquisite craftsmanship that boasts a very long tradition in the country. The current mechanism borrows engineering principles otherwise employed in industrial automation and robotisation. The innards of the sculpture include 21 motors and no less than a kilometre of cabling. The individual discs that make up the sculpture revolve independently of one another. As a result, Kafka’s head assumes an endless range of expressions and grimaces.

Due to its mechanical complexity, the sculpture requires regular maintenance, provided by Deus Automation, which mostly consists of lubricating all the moving parts. A more extensive servicing is performed once a year.

Detailed information on the progress of the restoration and current images from the site can be accessed at www.quadrio.cz