It Speaks For Itself | The International Herald Tribune on Hungarian Contemporary Art | Site Inspection – A Museum Reflecting on Itself
Gábor Rieder: It Speaks For Itself
The Young Artists’ Studio Association have marched into the marble-walled enclosures of the Hungarian National Gallery. The material, chosen competitively, sprays some of the freshest trends into the archaic venue smelling up till now only of 19th century masters.
A remarkable first occasion: this writer examined a worn-out exotic plant in a plastic wrapping and bound fast for a long time to ascertain whether it was part of the contemporary project going on nearby, or had been inconspicuously kicked under the stairs by a watchful guard. No decision was reached by this writer, signifying that the experience is thoroughly „contemporary” throughout the grandiose exhibition named „It Speaks For Itself”.
Not that any part of the exhibition could indeed speak for itself. The Association is by no means known for its easily accessible, popular output. What it really provides is much rather a conceptual platform for under-40 non-profit artists who dream about resident artist’s grants in Berlin rather than wealthy Hungarian buyers, and it makes them perfectly happy if they get the odd mention as being critical-minded or socially committed artists.
The copious material placed on the ground and first floors of the Gallery’s Building A tries its best to defy the red-marble walls around it. The UFO sensors exhibited by Ádám Kokesch seem to go besirk under the arches of the one-time Museum of the Workers’ Movement. What is beyond doubt is that none of the exhibited works are having a really good time far away as they are from their familiar white cubes and black boxes. As to the fleet of TV sets operated by the Gallery, they are not at all compatible with the hi-tech gadgets inevitably populating any well-functioning contemporary exhibition space. Yet, there is the odd curator’s gag like the questionnaire filled in and placed upon the wall by László Karácsonyi, a gag hacking as it were the entire idea of the exhibition.
The curator suggests three guidelines: that of the medium, that of social reality, and that of the artist’s ego. These are mere retrospectively coined slogans, however; what the exhibition really conveys is a stand for the latest trends in art. Due to this, the presence of traditional oil-painting is minimal, restricted as it is to a few Batykós rich in facture, a few of Márta Czene’s hyper-realist montages, and a few of Dániel Horváth’s studies in refined mysticism.
Much more definitive of the general idea of the exhibition is the pattern printed upon black plastic preserving the contours of interior decorators all over a worthless spread of floor cover. Equally definitive is the drawing of a set of branches representing the ways in which Lőrinc Boros and friends have spent the allowance issuing from their Esterházy Foundation grant.
Should you insist on paintings, you are served mostly watercolours, the most fashionable medium of the past few years mainly applied here for making logbook entries reminding conceptual artists of their next project, and then framed and exhibited as full-fledged works of art. You can find the same logbook entries in animated films, too. Klára Petra Szabó, e.g. presents a keyhole view of a woman dressed in red doing her jobs in her kitchen – filmed from watercolours, of course. Eszter Szabó’s disgruntled, snuffling old woman has also moved into film from sheets of watercolour.
Quite a few graphic works have been selected, too, starting from the soiled scribbles set up among stalls of Scotch tape and writing desks; right on to the huge lava triptych of Tibor iski Kocsis, or the political leaflet presented by Tamás Kaszás.
Browsing through the exciting material, we also find a figure from the South Park TV series cast into a bronze medal as well as ateliers shut into peeping boxes, statues that can be rolled along their fringes, and beautifully developed b/w photographs, or crucifixes lying on the museum floor. The Hungarian National Gallery has made its first step towards becoming a trendy exhibition space for contemporary art.
Hungarian National Gallery
16 July – 4 September
The International Herald Tribune on Hungarian Contemporary Art
As an unintended but hugely useful fallout of the Hungarian presence at this year’s Vienna Art Fair IHT’s 9 July weekend issue carries a long article entitled “The Hungarian Contemporary Art Puzzle”. Penned by London-based American journalist Ginanne Brownell who also writes for Newsweek, the Financial Times, and The Times, the article starts by remembering the exciting stuff presented by Hungarian galleries at the Fair (click here for our review of this year’s Vienna Art Fair), and goes on to describe the experiences arising from Brownell’s subsequent visit to Budapest, a visit initiated by one of the Vienna exhibitors, Ani Molnár, chair of the Association of Hungarian Contemporary Gallery Owners. While in Budapest, Brownell met and talked with many artists, gallery owners, and museum executives. Her article illustrated by several pieces of Hungarian contemporary art, can be perused online by clicking here.
Site Inspection – A Museum Reflecting on Itself
21 July – 23 October
Ludwig Museum Budapest – Contemporary Arts Museum
Spectacular new museum buildings and the sky-rocketing number of their visitors point to a thorough-going change in the function of museums over the last decades. Museums in their new sites are not just depositories of treasures, but also places that wish to educate and entertain huge masses of people. On the 20th anniversary of the first presentation of its permanent collection, the Budapest Ludwig Museum looks into its own soul as it were by examining the general concept of the museum as an institution. This soul-searching emerges from many Hungarian and East-Central-European Neo-Avant-garde works presented that are acutely critical of museums as institutions. Also presented are some ironic and intellectually thrilling international contemporary works of art, some of them for the very first time in Hungary.