The Story Behind “The Man Hanging Out”

Estimated reading time 2 min

What’s that up in the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…seven-foot-tall Sigmund Freud? Dangling from a pole over Husova Street in Prague’s Old Town, this lifelike statue of the famous psychoanalyst is so realistic that it has prompted more than a few calls to emergency services.

So what’s the deal? The installation, known as “The Man Hanging Out,” was created in 1996 by Czech sculptor David Černý. Černý is a non-conformist known for his provocative works and defiant attitude toward authority. In the early ‘90s, he painted pink a Soviet tank installed to commemorate the Russian liberation of the country in 1945. Local authorities deemed this an act of hooliganism arrested Černý for civil disobedience.

In “The Man Hanging Out,” Černý questions the role of intellectualism in the 20th century. The statue depicts Freud seeming to contemplate the merits of life as he hangs from one hand and ponders whether to tighten his grip or release it. An alternate interpretation claims that the statue is an homage to a man who spent his life studying phobias (and dealt with a number of his own, including death). Another says it’s a challenge of Freud’s work.

Whatever its true meaning, “The Man Hanging Out” is certainly a sight to behold. It has even toured the world, having been displayed in such cities as London, Berlin, Seoul, Chicago, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Other eye-catching works by Černý in Prague include:

  • A giant embryo attached to a drainpipe.
  • St. Wenceslas riding a dead, upside-down horse that hangs from the ceiling of the Lucerna Palace.
  • A gaggle of faceless fiberglass babies crawling up the Zizkov TV Tower.
  • A four-legged car.
  • Two mechanical men urinating on the outline of the Czech Republic in the courtyard of the Franz Kafka Museum. (You can text a message to the number attached to the exhibit and the men will, um, write it out with their urine streams.)

Time for your trip? We’ve got you covered:

Prague at its Best
Insider’s Guide to Czechia

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