Jani Leinonen's 'Hunger King' In Budapest Serves Up Money and Activism, But No Burgers
There is a new restaurant in one of Budapests' swankiest neighborhoods, but if you're looking for a four-star dining experience this might not be it. Finnish artist Jani Leinonen has just opened Hunger King, an art installation that decries Hungary's income gap. Talk about art biting back. Hunger King visitors can choose between the "rich" or "poor" queues. The "rich" line, which rolls out a red carpet for its patrons, also treats them to guilt trip, with signage dotting the way with facts on how the rich are valued in the country, citing tax decreases, school subsidies, and family benefits among the luxuries.
Ultimately, though, the rich line ends in a less-than-glamorous meal: a fake burger and fries, along with a "Capitalism" drink lettered like an old-fashioned Coke product.
If you choose the "poor" line, you won't get the red carpet treatment, standing out to the side of red-rope barriers beside the rich queue. The facts in that snaking line are certainly more sobering: meager housing allowance, denied the right to equal opportunity through education, inadequate support. But at the end, the "poor" customers receive a burger box holding the equivalent of $15, or the daily minimum wage in Budapest.
Because of the limited supplies (you can imagine how many people there are willing to wait in a line for $15), the cash burgers were only for the first 50 people in the "poor" line on opening day. Since, it has been the first 20, and will continue until the piece closes on July 6. But hey, they've still got a special on authoritarian policies running!
Leinonen has a history of using modern art to criticize wealth inequality. In a sculpture series, he replaced Ronald McDonald with religious figures. Further picking on the fast food behemoth, Leinonen sent his "Food Liberation Army" to intervene at a Helsinki McDonalds. In 2011 a group of masked men stole a Ronald statue and ransomed it back to the corporate office with questions about their food sourcing and ethical stances. When a McDonalds spokesperson refused to answer the questions, they held a public decapitation of Ronald.
So, if you're in Budapest before July, stop into Hunger King for your $15 and a side of activism.