A bronze statue of Vladimir Ilyic Lenin which once stood in the Eastern Bohemian town of Pardubice has received a brief respite from its dank confines. After the city council voted to auction off the statue, Lenin's wooden crates were pried open for TV cameras and a potential buyer. But Monday's auction turned out to be a short-lived affair, attended by a cluster of journalists and just one mystery bidder. Tricia Deering was there and brings back this report.
Milan Vrana the stout auctioneer bangs his gavel branded with his company name "ZEUS" to begin proceedings for Lenin. But seated before him was only one bidder.
The sole bidder had strutted in donning dark sunglasses and a crisp leather coat, carrying a bidder's paddle numbered "41." The TV cameras swarmed round him but the man who would bid on the Lenin statue ignored them, opting instead to greet the auctioneer and to inspect a photograph of the bronze in question.
The 2-tonne statue of Lenin has surfaced from 25 years of dusty solitude, after the Pardubice City Council voted last year to bolster its coffers and garner more storage space by auctioning it off. From 1976 to 1990, Lenin sat pensively before the Art Nouveau theater in the center of Pardubice, a city famous for the explosive Semtex and an annual steeplechase. The statue, by the Czech sculptor Stepan Kotrba the Elder, is rare because it´s one of the few depicting Lenin in a seated position, reminiscent of Rodin´s "The Thinker". City experts valued the statue at 750,000 Czech crowns, or about $20,000.
The potential Lenin buyer, Pavel Sykora, is a self-proclaimed private collector from Zdar nad Sazavou. Mr. Sykora on Monday told reporters he was ready to bid 200,000 crowns, in a 50-50 deal brokered with his business partner.
Gavel in hand, Mr Vrana the auctioneer pushed back the 2 o'clock auction time, to await the arrival of Mr Sykora's business cohort. Ten minutes passed and the air dripped with anticipation, all eyes glued to the man in sunglasses inside the "Music Salon" of the Pardubice City Hall.
Mr Vrana the auctioneer could postpone proceedings no longer.
470,000 crowns and no takers. 200,000 crowns and no takers. The man in sunglasses doesn't budge. The gallery of curious senior citizens, city officials and journalists watch in silence. The auction ends four minutes later - less time than the average Communist salutation.
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