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The Festival Puli

Photo by Francisco X. Guerra, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

The Festival Puli

Szőke paints and constructs during different stages of his Puli-making process on the National Mall.

The Festival Puli

Szőke paints and constructs during different stages of his Puli-making process on the National Mall.

The Festival Puli

On June 29, 2013, the Puli dog sculpture was lifted with heavy equipment from the place where it had been constructed to a new location near the Hungarian Peacock Tower in the center of the National Mall.

A Contemporary Hungarian Artist: Gábor Miklós SzÖke

By Tasha Sandoval, 2013 Katzenberger Art History Intern, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

This online exhibition focuses on Hungarian contemporary artist Gábor Miklós Szőke and the sculpture he created for the Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival program at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Gábor Miklós Szőke is not just a contemporary sculptor—he is a creator of monumental installations scaling upwards of fourteen feet. His finished work for the Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival program was a symbolic rendering of a Hungarian shepherding dog breed, the Hungarian Puli.

Szőke makes his large-scale sculptures by screwing recycled wooden slats of different sizes together to create his imposing animal subjects. Though he graduated only in 2010 from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, he has been extremely prolific, installing his animal sculptures throughout Hungary and much of Europe.

“The main inspiration is animals, but even within this I have a personal mythology about a dog, which currently is my dog, Dante. My art is about him, which is a museum topic, or an art topic in a stricter sense. But otherwise, it’s mostly about animals and everything that goes with it—instincts, dynamism, grand dimensions, and spontaneity.”

Szőke assembles inexpensive materials such as wood and metal to create fantastical creatures including horses, whales, bulls, and of course, the Hungarian Heritage Puli. Szőke made the Puli with recycled wood slats, painted black and nailed together to shape the Puli’s corded coat. Szőke did not follow a meticulous plan to construct the Puli. Instead, he built it like he builds all his projects: he begins with a basic idea or outline that he develops through intuition and imagination. On his Web site, Szőke refers to himself as a statue breeder “who is experimenting with all materials to finally make the most appropriate being.”

“Since childhood I loved disassembling and reassembling things, and at home, when I was little, I would disassemble anything, from my mother’s cabinet to anything else, whether it was expensive antique furniture or a washing machine, and I would make it into another thing. So eight years ago, in an art colony, where I was supposed to carve a stone, I did not feel like it at all, so I started assembling the scrap wood I found there; that’s where it all started, and the process is still ongoing.”

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