Ivan Kozaric grounded the sun in Zagreb in 1971. The doyen of Croatian sculpture grounded it secretly in front of the National theater, in the middle of the night, without permission from the municipal government. The whole operation was set up as a performance, a provocation of sorts. A two meter wide bronze sphere with golden sprayed leafs over it that just appears out of nowhere in front of a national monument, as benign as it seems, did not fare well in communism.
The first reaction to the statue, remembers Kozaric, was a young man stopping his Zastava 750 (an iconic mini car people called ‘ficho’, short for Fiat) in the middle of the street, rushing out and kicking the bronze ball. It’s uncertain for what reason. The sun was immediately confiscated by the police but later returned.
In its time in front of the theater it was repeatedly damaged and painted over, so the City decided to move it to its current location in Bogoviceva street in 1994. By that time the Grounded sun was regarded as one of the symbols of the city (even though it was painted over a couple of times since then, sometimes as pure vandalism, sometimes as an artistic statement), and is probably one of the most interacted statues in the city. Many teens have proclaimed their love on it, punk was not dead on it, mothers off all kinds were mentioned and all sorts of other differing messages written on it. It’s still vandalism, but one that Kozaric unwillingly got used to living with. No matter how many times they repainted it, new generations of teens would not resist writing on it. Now being 92 years old, the artist still takes regular walks on the square, observing children playing around it, tourists taking photos and street artists using it as background to their performance.
But what’s a sun without its planets? In 2004. an artist Davor Preis opened an exhibition called Nine views, where he presented his plan to create a solar system in Zagreb. Like Kozaric with his sun, the nine planets were placed around the city secretly. The artist used scaled down distances of the celestial bodies, each planet’s size in proportion to the two meter wide sun.
Preis never revealed the planets’ locations and there was very little media coverage, but a group of enthusiasts from the Croatian Physics Society took it upon themselves to find them all. It took them three years to map out the solar system, from the nearest, Mercury (75 meters from the sun), to the farthest, Pluto (7.7 km). By that time, the quest went viral, the idea got popular and instead of a grounded sun as a symbol of the city, Zagreb got a grounded solar system.
There’s a tour called Zagreb Space Walk you can take as a group, but the coordinates are online and people regularly venture on the hunt privately.
Planets are placed as follows:
Mercury – 3 Margaretska Street 3
Venus – 3 Ban Josip Jelacic Square 3
Earth – 9 Varsavska Street 9
Mars – 21 Tkalciceva Street 21
Jupiter – 71 Vocarska Street 71
Saturn – 1 Raciceva Street 1
Uranus – Siget 9 (at the garage across the street)
Neptune – Kozari Bok 48
Pluto – Bologna Alley (underpass, on a retaining pillar)
DISCLAIMER: One day in 2006. an angry astrologist (presumably) took down Pluto from its plaque so the international community had no choice but to decide it is no longer a planet. Unreliable accounts say it was the other way around. The plaque still stands on the underpass.