ARTplacc the Hungarian summer art exhibition fair and festival finished its third edition last week by the Lake Balaton. We asked Ákos Peleskey, the festival’s main organizer, about this recent success and their aims for the future.
It was your idea to launch the festival two years ago. Back then, it was “only” a fair and exhibition by leading Hungarian contemporary galleries. The third edition is already a full-blown art festival. This year, ARTplacc had 100 exhibiting artists, 500 works, and 5000 visitors in 5 days. How did it all begin?
Ákos Peleskey: I have been involved with contemporary art for many years now. The cultural heritage and exceptional natural quality of the Tihany Peninsula are well known, it is one of the most coveted places in the Balaton region. More importantly, the Hungarian University of Fine Arts has its art camp here, and thus almost all contemporary artists have some sort of connection with the place. I myself am an art gallery owner who spends every summer here, so it seemed like an obvious step to invite colleagues from Hungary and abroad for a joint exhibition and fair – this was the idea behind the first one. Since then, we have grown into a festival – we now include literary, theatrical, and musical performances as well as films. This year we had a joint photography exhibition in a separate space as well as five different video art selections, including the international Crosstalk Video Art Festival.
Where would you position ARTplacc in the contemporary Hungarian art scene?
Ákos: This year we not only partnered up with a fair number of contemporary galleries (Deák Erika Gallery, Dovin Gallery, Erdész Gallery, Faur Zsófi Gallery, Gaudens Pedit Gallery, Inda Galéria, Kálmán Makláry Fine Arts, kArton Gallery, Molnár Ani Gallery, Mono Gallery, Nessim Gallery, NextArt Gallery, Várfok Gallery) but also some important studios (Art Quarter Budapest, Inventio Arts) and the internationally recognized Vass Collection as well as educational institutions (Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, University of Pécs -Faculty of Arts and College of Eszterházy Károly in Eger). We would like ARTplacc to become a key event in the art scene, and frankly it seems we are on the right track. Everything is changing in Hungary today, and art is no exception. On the one hand – from the institutional side – this is negative because of the unpredictability of support from the state. On the other hand, it is beneficial because state-funded insitutions are not able to do their job, so they happily participate in private projects.
What kind of advantages does a village on Lake Balaton have over Budapest?
Ákos: Tihany is a peninsula – a naturally defined closed area with uncomparable natural beauty and a history of important Hungarian artists coming to stay here. The Hungarian middle classes own holiday retreats here, and many of them are only rediscovering Lake Balaton, some 110-170 kilometers from Budapest, these days. Most of them simply do not have the time to slow down and enjoy art in their hectic urban everyday life. Here, during the holidays, they can allow themselves the time to enjoy an exhibition or a performance. We hope to help form a new generation of art collectors as well.
Apart from ambitions to support contemporary art, what sort of potential do you see in the area? Can the heyday of the Balaton region be brought back, when its cultural life was flourishing as a meeting point for a bipolar world back in the 70s?
Ákos: In the more developed areas of the world, contemporary arts have huge potential. Unfortunately for Hungary, the generation that grew up before the war and lived until the seventies was the last one to feel a natural need to decorate their homes with contemporary artifacts. After the change of regime, things from this respect changed for the worse. The intelligentsia is in a hard situation financially and the nouveau riche – with few exceptions – lack the cultural values to appreciate contemporary art. One of the aims of the event is to end the cultural pollution that is, sadly, very much present in Hungary today. If this message does go through then Tihany could be a second meeting point for contemporary arts after Budapest.
The main venues of the festival are three very marked points of the peninsula. One of them is the exhibition and fair venue, the other is a sanctuary of contemporary photography, and the last one, directly by the lake, is for various artistic performances. What is the idea behind this, and do you plan to expand in the future?
Ákos: We would like to “conquer” the whole peninsula, acupuncture-like, with a lot more site-specific installations, public statues, and other projects. Some previously mentioned Hungarian academic institutions already had such projects this year, and they will continue to do so next year. There are plans for international co-projects between academical institutes of the region and with the involvement of international curatorial organizations. We have contacted several CEE cultural institutions and would like to invite artists from as many countries as possible in the future.
Tihany has an unquestionable cultural heritage: The first written memory of the Hungarian language from 1055 is kept in the Abbey, and the landscape itself is breathtakingly beautiful. How do you integrate contemporary art in this environment?
Ákos: The cultural landscape of Tihany is part of the Balaton Uplands National Park, who, by the means that are available to them, do support our vision. The hardest thing is involving the already existing exhibition places, which are owned by locals. We hope to also convince the Abbey to see us as partners in the future. For now we are still too worldly for them, even though we approached them with religious themes.
What are your plans for the future? In which directions do you think you should develop?
Ákos: The key actors of the arts scene did visit us this year, or at least they are aware of our existence and follow what we do. We got a lot of feedback from Hungary and abroad regarding plans to participate next year. It is very important that we get noticed in the international scene. The heyday of the Balaton was when torn-apart families from East and West Germany, as well Hungarians who had fled the country used it as a yearly meeting place in the summer. We had a lot of Austrians visiting, for example. The region was thriving. With the change of regime came the decline. We believe that with an internationally recognized cultural event we can put the place back on the map. The fact that this is happening somewhere that looks and, climatically-speaking, feels like Provence, a mere 220 km away from Vienna, should help too.
Ákos Peleskey (1969) is involved in various fields of contemporary art and design. He is the co-owner of MONO Fashion and Art that has been the first centre and store in Budapest of almost all the contemporary fashion designers in Hungary and that of art gallery MONO, that focuses on both contemporary art and design. Their own fashion brand NUBU has just won the Central European Fashion Award. MONO Concept’s most recent project is ARTplacc Contemporary Art Festival Tihany where they cooperate with the Association of Hungarian Contemporary Art Galleries.