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One of the winners of a public art contract in the 9th district (Ferencváros) will deal with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Although no other details have been revealed about the statue, it has already drawn criticism from right-wing circles against the opposition-backed independent mayor of the district, Krisztina Baranyi, and her deputy Zsuzsanna Deme (of satirical MKKP – Hungarian Two-tailed Dog Party). They, however, are defending the project and emphasizing artistic freedom.

According to the evaluation of artist Péter Szalay’s winning bid, it is “a public memorial sculpture that touches on and brings to play current social and political issues: Black Lives Matter, social prejudices about LGBTQ. The kneeling gesture of the sculpture also refers to the toppling of public statue movements, [while] it also makes one reflect on the overarching circumstances of the artwork. The language, which can be easily decoded from the street even for a simple recipient, together with the explanation, meets the requirements of public art very well.”

As of now, no other details about the statue has been revealed.

Right-wing politicians criticize the idea

Many on the right side of the political spectrum, including controversial opinion leader Zsolt Bayer and pro-Fidesz outlets, soon began to harshly criticize Baranyi for the idea. On the part of the Fidesz-led government, PMO Chief Gergely Gulyás commented that the BLM in the U.S. is a “fundamentally racist movement that doesn’t acknowledge white people and people of color as equal.” This, he said, went against all of the 20th century’s human rights ideals. “So it’s not the ones who oppose a statue to BLM that are racist but the ones erecting it,” Gulyás insisted. While according to local Fidesz group leader, there is no real need in the district for BLM artwork. In Andrea Gyurákovics’s view, Baranyi and Deme are provoking the residents.

Churchill Statue in Budapest Damaged with Words 'Nazi', 'Racist' and 'BLM' Spraypainted on It
Churchill Statue in Budapest Damaged with Words 'Nazi', 'Racist' and 'BLM' Spraypainted on It

Winston Churchill’s bronze statue, which has stood in City Park since 2003, has been the target of vandalism since it was erected on the Churchill promenade. Just like the accompanying boardwalk sign and description plaque, the statue was spraypainted, covered in red paint, and scribbled on several times. This week, following worldwide demonstration against police […]Continue reading

In addition, according to former Jobbik politician, now independent conervative MP János Bencsik’s comments: “A statue will be erected for the Americans dismantling statues in Ferencváros. Will those who knock it down also get one?” he ironically noted on his Facebook page.

Former mayoral candidate: Let’s wait and see

According to publicist Róbert Puzsér, who was running as an independent candidate for the Budapest mayoral seat, (and who also supported Baranyi in her election fight against Fidesz candidate János Bácskai), hopefully Baranyi doesn’t aim to participate in the culture war with the move. Although, he thinks BLM is a confused, radical identity political activist movement with doubtful resources, he welcomes the diversity of opinions, and local governments supporting art projects.

The popular opinion leader also slammed the right-wing hysteria as it would only be displayed for two weeks. In his view, Bayer, (who threatened toppling the statue) is obviously no different from the aggressive mobs toppling statues in the U.S.

Opinions therefore, should wait until the artwork actually takes form, he argued.

Mayor Baranyi: Art is free

In response to the ‘racism’ comments of PMO Head Gulyás and pro-Fidesz tabloid Origo, Baranyai rebuffed criticism and insisted that “…art is free. Those are the racists who don’t understand that the statue’s exhibition (along with other works) will display the work of the winners of an art competition for two weeks (…)”

The statue(s) will be on display in the 9th district’s Ferenc Square between April 1-14, 2021.

featured image illustration via MTI/EPA/Neil Hall