Conservatives in Hungary are threatening to tear down a planned public art installation in Budapest because of its social-justice message. The three-foot-tall sculpture, by artist Péter Szalay, depicts a rainbow-striped Statue of Liberty on bended knee, an allusion to US athletes kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against Black Americans. Its right fist is upraised and its left hand holds a tablet that reads “Black Lives Matter.”
Szalay has said that a high-profile right-wing figure emailed him and threatened that he would be “punished” for the art installation.
Prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is president of Hungary’s right-wing, nationalist Fidesz party, has been vocal in his opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. In response to Szalay’s artwork, Orbán’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyás, proclaimed that “Black Lives Matter is basically a racist movement. The racist is not the person who opposes a BLM statue, but the person who erects one.”
Hungary’s politics have grown increasingly conservative in recent years. Last May, the government ended legal recognition of sex changes. A few months later, it banned adoptions for same-sex couples and amended the constitution to declare that, in a family, “the mother is a woman and the father is a man.”
Szalay’s statue, 3-D printed in 12 pieces and held in place by magnets, is one of seven winners of a public art contest organized by the deputy of Budapest’s ninth district, Suzi Dada of the Two-Tailed Dog party, a satirical political party known primarily for its street art. Dada serves under the district’s mayor, Krisztina Baranyi, an independent who supports the project, which is slated to go on view for two weeks in the spring.
“The BLM goals of opposing racism and police brutality are just as relevant in Hungary as anywhere else,” Baranyi told the Guardian.
Despite the imagery in Szalay’s installation, the artist told the Guardian that it “does not declare itself on the side of or against BLM. According to my artistic purpose, it is undecidedly swaying between the two readings.”
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