Two pieces of odd news from Slovakia, where Western supermarkets have made major inroads in recent years. Last week the German-owned Lidl firm caused an uproar (at least in the art community) when it knocked down a public sculpture from the 1960s (entitled “Time,” by the sculptor Jozef Jankovič) in Bratislava, in order to make way for a new store. Apparently the authorities that gave the building permission did not see any artistic or historical merit in the work either. The art community and the sculptor only found out about the demolition after the fact.
Here is the sculpture before (source: Pravda – “It used to be the communists who destroyed public art, now it’s the developers“):
and after (source: Sme – “The sculpture in Ružinov was demolished without asking“):
This raises some questions about both the “corporate social responsibility” of Lidl when it comes to shaping urban environments and dealing with the cultural heritage of host countries, and the ways in which artistic merit and historical value are established in post-communist countries like Slovakia.
The other bit of bizarre news comes from the Southern Slovakian town of Dunajská Streda (or Dunaszerdahely in Hungarian), where the British-owned Tesco supermarket removed the chairs from the cashiers for two weeks, forcing them to stand for 7-8 hours a day. Apparently this was meant as a form of punishment because the checkout assistants weren’t quick enough to jump on their feet to stock shelves when no customers were around. There was also a bulletin board where the names of the least productive cashiers were displayed in big red letters to name and shame them.
It is quite ironic that these emblematic institutions of Western capitalism are engaging in practices that remind the locals very much of the good old communist ways. Though to be fair, the Tesco solution did sound like it was the adoption of a local idea, and Lidl’s local developer didn’t seem to have second thoughts about knocking down the sculpture either. So this might be more about a ‘happy’ coming-together of Western capitalist and Eastern communist attitudes, practices and values for the common ‘good’ of supermarket productivity.