Hungarian born Nicolas Schöffer was undoubtedly one of the key movers of late modernist international art. With his pioneering kinetic light structures he achieved lasting recognition worldwide, a recognition, however, that was sadly lacking in his native country until he bequeathed his oeuvre to his native Hungarian town Kalocsa. Marking the 100th anniversary of his birth, his native town set up a series of events on 6 September. Clearly, the aim was to raise Schöffer’s recognition in Hungary to a new level but on the whole, the Kalocsa events of 6 September have largely gone unnoticed.
Not that anything was missing. There was the obligatory press conference. Speaking at the opening ceremony were such dignitaries as the artist’s widow and the French ambassador toHungary, then there was a public screening of a 1982 film portraiting Schöffer followed by a symposium on his art with such proven experts speaking as László Beke, Tamás Aknai, and Stockholm-based Zita Kádár (the latter dwelling on Schöffer’s ties to a new urbanism), and a special graphic art section of the Schöffer Collection was opened to the public by Gábor Martos, editor of the art magazine MúzeumCafé. To top it all off, the town’s Chronos 8 tower erected at its bus terminal donned a colourful kinetic light garment, a spectacle at nightfall clearly designed to win the hearts and minds of ordinary locals along with the dignitaries present.For all the long years of thoughtful preparation, however, the commemoration fell rather flat. Not because it was lacking in persuasive power but because it had little or no media backing. Schöffer undoubtedly remains who he is, an overarching figure in post-1945 European art, but too few people know about it. I have posted the above observations to remedy this in a small way.
Review Continuation. Recent Acquisitions Made by the Municipal Picture Gallery III.Museum Kiscell – Municipal Picture Gallery30 August – 30 September Artportal’s main Hungarian language section has covered the display of Museum Kiscell’s recent acquisitions in a lively manner.May I suggest to size up the show in a more sedate way in English? Here’s the gist of the opening address given by one of Hungary’s top art historians raising some vital museum policy issues as well as weighing the show. Gábor Pataki: Continued, Yet Again.It was 125 years ago that a Budapest Municipal Museum was founded, and 80 years ago a Municipal Gallery was launched as an extension of the former. I must disappoint lovers of museological crime stories for I shall largely bypass the evolution of the collection as it is today, an evolution replete with about-turns, shifts of focus, mergers and separations, en bref whatever is needed for a collection to claim both a broken childhood and a stormy adulthood.
The collections of Hungarian museums have been mostly determined by an overwhelming lack of money throughout their existence. So has the collection of the Municipal Gallery. The early 1900s, the late 1930s, the period between 1946 and 1948, and even perhaps that between 1968 and 1985 were truly exceptions, but not too much. Today, even the will is lacking on the part of the Government to endow museums with even sparse resources, and local governments, like in our case the Mayor of Budapest’s office, are hard put to even maintain at least some of their cultural institutions, let alone extend or enrich them. What there remains to do for a collection like this one is merely to acquire the odd chef d’oeuvre and some long-cherished stop-gap artwork. But being topographically and organisationally bound to Budapest is a fact that burdens the Municipal Gallery not just with acquiring local artwork (like provincial museums that are expected to purchase only from artists who are residents of respective catchment areas) but also with providing a sample of the entire Hungarian art scene since Budapest is really the gist of Hungary as a whole.It is this latter duty in which the Minicipal Gallery has excelled for all the immense financial difficulties it has faced and still faces. This on top of the topographical duty of trying to provide a feel of the place, too. (A task beautifully accomplished by e.g. Berlinische Galerie.)Although some critics of this collection may well miss reproductions of actual Budapest streets whether bombed out or re-built as well as a certain metropolitan iconography, we do well to remind ourselves that a lot of the painters and sculptors residing in Budapest do not care to remain on their home grounds when working. In contrast to filmmaking or philosophy, there is no „Budapest school” suggested by the capital’s art scene. But also, perhaps more importantly, what really matters in art is much rather the approach than the actual scene or scenery. The Municipal Gallery, in sync with Székesfehérvár’s and Pécs’ local museums particularly in the 1960-1980s, did manage to acquire what was best and most progressive in the art produced over the last half a century! It is due to this persistent effort that the collection can display a self-contained history of late 20th century and contemporary Hungarian painting and sculpture in its full riches.Only one piece of this third sample of the Gallery’s acquisitions points back to pre-1945 times: the small masterpiece of Tamás Lossonczy, an eloquent testimony to his friendship and intellectual tie with the great Lajos Vajda who had died in 1942.The rest are key pieces produced by the neo-avantgarde of the 60s and 70s with works by Pauer, Hajas, Koncz, Donáth and Ficzek coming to one’s mind first. (Ficzek, by the way, had lived in Pécs all his life which goes to show how senseless it would be for the Gallery to insist on collecting only artists residing in the capital.)Also, there is a copious sample of the new constructivists including Konok, Matzon, Halász, Forgács, then installations by Drozdik, Hajnal Németh, Kőrösényi, and exquisite pieces by Klimó, Stuiber, Chilf, Eszter Csurka, and the crystal-clear Mária Lugossy whom we accompanied to her grave only this morning. What can I wish in clonclusion? For all the hindrances and obstacles: firm continuation! Things To See From the wealth of shows and events offered by a re-enlivened autumn scene this week I have selected the following: At the Vasarely Museum of the Museum of Fine Arts a unique get-together of neo-geo(metrical) artists can be savoured until 11 November. It is called Paris Wien Budapest Transfer and some 30 artists take part. Painter Ákos Matzon presents his new album at the Írók Boltja bookshop on Budapest’s Andrássy Street on 19 September at 4 pm. Author of the album, former minister of culture Zoltán Rockenbauer will answer questions put to him by writer Szilárd Podmaniczky. (Matzon will doubtlessly speak, too.) On 20 September Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art will launch a major show entitled Workstation put on by conceptual artist Antal Lakner (yes, he is related to distinguished, Berlin-based painter László Lakner). Antal Lakner had first made himself known by a wholly imaginary design of the intricate (non-existent) metro line system of Istambul, and he had also meticulously mapped a (non-existent) hill called Buchberg in the middle of Berlin. The show can be seen until 6 January. The Society of Hungarian Painters presents works of homage dedicated to József Rippl-Rónai, the great Hungarian modernist who had exhibited with the Paris Nabis in the early 1900s. The show will be opened on 22 September at 11.30 am in Szekszárd by art historian Ernő P. Szabó.