|Ronald Reagan in Repose, exclusive to ArtTraveler by Kinga Kalocsal|
29 June 2011--Budapest, Hungary
A Facebook-inspired protest against Hungary's unveiling of a bronze statue of Ronald Reagan only attracted 9 people, the organizer of the protest said after the event of 29 June.
The 2.18 meter (7 ft. 2 in.) sculpture by Hungarian maestro Istvan Mate (b.1952), revealed to the public for the first time at Freedom Square (Szabadsag ter) near the Hungarian Parliament, commemorates 100 years since Reagan's birth.
It's the second likeness of the U.S. 40th president in Budapest.
|The bronze Ronald Reagan at U.S. Capitol building, Washington, D.C.|
The other is a bronze bust, installed in September 2006 under a socialist regime. It appears near a statue of George Washington.
Mate's work, more than a little controversial, comes after six months of planning by the Hungarian Ronald Reagan Memorial Committee.
Mate, whose bronze casting studio is in Budpest, was born in Csongrad in the southern part of the country.
He was graduated from the Hungarian College of Fine Arts in 1976 and in 2002, received the Gold Cross of the Hungarian Republic.
The Ronald Reagan Resurrection
Today's resurrection of Reagan happens close to the U.S. Embassy and to another sacred monument, the only Soviet-era statue and memorial left standing in the city (and not in Memento Park, where the rest are tourist attractions).
A Hungarian arts professional showed me the Soviet monument and provided its history.
"If we were to take it down, it would cause real problems with Russia," she said. The monument commemorates the Red Army's liberation of Budapest and Hungary from Nazi control.
If you follow the thematic logic, each is compatible with the other.
Today's event, starting at 2:30 p.m. (as I write, it's 11 a.m.), will see former U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (leader of the country's conservative majority in parliament) officiate at the ceremony commemorating the Cold Warrior U.S. dead president, credited with helping take own the Iron Curtain, returning sovereignty to Hungary.
According to at least six Hungarian arts professionals, from artists, art historians, museum directors and a host of others I've talked to in my 12 days here, Hungarian PM Orban is not only autocratic, dictatorial and wildly erratic, but also a "fascist."
Mr. Orban, tear down this statue
Today's march and demonstration may be as much against his regime--a year old with three more to go--as anything. (I will be at the demonstration and report later.)
Reagan's oft-remembered sound bite: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
He's also known for inventing what Reagan dubbed his "11th Commandment": "Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican."
Revisionists heap credit on him for stalwart opposition to Communism.
On the home front he's remembered as an icon of the neo-conservative movement; the California governor who stamped out student unrest, cut state budgets on the backs of his state's poor; and as president, emasculated collective bargaining in the United States, starting with the air traffic controllers' union, which all but died with a stroke of his pen.
Reagan gets a statue, Elvis a park
In addition to Hungary's bronze, 400 pound salute to Reagan, other countries are lining up to pay tribute.
In Krakow, Poland, the archbishop conducted a "Mass of Thanksgiving" remembering Reagan; Prague is naming a street after him (about three weeks ago, the mayor of Budapest named not only a street but an entire park after Elvis Presley); and on July 4 in central London close to the U.S Embassy, another bronze Ronald Reagan will be installed.
Neither Reagan nor Elvis ever visited Hungary.
|Elvis Presley Park Photograph courtesy of Peter Fitz of Budapest (2011)|
You can credit U.S. politicians for starting the remember Reagan through art movement.
In June 2009, the government unveiled a bronze Reagan at the U.S. Capitol.
|"Spanish life stilled," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)|