Quite apart from its massive auctioneering presence dating back to the nineties, Kieselbach Auction House has also kept up its output of spectacular, yet scholarly artbooks over the years. This amid the recent stagnation, if not shrinkage, of auction sales, its main source of income, throughout the Hungarian scene. Laudable foolhardiness, I must say, and one that could even prove provident with the recovery seen just around the corner by many observers including proprietor Tamás Kieselbach himself.Without the hope of such recovery not even the low-priced treasures of Hungarian painting appearing at Kieselbach’s next auction on 6 June can promise long-haul profits to potential bidders. (Most items can be bought at lower than estimated prices; rare reserve prices never even reach estimated price ranges, as auction curator Gábor Einspach has told me.) How best to attract bidders? Your first trick must be to put on attractive auctions for them, risking failure perhaps, but certainly letting out reassuring signals of imminent recovery.The House is busy letting out such signals on another front, too. It has brought out two sumptuous albums containing their stocks of fine Hungarian paintings and graphic art respectively that are up for grabs apart from their auctions. The fight for increasing sales on today’s Hungarian art market involves more than just the selfish wish for grabbing some money. By increasing sales you are potentially putting up prices back to their pre-crisis level which not only helps commercial enterprises like Kieselbach’s but it also helps private collections regain their pre-crisis market values. (Along with real estate, most art collections have lost 30-40 per cent of their market values recently.) So, galleries and collectors seem to have a joint interest in re-invigorating the Hungarian art market. Private collectors nowadays are encouraged to buy more so that, as well as their latest acquisitions, the rest of their collections can also increase their value. Their profit can thus be seen to be dual: buying cheap is only one advantage along with the other advantage of a return to at least its previous value of the stuff they had previously bought.
ReviewVery Special Joys: A Retrospective of Endre Tót, 1971-2011MODEM Museum of Contemporary Art, Debrecen2 June – 9 September A Kossuth-laureate painter’s exhibition that has very little to do with the act of painting. Sound enigmatic?Well-known and coming to appreciable fame in the sixties, in 1970-71 Tót broke radically with painting (his pre-1971 work is all the more sought after by Hungarian collectors today) and has since been pre-occupied with Concept Art. „Tót may well have possessed the most phenomenal painter talent among artists living East of Amsterdam. And yet, he voluntarily relinquished painting for the sake of a truth that he had gradually recognised to be even more important than painting.” (Géza Perneczky, writing in Új Művészet, October, 2003) As a farewell to his painter period he prepared his artist’s book „My Unpainted Canvasses” (1970), a virtual presentation of his canvasses never actually accomplished. Also in the early 70s, he evolved some of his basic ideas like “Nothing/Zer0”, “Rains and Gladnesses” that were to permeate his works in subsequent decades. The new media he employed in his art include telegrams, picture postcards, T-shirts, Xerox copies, typewriters, films, music, posters, graffiti, banners, actions, artist’s books, street newsreels. Critics recognised his early „Absent Works” published by Cologne-based DuMont Verlag (“Aktuelle Kunst in Ost-Europa”, 1972) to be the very first conceptual works stemming from Eastern-Europe, works that were to be greatly enhanced in subsequent decades. Some other conceptual works of his were also published in Achille Bonito Oliva’s „Europe/America: The Different Avant-Garde” (Milan, 1976). „He entered the stage of mail art almost in the very first hour”, wrote J. M. Poison in his catalogue of 1971 entitled „Mail Art-Communication – A Distance-Concept”. His fellow mail art correspondents included his later friend Ben Vautier, John Armleder, George Brecht, Daniel Spoerri, Cosey Fanny Tutti, Genesis P-Orridge, Dieter Roth, Marina Abramovich, Ken Friedmann and his dog. His mail art was exhibited at the Paris Bi-Annual of 1972 together with art by such other mail art pioneers as Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein, Richard Johnson, Ben Vautier, and George Brecht. About his letters written with a zero code Pierre Restany, a friend of Yves Klein’s, wrote this in 1978: „In the immaterial zone of a concentrated (ZEROED) sensitivity Endre Tót appears to be the Yves Klein of mail art, a monochrome of postage.” Tót opted for emigrating from Hungary in 1978.From the late eighties onwards he elaborated on the idea of „absent paintings”, an idea dating back to his Budapest years (My Unpainted Canvasses, 1970, Night Visit to the National Gallery, A Visit to the Museum, both in 1974). With his „absent paintings” he accomplished a virtual return to painting but this was tantamount in his case to its final destruction. The spirit nurturing his Blackout and Catalogued paintings comes from an aesthetics of dearth. Conceived in an aesthetics of disappearance, his „absent” works attempt to visualise nothing and void itself. His large work entitled „Dada Messe in Berlin” was exhibited at the show ICONOCLASH: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art (ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2002) presenting major iconoclastic works by Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, Duchamp, Malevich, Picabia, Warhol, Beuys etc. At the Bremen exhibition „Who Killed the Painting?” (Museum für Moderne Kunst, 2010) his large triptych „Fluxus Triptichon” (2002, 3 x 200 x 125 cm) was on view alongside works by Beuys, Kaprow, Ben Vautier, G. Brecht, Al Hausen, Nam June Paik etc.From the flock of first-class Hungarian painters opting for emigration in the sixties and seventies (Tibor Csernus, László Méhes, Krisztián Frey, László Lakner, Gyula Konkoly, and many others) Endre Tót is probably the most enigmatic one. His Very Special Joys are all bound up with preparing to paint rather than painting itself. Yet, the outbursts of his artistic energy are all the more conspicuous in their aborted, whether merely demonstrative or intensely muffled, forms. In a way, this is art put in reverse gear, offering a powerful lesson to all those who are intrigued by the intricate vagaries of contemporary art. Well done, MODEM, and thank you, Mr Endre Tót!
PreviewsTranshuman Flesh: A Show by József GaálGodot Gallery6 June – 7 July To be introduced by the artist himself, who likes to write on other artists’ works, the sculptures and paintings of this show will elaborate on Gaál’s long-standing obsession with how the human body can or cannot overcome decay and decomposition, something that he tries to convert into a „transhuman”, i.e. uplifting message. Illusion of Progress: An Installation by Szilárd CsekePark Gallery – Molnár Ani GalleryLaunched on 7 June Part of a series of shows put on jointly by the two galleries, this particular one promising to be all the more instructive since it is going to be launched by one of the most insightful of Hungarian art critics, József Mélyi.