The quiet waters of Hungarian art collecting have been stirred up and muddied by yet another scandal, this one yet again linked to the provincial town of Szeged. (A few years ago several highly priced pastels of József Rippl-Rónai sitting in a collection in Szeged were offered for a genuine Mercedes-Benz but the deal fell through, and not because the car was a fake.) The online edition of Hungary’s leading daily Népszabadság reported on 22 June that coming form a Szeged source, fine-looking paintings signed by Lajos Gulácsy, André Derain, Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt, and, yes, Adolf Hitler had been offered for sale in several (unnamed) Budapest galleries. The report gave no clue as to who exactly had raised the alarm but police subsequently raided several Budapest sites and duly confiscated the paintings in question. (Two were being examined at an official laboratory when the police arrived.) Reports also say that police action has also taken place in an unnamed Szeged location.The irony of this scarce, not to say reticent reporting is really the only fact mentioned, namely that it was the police of Heves county of all places (rather than that of Csongrád county whose seat Szeged is, or indeed that of Budapest) that had launched the investigation, searched those Budapest and Szeged locations, and confiscated the paintings. We are left wondering about this mystery which heaps rather neatly upon all the other mysteries left unexplained by the available reports of a scandal that may well have huge international import. Should at least some of the paintings prove authentic (even if stolen) their effect on the art market could be unthinkable. The full-blown, signed Picasso alone could be worth billions. The final result that all the paintings in question are in fact fakes could well shatter international confidence in masterworks with a Hungarian provenance. Information, please, the sooner, the better.
Zsolt Mészáros:Tibor Csiky’s (1932-1989) memorial exhibitionKOGART Gallery31 May – 29 June Drawn mostly from the artist’s bequest, the pieces on view offer a long overdue comprehensive cross section of the artist’s entire oeuvre including graphic art, metal and wooden objects, and conceptual photographs from all interconnected periods of his creative life. Due to the interpretive efforts of curators Noémi Szabó and Éva Kiss as well as the artist’s widow, visitors are offered an overview that is both thorough and lucid.
Csiky’s first period focuses on biological structures, a key concept of the „bio-Romanticism” exposed in Ernő Kállai’s 1947 book, a concept that calls on post-war artists to reveal „the hidden face of Nature”, i.e. a dynamic organism of interconnected structures. Csiky had carved those interconnected structures directly into noble wood (mahagony, cherry, walnut and pear) with exquisite craftsmanship. For him, an authentic artistic concept mattered just as much as an immediate relationship with the material one worked with. His handling of his wooden plates recalls the intricate, soft, veil-like surfaces of Renascence „bas reliefs” (e.g. his Bubbles series, 1968). Other works of his from this period apply the repetitive movements of waves, streams, and the pulsation of positive vs. negative shapes (e.g. Wave, Movement, Ordered Structure, 1969). The same is true of his curves and bands on his felt-pen drawings but notions of physics are superimposed upon biological forms here. Taken as one single spectacle, Csiky’s curves overstep mere decorativeness by beginning to work like vibrations making way for the phenomenon of interference. Linkages in Csiky’s work to physics are most probably due to his years of doing work in ELTE physics laboratories.
In the early 1970s he turned to metal. His approach became more and more straightforward: his composition became more purely constructive, his surfaces smoother, his forms more closed (e.g. his Space series, 1979). Not that his previous playfulness should have disappeared, on the contrary, even his most minimalist metal objects make witty references to the engineering idioms of various metal parts. Inevitably, for in his period he replaced his previous organic structures for mechanical structures in his search for a methodology best suited to his current artistic concerns. From the late 1970s Csiky returned to wood but this time around to shape 3D objects rather than 2D reliefs. The chef d’oeuvre of this period is undoubtedly his Spatial Curve (1977) on view at the exhibition, characterised as „one of the major achievements of Hungarian geometrical art as infused with minimal art” (István Hajdu), and as „one of the most provocative works ever created in Hungarian art” (László Beke). In a smaller room we can see Csiky’s concept-art photographs made between 1973 and 1975, works seriously to be reckoned with not just in Csiky’s oeuvre but also in the overall history of Hungarian photography.
Never a graduate of a professional art academy, Tibor Csiky had constantly taught himself not just in fields directly relevant to the visual arts but also in fields as removed from each other as music and quantum mechanics. He involved himself heavily in such semi-underground Avant-Garde circles as the Zugló Circle, the Petrigalla flat-parties, or Iparterv. Influenced at first by Arp and Brancusi, his Hungarian idol was Dezső Korniss, and he regarded works by Hungarian expatriate Zoltán Kemény as very close to his own endeavours. In his quiet fashion, he was an emblematic figure to fellow artists who were, just as he was, fully committed to the best Hungarian Avant-Garde traditions.