Gigantic Sculpture on Széchenyi tér – Interview with the Artist

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The whole city has been talking about the sculpture that popped up on Széchenyi tér for the past week. Everybody admires the giant installation titled Ripped Open (Feltépve), and many hope that a new era is dawning upon Budapest and its relationship with public statues. But who is behind this gigantic piece of artwork, what inspired him to create the extraordinary sculpture and what will happen to it in the future? We interviewed artist Ervin Hervé-Lóránth who gave us the answers to all these questions and talked about his opinion of Budapest’s statue culture.

What sorts of reactions did you expect when the sculpture was put on display?

I wasn’t expecting this level of success. I think it’s safe to say that it was a success. We’ve haven’t encountered any hostility so far. I knew that foreigners would be much more open to it and more accepting of it, since there are gigantic contemporary sculptures in many cities of the world, but I wasn’t expecting that the Hungarian audience would be so appreciative of it. Especially considering that the sculpture is located at a spot where it’s surrounded by historical monuments.

Do you go there and study people’s reactions?

I’m there every day, I sit down for one or two hours and just keep looking around, because I’m curious about the reactions. I sometimes talk to the people there too.

What’s the first thing that people ask when they see the sculpture?

First off, they start wondering just what it might be. The next question is why this piece of artwork was done. And the third one is how long it will be staying. Because a lot of people would like it to stay longer.

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“I say that many more contemporary sculptures should be displayed on the streets of Budapest.”

What inspired you?

It’s the result of a long process. I was originally going to display the statue at Sziget Köztársaság, I had already made a miniature model of it for myself. But there was so little time available that it was impossible to realize the project, even though they were enthusiastic about it too. I put the idea in a box – every artist has their own dreams that they hide away. I too have several other plans that I’d like to realize sometime.

Eventually, my visit to Stuttgart played an important role in realizing this project: the director of Balassi Intézet in Stuttgart commissioned the work with the support of the NKA, and the leadership of the city of Ulm asked to have the sculpture displayed there as well. And I said of course, why not. In the meanwhile, there were negotiations going in with Art Market at home, where my three gigantic dwarves were showcased at Millenáris, and we showed them this sculpture as well. They fell in love with it too, and promised to get the required licenses.

You’ve mentioned that you weren’t expecting such huge success, but weren’t you afraid that people would be appalled by such an enraged face?

I did not think about that. Maybe my own enthusiasm, my “blindness” prevented that question from occuring to me. Curator Bernadette Dán came up with the idea to display it at that location, she wanted my work to be in a central spot, instead of being put out in the suburbs. We were surprised how quickly the capital gave us permission to do it. They actually like it!

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“My goal was to show people that pieces of contemporary art can be integral parts of a city, that they can become one of its building blocks.”

I’ve heard that the sculpture is going on a trip.

After Budapest, the next location will be Ulm, we’re putting it on display there on 23 October. This city’s leadership, with regards to Hungarian-German friendship and their respect towards Hungary, would like to unveil it on our national holiday.

Do you expect different reactions from abroad?

There too, a committee decided whether it can be erected or not. The director of the Ulm museum, Herr Grass actually said that it has to be displayed immediately. But it captured the attention of the chief architect and the head of Donau Center as well. At first, they wanted to put it up by the museum, but that wouldn’t have been the right location. So it’s going to be erected at a more popular spot, on the bank of the Danube, in front of the castle walls.

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“You’re asking me if I’m satisfied with Budapest’s statue culture? No, I’m not.”

What goals are you trying to achieve with the sculpture?

Hungary’s first contemporary sculpture of this sort was put on display in Budapest. I’m not talking about contemporary art from Szentendre in the 80s. I think that this is a truly contemporary piece of artwork, in an extremely large size. My goal was to show people that pieces of contemporary art can be integral parts of a city, that they can become one of its building blocks.

There are plans for a few more of these types of statues appearing in the city around December.

As of now, I have a statue in Berlin, a 13-meter-tall one right by Gorkij Theatre. Graz has also expressed their interest and there are negotiations with Moscow, they would also like a similar gigantic sculpture. I would really like to go to Vienna as well. I think that there is a future to all of this.

What do you think of Budapest’s statue culture in general?

You’re asking me if I’m satisfied with Budapest’s statue culture? No, I’m not. I think that public statues are headed in a completely different direction than what is dictated by the arts today. Let’s not talk about those bronze little people or the cutesy policeman or the Columbo that isn’t even Columbo.

I say that many more contemporary sculptures should be displayed on the streets of Budapest. I’m positively sure that not only tourists would love them, people living in the city would too. Let’s dare to create! In my case, this sculpture represents a reserved, gray color scheme: since it erupts from the ground, I had to use colors that we associate with nature. My next sculptures, however, will be pink, blue and yellow, so that they stand out from their surroundings. In Europe, it’s common practice that there are harsh contrasts with classical buildings, and that contemporary statues are placed in a city’s historical district.

Interview by Ádám Kanicsár


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