Artportal’s Weekly Artguide Resumes Welcome to our new series of weekly reviews and previews of what takes place in the Hungarian art scene! Our focus will be seen to have shifted somewhat to include more events of international interest, mostly ones that can be placed in a commercial as well as an artistic context. The shift will surely be borne out by our very first piece below. Miklós Hernádi D.Sc., Editor
A significant first of its kind, if not indeed a breakthrough, took place at the Austrian Cultural Forum, an annex to the Austrian Embassy itself, with the joint show of an established artist from Austria (Gunter Damisch) and one from Hungary (Kossuth Laureate Tamás Hencze) which opened on 17 May. The express aim of the show was, if the Austrian Ambassador’s, Dr. Michael Zimmermann’s opening speech is anything to go by, to establish a „Kunstmarkt”, i.e. an art market in even diplomatic premises. No small feat even when we consider the Budapest French Institute’s ventures over the last few years to present remarkable French and Hungarian art collections as opposed to artists’ untaintedly non-commercial shows to the public. But there was nothing for sale there. Here, by way of contrast, every piece, whether by Damisch or Hencze, put on show by the notable Lienz, Austria gallery owner Mr Gaudens Pedit is expressly for sale. Is it the general European art market slump that has forced even a Budapest diplomatic mission to open up its venues for bringing recovery nearer?Such good intentions, not to speak of good deeds, are certainly needed for most European artists to believe in a recovery, however slow. They have not been able to sell anything except for humiliating prices for many years now. And still, they keep producing new work as I learned talking to some of those present. Hooked on the daily thrill of painting as long as their utensils last? Hoping for a better future against all odds? Whatever drives them, the work they produce in such dire straits deserves particular attention. Whether the vernissage I attended the other night will turn out to be more than a promising departure surely depends on the more-than-diplomatic skills of Mr Pedit to lure potential buyers on tours of the joint show during its quieter hours until 1 June.The state of the art market for contemporary artists across Europe is bad enough as it is.Without any quick fix seen on the horizon, it is commendable that even a diplomatic establishment in Budapest is pitching in to improve it, or at least stop it from becoming devastating. Review Júlia Cserba: Kupka and BeöthyDealing mainly in artists active between the two world wars, the Paris-based Galerie Le Minotaure has come up with a joint show of Czech artist František Kupka and Hungarian-born artist István Beöthy , better known in France as Etienne Beothy.
Fans of art attached to Le Minotaure have had their encounters with works by both artists over the years but in contrast to world-famous Kupka whom the gallery has exhibited in his own right quite a few times, this is the first time it presents Beöthy’s works on an individual footing rather than group affiliation. The stuff by Beöthy shown is truly extraordinary. All of it comes from the sculptor-painter’s bequest with most of the pieces never before seen by the public. On view e.g. are his early 30s wooden reliefs including his Bird (1931), his Phallic Form of 1937, or his Adam, Eve and the Serpent of 1939. In keeping with his role as a founding member of the Abstraction-Création group of artists, quite a few of his 30s compositions including coloured geometric elements are featured along with a true rarity, his early, 1920s design for a wooden geometric funeral memorial. The related documents and relics include his design for an invitation card to his 1948 show entitled Rythme plastique put on at the Galerie Maeght, a first edition copy of his 1939 art book as well as the cover design and manuscript notes for his later art book Le problème de la création, not to speak of a selection of the pastel crayons actually used by him. Co-organising the show at the Minotaure was Galerie Alain Le Gaillard and it was timed to coincide with the appearance in French of Krisztina Passuth’s long-awaited catalogue raisonné on Beöthy (listing all of his sculpture) published first in Hungarian by Budapest-based Enciklopédia Publishers. Along with Beöthy, Le Minotaure is presently paying homage (just 6 years after his latest one-man show at the same venue) to František Kupka by exhibiting some singular pieces created by the Czech artist, another luminary of the Abstraction-Création group of artists, who had been one of the pioneering protagonists of Orphism, an offshoot of early 20th century abstract painting. Kupka’s works shown jointly with those of Beöthy were executed during roughly the same period, i.e. in the 1910-1930s. The 15-piece selection includes a 1910 drawing, some gouaches of the late 1920s, and some examples of his typical 1930s rotund compositions like his Etude pour la musique or his Machinisme. Kupka’s name has often surfaced in the press lately because Czech art historian Lenka Jaklova had succeeded in locating and identifying Kupka’s grave in the Parisian Père-Lachaise cemetary. Her objective to have Kupka’s remains re-buried in his native Czech small town Opocno has met not only with the approval of the Czech Minister of Culture and the locals of Opocno, but also the opposition of many who think that, preponderantly, it is Paris that had been Kupka’s genuine home city, i.e. the place where he should continue to rest. Preview Robert MapplethorpeMuseum of Contemporary Art – Ludwig Museum BudapestMay 25, 2012 – September 30, 2012.
A renowned figure of contemporary photography, Robert Mapplethorpe (1946–1989) was in his element in a domain defined by conventions and revolt, classicism and non-conformist cultures, where each picture serves as a document of hard-fought identities, as well as inciting and recording social and artistic debates.Ludwig Museum Budapest features nearly two hundred works by Robert Mapplethorpe, from his early Polaroid photos to pieces from his final years. Realised in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation New York, this large-scale exhibition is presented to an Hungarian audience for the first time with an opening address by President of the Foundation Michael Ward Stout and Ludwig Museum Budapest Director Barnabás Bencsik. Mapplethorpe developed an increasingly committed and professional attitude to photography. His quest for the perfect image led him to classical compositions and subjects. While precision of forms and a quality of reserve were combined in his works, his intense attention to his models remained unchanged; he photographed torsos and floral still-lifes with the same cool professionalism. His nudes evoke classical Greek statues and Renaissance masterpieces, with their arrangement and sculptural approach to the body dating back to traditions that have existed for several hundred years. Such an incarnation of classical formalism, however, was juxtaposed with shocking new subjects and stark sexual fetishes, resulting in radical re-creations of the approach to tradition.The perfect image called for the perfect body: his shots of black men, female body-builders and austere flowers seem to articulate his one and only vision, again and again. He almost always worked in the studio, most often in black and white, using increasingly defined tones. With unified backgrounds and balance of forms, his photos remove the subjects from their own realities to relocate them in the timeless, frozen space of the photograph. In terms of their statue-like beauty and rigorous composition of every detail, his pictures continue and renew the classical photographic tradition all at once. Such classical virtues, however, did not make these photos exempt from criticism: both his subject matter and their manner of presentation sparked controversy. Their sexual themes aroused unease, and criticism of the work failed to make a distinction between the statue-like beauty of body parts and torsos, the sexual stereotypes associated with black male bodies, and the objectification of the bodies.Perhaps the most important Budapest-based art institution bridging the contemporary art scenes of many European and overseas countries, Ludwig Museum Budapest now follows up with a vengeance the much smaller-scale (and highly controversial) shows that were held of Mapplethrope’s work in the Hungarian capital in the mid-1990s.