Vaclav Havel Bust by Czech Sculptor Marie Seborova

On Wednesday 17th November, the 32nd Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the sixth cast of a bronze bust of the late President Havel will be unveiled in the Academy of Performing Arts (AMU’) owned Café Slavia opposite the National Theatre in Prague.
It is believed to be the first such bust honoring President Havel to go on public display in Prague.

The bust, designed by leading Czech sculptor Marie Seborova, was one of four winners in a competition organized by the Association of Czech and Moravian Sculpors in 2013 in which twenty-seven artists took part producing 34 busts which were displayed in an exhibition at the Czech Academy of Sciences in December of that year. A jury of sculptors, art historians and the late president’s friends picked the best four.

At the time Marie Seborova was quoted as saying that the responsibility of sculpting the legendary hero of the Velvet Revolution had been awesome:

The burden of responsibility was huge, I would say it was even constraining in a way. Because we all admire the late president so much and you want to capture the essence of the man. It took me three months to make up my mind whether to take part in the competition because it was such a huge challenge. That made it so much harder.

In May 2014, Art for Amnesty Founder and VHLF Board Member Bill Shipsey – no stranger to Havel memorials having commissioned the huge Peter Sis designed ‘Flying Man’ Aubusson tapestry that hangs at Prague Airport and then worked with the late artist and designer Borek Sipek in placing six ‘Havel’s Place’ benches in Dublin, Barcelona, Venice, The Hague, Lisbon and Ljubljana – and who had known the late President since 2003 approached Maria Seborova to ask if she would be willing to produce a bronze from her winning design for Art for Amnesty.

Initially, as Marie Seborova tells the story, she thought it was a joke – an Irish lawyer and human rights activist wanting to commission a bust of the late President for display not in the Czech Parliament but in the Irish one. But after meeting Shipsey in Prague in June 2015 she accepted the commission and the first bronze was cast in January 2015.

Chronological Sequence of Placing of the Casts:

1. Mexico City May 2015 | Although the original idea was to place the first cast in the Irish Parliament in fact the first bust was unveiled at the Tlatelolco Campus of the Autonomous University of Mexico on the 9th May 2015 in the presence of the Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty, Pavla Niklova Director of the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation and Bill Shipsey. The venue was chosen as it was at this campus in 1968 that students were shot and murdered at a peaceful protest – around the same time as the Soviet led invasion of Czechoslovakia.
2. Dublin June 2015 | The second cast was unveiled in the Irish Parliament on June 16th 2015 in the presence of the Czech Ambassador to Ireland Hana Mottlova, the Speaker of the Irish Parliament Sean Barrett, former leader of the Labour Party, Ruairi Quinn, Sculptor Marie Seborova and Bill Shipsey. Havel became the first non-Irish head of State to be so honoured in the Irish Parliament
3. Manitoba Canada June 2017 | On June 14th 2017 a third cast was unveiled in the University of Manitoba.
4. Strasbourg European Parliament | On 5th July 2017 the fourth cast was the center piece at the launch of the Vaclav Havel building part of the EU complex in Strasbourg in the presence of the President of the European Parliament, Dagmar Havlova, Marie Seborova, Pavla Niklova and Bill Shipsey.
5. New York City | Columbia University was the site of the 5th unveiling in the presence of Madeleine Albright former U.S. Secretary of State.
6. Prague | November 17th will see the 6th cast dedicated in the late President’s favorite café – Café Slavia.

7. Bratislava
Watch this space for news on the next cast for Bratislava in 2022!