It was nice, sunny Wednesday afternoon. We were in the National Gallery with a friend from abroad. I was relieved when we left the last exhibition after two solid hours of me explaining Hungarian history to him. Besides, the exhibition was dripping from nationalism and national grievances in true 19th century style.
“Look, there’s one more room!” called my friend.
I should have known – but I suspected nothing.
And then the horror…
It was the exhibition to celebrate Hungary’s new basic law unilaterally pushed through by Fidesz’s supermajority in 2011. In the middle of the room there was – for want of a better word – an altar to the basic law. It was on a red, velvet tablecloth flanked by two massive candle holders.
As I said… the horror.
I wish I were making this up. But the government forced every public institution in the country to have a table dedicated to the basic law (fifth edition in two weeks, because of typos and unintended meanings) and the National Gallery’s table was the holiest of them all.
And if it weren’t bad enough, it was surrounded by paintings commissioned to celebrate this nationalistic nightmare, choking on historic grievances – long past and very recent. Like Fidesz’s 2006 protest against the election results (above) and Viktor Orbán’s famous anti-Russia speech in 1990 (below).
20 paintings, one more delirious than the next covered the walls – and I had no explanations. My friend was mesmerized and very persistent. Why the chameleon on the pole? Why the angel in a police uniform? Eventually I told him it was the artists’ impression on recent history while on LSD. He believed me. We could go.
The mastermind behind this pompous spectacle is the Hungarian Artistic Academy (MMA). It is led by György Fekete (83) and is endowed with a budget that would make a US presidential candidate cry.
Just this year they receive HUF 17.7 billion (EUR 56million) to commission ideologically correct art and conduct sanctimonious research on the nature of blowing hot, nationalistic air. The Academy consists of roughly 300 members, receiving a monthly allowance of 1.5 times the average salary. On their annual congress they reelect Fekete unanimously every time – no surprise, given their endowments coming from him – and then they applaud anyone for anything.
This year they have managed to applaud to the following hypothesis:
The Holy Crown of Hungary is not what it looks like. It is a transmitter, and the cross on the top is not a reference to Christianity, but an antenna. The dangly things on the side direct energy waves into the brain to transmit the messages of our Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, Celestial Guide of Hungarians.
Instead of a straitjacket, the speaker received a lifetime achievement award and a long applause. In his speech he also discussed that the Peruvian Nazca lines are actually Hungarian and the Nobel prize and the Oscars are “false idols” – unlike the MMA’s lifetime award.
We can only hope that he won’t discover the Philosophers’ Stone – or we may be in for another lifetime of his achievements…
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