Kunsthalle Budapest is the venue for the exhibition of artworks created by the awardees of the state-funded Derkovits Gyula Art Prize scholarship and the winners of the Pécsi József Scholarship for photographers. The scholarships can be given for up to three consecutive years with an age limit of 35 years. We headed to the vernissage with a camera and a dozen of questions in the hope of creating a common portrait of the 35 exhibitors by inviting them to answer one of the questions about their drives and motivations.
How does it feel to see your artworks in the Kunsthalle?
Eszter Korcsmár: It’s a great honor to exhibit at the Kunsthalle, but unfortunately it raises mixed feelings nowadays. This is why I created “Should I cry or should I laugh” in which I can express my feelings in 2X3 variations, depending on how I choose to hold my hands with the expressions. I really can’t decide nowadays.
Ádám Rolik: There are few galleries in Budapest that have such great features as the Kunsthalle. I like the atmosphere of this place. Moreover, the Hungarian art scene also pays attention to events organized here. Therefore, it’s an honor for me to take part in such an exhibition. It is also a chance to get to know some curators, art historians, and other young artists as well. To be honest, if it was up to me I would organize an exhibition for myself every year.
What is a good curator like?
Dia Pintér: This is a complex issue. They should be well informed, open, flexible, courageous, and able to interpret artworks relevantly. Most importantly, a curator has to be able to recognize undisclosed demands and reflect upon them in a way that affects or might affect the local and immediate community. In this way the curator has the same task as the artist, insofar as he or she should offer solutions or alternatives for society’s real issues.
Patrícia Kaliczka: Good curators have no style of their own. That way they can remain objective and crystal clear. They become a filter that enriches; the person who holds the prism, who knows that their duty is not the creation of the colors but to reveal the hues of the already existing colors.
Who do you pay attention to?
Diána Keller: For artists it is essential to pay attention to their contemporaries both nationwide and internationally. The way I see it, the activity of the artist is inseparable from them. It is also important to keep contact with the art lovers as the works are basically created for them.
Sári Ember: To everyone. Or better, I would like to pay attention to everyone I love, like, and know. I think I am a good listener.
What has been the biggest landmark in your career so far?
Tamás Szvet: I participated in a museum residency program at the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) last year, and I found the whole program and contemporary art in South Korea in general really exciting and interesting. The artist-in-residence program gave me a lot: curator visits, exhibitions, publications, but most of all, new ideas and inspiration.
Ákos Stiller: Being able to exhibit at the Kunsthalle is of course a very important opportunity for me, to be able show my pictures to a new audience. As I work for one of the biggest Hungarian news portals as a photo journalist, I am able to present my stories to a much wider spectrum of readers. An important picture story gets more attention from viewers, and some attract hundreds of thousands of viewers, many of whom, however, do not focus all their attention on the photos. That is not the case in the Kunsthalle. That’s why it is so important for me to exhibit a series of the once prosperous Hungarian Steppe, the Puszta.
What will you consider as the peak of your career?
Henrik Martin: If I manage to send my life-size Spacebuddha statue made of solid titanium alloy into the Moon’s orbit I will probably consider it the peak of my career. This would happen in cooperation with NASA or the European Space Agency as part of a monumental art project.
András D. Hajdú: For me as a documentary photographer the ultimate goal is to give the deepest and most complex cross-sectional view of our society. Accordingly, the peak of my career would be to work together with media such as Magnum.
József Csató: The peak of my career would be if I could extract the picture that has been constantly stirring at the back of my mind. Fragments of it are already dripping into my recent paintings, but it would be great if I could see the result next to my favorite painter’s work.
Máté Bartha: As a possible peak of my career, I would consider a point where I would be able to find the right balance between making art for those who are already involved in the art world and engaging in practices that are useful to society in a wider aspect. That means either broadening the range of reception I acquire with my works or putting the artistic practice in use in a more public manner as an ordinary means of making a living. Generally I think that in an ideal world public media, art, and direct social interaction should work together on the very same platform, not divided by types of audiences and interests of the medium.
What is the most prominent Hungarian exhibition place?
Zsófia Pályi: I think the Kunsthalle Budapest is one of the most prestigious exhibition places in Budapest today; so I’m really glad to be part of the current “derkó.pécsi.2014” exhibition of photography and fine arts scholarship awardees in this museum. It’s the first time I have the opportunity to show my brand new work titled “Hungarian Sea” to the public. I received a nice and spacious room with good features, such as the audio spot voice that is also part of my installation. The series is about the Balaton Lake where the scenery reminds us of a coastal resort with its endless horizon. But upon closer examination the characters reveal their real identity with their faces, clothes, and accessories. In the end a virtual game unravels and Balaton remains only a lake, although locals still ironically call it the “Hungarian Sea”. In the near future I would like to find some opportunities to exhibit this work abroad as well.
In which art collections – both Hungarian and international – would you most like to see your work?
János Borsos: The answer will be given by Borsos Lőrinc, the fictive artist created by János Borsos and Lilla Lőrinc in 2008. The answer acts as a call: Right now I am looking for applicants – international art foundations that own museums in at least four countries – for a tender involving the firsthand discovery and popularization of Hungarian contemporary art. The foundation with the best offer will receive the honor to fund the founder of the project for seven years – the fictive contemporary artist Borsos Lőrinc – with the aim of making him one of the key figures in the international art scene, both in professional and in market value terms. The winning foundation will not only receive the honorable title of “Discoverer of Hungarian Fine Arts”; they will have access to (for a modest price) all the artist’s works including iconic pieces from the seven-year period. They will also be able to organize a traveling exhibition for the artist and a Taschen monograph and other various publications in praise of the artist. During this time the purchased artworks may be sold at auctions to further increase their value. 10% of all profits can be invested into the introduction of other Hungarian artists to the international scene in the form of yearly awards. Motto: Let There be a World Famous Hungarian Contemporary Artist! http://www.borsoslorinc.com
Gábor Koós: I would be honored if my works were to be selected into a collection such as the Hungarian National Gallery’s Contemporary Collection, Essl Collection, Somlói-Spengler Collection, Ludwig Collection or Bouwfonds Art Collection.
Do you go to art fairs?
Judit Rabóczky: In Budapest, yes – as an exhibitor as well, if possible. I like that art fairs are not like classic exhibitions but more of a traveling circus in a good sense, so I can even have fun. I like them because different layers meet on all levels and in spaces, so it speaks to everybody.
Do you collect art?
Ákos Szabó: Back in high school we used to exchange works among us. We haven’t stopped doing this, so I have got a couple of works from some of my favorite colleagues.
Borbála Szanyi: During my university years exchanging statues and paintings was quite common and it worked as a nice feedback. That’s when my still very modest yet precious private collection was founded. After school this process stopped and we became more shy with our exchange offers as real values started to form for certain artworks. Recently this has changed: The inhibition has lessened and with certain similar thinking colleagues the dialogue can redevelop. But I have already purchased artworks as well.
Borbála Blahó: No, I don’t collect art. Basically I don’t believe in the act of collecting anything. I like to be surrounded by objects important to me, and I like to have some personal contact with them in my everyday life. Similarily, I’m happier if my works get to the people who personally consider them interesting, and who love to communicate with them in their everyday life, rather than being a part of a famous collection, practically stored in a place rarely seen by anybody. Having said that, I am aware that this way of thinking is not the most beneficial for my artistic career.
Can we speak of Central Eastern European art?
Karsai Dániel: I do not think in terms of regions, but it does not mean I do not realize their influential impact. For me what really matters is the quality and the creation of the product, and it does not – should not – depend on regional location.
István Felsmann: There is a gap of competent buyers in the contemporary art of the CEE region, hence the market is small-sized. This can be considered advantageous because the artists are not trapped by the mass, profit-oriented production and the art of the region remains pure. On the ruins of the “Eastern block” a new, unique way of self-expression has evolved which has recognised its own merits but is still schizoid. Western trends and tendencies are no longer paid that much attention to as the freedoms of “new era”, after the collapse of the communist regimes, have become natural. From here and now, the West is too sterile, frigide, characterised by mannerism. In comparison, the East is sort of dirty and shabby regardless of whether it reflects on society, cities, or even art. I like the Eastern way because I feel more opportunity and space for self-recognition.
How do you see the art scene of Hungary within the Central Eastern European region?
Marcell Németh: For artists of my age there are opportunities, but we have to know how to use them. There are many talented people, but it is easy to get lost without any support. Galleries are serious and possible alternatives for artists, but in Hungary only few people buy artworks. So if your pieces are taken to international fairs by the galleries, you can consider yourself lucky.
Ildikó Péter: There are some very famous Hungarian photographers, who lived and worked in the early 20th century in Paris and New York: Kertesz, Brassai, Munkacsi, Capa, and others. They are known around the world but not really in our own country. Most people, when they think of art, are stuck with painters dating a 100 years back: Cezanne, Monet, Picasso… Today’s Hungarian photography, since the 2nd World War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, is not at all known, neither in Central Europe nor in Europe. Could you tell me any contemporary names that can be found in important international collections and museums? No… I guess that Czech and Polish photography is more known and better represented than Hungarian – also thanks to the work of Joseph Koudelka and Josef Sudek, for example. If I look at my generation and older photographers, there are many talented people, not only in art photography but also in press or fashion photography. All of us are part of a more open generation; we are a part of the EU and global networking. So we do produce really good work, but somehow – I don’t exactly know why – these images rarely make it beyond our borders, or just stay on the wall of the gallery or “Muvhaz” (cultural house) where they are presented. Partly it is the lack of financing, but it is also the lack of culture in Hungary on the whole. There is popular culture and television, and that’s satisfying for most people. Art is not a living thing here in this country. Even my friends don’t really understand what I do. But there is a big scene, that’s true. It might happen with time, with education, money, and the need for quality and uniqueness. I hope it will happen one day, but the change needs to happen in people heads.
How do you evaluate the representation of the region on an international level?
Gruppo Tökmag: We cannot be ranked – even with the most optimistic approach – above average. There are some good achievements, but in general we can claim that the Hungarian art scene is not really interesting for the “West”. In the years of the regime change we and the whole CEE region were exciting for the world in a way. This accelerated interest gradually thinned away by the mid-90s. That period was Hungary’s and the Hungarian art scene’s 15 minutes of fame after which we quickly ended up on the periphery. Ever since we could not manage to get out of this situation. Now it seems we are not even able to stand out from the not-so-exciting Central Eastern European art scene either, whereas Romanian artists, for example, are way better represented at the relevant global art events – just think about Plan b’s PR success or the Cluj School, which undoubtedly raises contemporary Romanian art into higher spheres.
What are the advantages of being a contemporary artist now in Hungary?
Éva Szombat: Everybody complains a lot; it’s hard living in Hungary; morals are dwindling and many young people leave the country in the hope for a better life. Sometimes all this incites me to leave my country too and to try to challenge myself somewhere else. However, I think there is a lot of untapped potential in our small country, which may have been thriving quite well in the West for a long time, yet here it is just about to start. It can be also an advantage and a disadvantage, but that’s why Budapest is a more and more exciting place. In addition I am inspired very much by Central and Eastern Europe; the failures, the tastelessness, the lame shop windows, and the everyday surreal situations.
János Brückner: There are many advantages when you make sure to travel often enough and learn from whatever and whoever you can. First of all, CEE art is critical and deeply ironic: This is how people see the world and themselves in it here. This creates a broad field of discursive humor with multilayered meanings, camouflage, and a spirit of not taking things too seriously. On the other hand, as things here are always ’emerging’ (meaning, nothing changes exactly) you can shape it as you want, you can always have a different perspective. The art scene is small, our government sucks, people are bitter and afraid – so what? There are many novel initiatives, you can always discover something new. I think you not only have the chance for a good old lament of the loser; you also have the power of immediate reaction and the sexiness of trash and chaos.
Bajóta: We have a lot of opportunities to get informed about what’s happening in the wide world and to take part in it, thanks to the new communication channels. I think these “opportunities” are what we have more in comparison to past generations. And that makes the game a lot more interesting. That’s why it’s better now.
Kata Tranker: I think we tend to see our situation as too gloomy – not only because of the economic or political situation, it’s also some kind of national peculiarity. It makes the art scene in Hungary a bit self-contained. I hope this attitude can be changed because there are many talented artists in this region.
Eszter Biró: It may seem that there isn’t any advantage at all. Well, the palette of disadvantages is very rich, dominated by the problem with the funding system and the lack of public interest in contemporary art. However, I believe that there is one advantage: the rich variety of subjects that can inspire you. In a society where the dominant governing system’s unifying ideas repress and cover up the issues, interests, and ideas of smaller groups or individuals, I always find an issue that I can represent, reflect on, or with which I can create a critical intervention. Particularly in my practice, in which I work with the traumas left by the past 100 years of various systems.
Katinka Hajas: The versatility of Hungarian folk architecture with its natural way of thinking and its simple technology has always inspired me. Fortunately, we have comprehensive literature on this topic. As a contemporary artist it is fairly interesting and exciting to fill these old-fashioned technologies with current content.
What are the disadvantages of being a contemporary artist now in Hungary?
Balázs Antal: The structure of international art seems quite hierarchical when I try to place the artists and products of the Hungarian art scene in a global context. A German or an English artist can undoubtedly start from a better position in terms of the international market and acknowledgement. When we ask some players from the art scene in neighboring countries to name some Hungarian fine artists they can only come up with three or four names – or even less. An exception to the rule are the ones who have already been to Hungary or taken part in an international residency that involved Hungary as well. International representation is limited to a few people from the whole CEE block. Again there are notable exceptions like some well received group shows abroad, but even their assessment is mostly based on domestic reviews and reports and only to a lesser extent on those from abroad. Although many people work on positioning the domestic art scene internationally our global visibility is not yet tangible. The sales results of the Hungarian commercial galleries are far from consistent (with some rare exceptions) – it is not uncommon that they are unable to generate sales for their artists for years. As for their participation and performance at international fairs, I don’t have enough information. Also, the state support system has changed for the worse in the past few years, but that’s another discussion.
What is the way forward?
Gábor Kasza: Even if Hungarian art was considered prestigious on a global scale, most artists would aim for international repute mainly in Western Europe and photographers in the US. However, nowadays there is greater attention toward European artists in the Middle and Far East as the art market is growing there. Nevertheless, without suitable backup what remains is the individual way. Openness, mobility, networking, and a strong belief in what we are doing are essential.
Exhibition of the Derkovits Gyula Fine Art Scholarship and Pécsi József Photography Scholarships Awardees
MŰCSARNOK/ KUNSTHALLE Budapest
30/03/2014 – 27/04/2014
Curator: József Készman
Derkovits Gyula Fine Arts Scholarship holders:
Balázs Antal, József Tamás Balázs, Borbála Blahó, János Borsos, János Brückner, József Csató, István Felsmann, Gruppo Tökmag, Katinka Hajas, Patrícia Kaliczka, Dániel Karsai, Diána Keller, Nemere Kerezsi, Gábor Koós, Eszter Kores Korcsmár, Henrik Martin, Marcell Németh, Dia Pintér, Judit Rita Rabóczky, Ádám Rolik, Katalin Soós, Ákos Szabó, Borbála Szanyi, Tamás Szvet, Kata Tranker
Pécsi József Photography Scholarship holders
Máté Bartha, Eszter Biró, Sári Ember, András Hajdú D., Gábor Kasza, Zsófia Pályi, Ildikó Péter, Ákos Stiller, Éva Szombat
For over half a century, the scholarship named after Gyula Derkovits has been a crucial institution of state support for young visual artists. Műcsarnok has traditionally been responsible for collecting the competition works, hosting the meeting of the scholarship board, and staging the review exhibition. In recent years, the nature of the scholarship holders’ exhibition has changed: Rather than serving as a review, the exhibition presents an overview of the activity of each of the 26 young artists who hold the scholarship in the given year. As of this year, the display also incorporates the Pécsi József Photography Scholarship holders’ review exhibition, presenting now a total of nine artists from the second and third years.
Presented in one of the country’s leading exhibition galleries of contemporary art, the event makes it possible for the scholarship holders to offer a more comprehensive overview of their work and highlights the professional issues that concern young artists. The side events of the scholarship holders’ exhibition feature, among other things, the works of such artists who receive any of the other scholarships managed by MANK (e.g. Kállai Ernő, Fischer Annie, Kodály Zoltán, Móricz Zsigmond, and Örkény István Scholarships). (source: Kunsthalle)