VIII. International Outlook and Selected Further Reading

Gábor Ébli

Hungarian Private Collectors Turn International. A Case Study of Private Engagement in Contemporary Art in East Central Europe.

You may wonder why I have not given more names of artists and collectors. Sadly, as Hungarian art has restricted international outreach yet, even the big fish in our small pond would mean little to foreign readers. Those Hungarian artists who do have some recognition abroad (typically neo-conceptual mid-career figures, such as Róza El-Hassan, Attila Csörgő, or the Kis Varsó duo) are under-represented in Hungarian collections. In contrast, the most sought-after local artists (e.g. Imre Bukta, László feLugossy) have limited reference abroad.

Among the collectors, only those have a chance of making a name abroad who mix Hungarian positions with international art. Some of these people live abroad (e.g. Gábor Hunya in Vienna, András Szöllősi-Nagy in Paris), while recently a few businessmen based in Hungary have also begun buying internationally (e.g. László Gerő, Ferenc Karvalits, Béla Horváth). The taste of this narrow elite is similar to the choices of new collectors elsewhere in Eastern Europe: they try to lift their respective local artists onto a higher echelon of international recognition by buying blue-chip foreign artists from respected galleries.

Collecting regionally is very rare both in Hungary and elsewhere in the former Eastern bloc. Although positions would mutually strengthen each other (as the permanent exhibitions of several East European museums testify), private collectors put no trust in piecing together regional sequences, as they are afraid the East European names would fail to attract proper international attention. Collecting contemporary is, in a word, a strategy for the elite of these countries to catch up with the global powers in art. The task of the collections is to prove to the wide world that the artists and collectors of each nation here in East Europe belong to the same club of universal values. It is a desired therapy of inferiority complexes, pursued always nationally, without noting that every other nation state in the region struggles the same way.

What is different in Hungary if compared to the contemporary scenes in other countries of our region, is the massive presence of individual collectors and institutional sponsors in the art game. To my knowledge there is no other country in the region with such a dynamic sphere of collecting. This corresponds to the general observation that Budapest offers a highly competitive gallery landscape in the non-profit and the for-profit sectors alike.

The art market and contemporary collecting in Hungary are, in my hypothesis, in a leading position in East Europe, yet this outburst of financial investment and civic energy is mostly restricted within the borders of the country. It remains to be seen whether today’s few international-oriented swallows will eventually make a summer, and integrate this scene in the global network. I, for one, reckon that doing this by regional co-operation in East Europe would be much easier. If the art market and collecting pick up in other countries, too, and if galleries, museums, collectors in these countries mutually promote each other, then success internationally would lie much closer. Perhaps this current research will contribute to that.


Selected further reading:

’Gegen jede Vernunft: der Sammler Rudi Schmutz’, Kunstinvestor 2, 2004 (I.), 32-36.

Arnaud, Jean-Pierre (ed.), Artistes hongrois en France 1920–2000 autours de la collection Szöllősi-Nagy–Nemes Angers: Présence de l’Art Contemporain, 2002

Balogh, Péter. Amadeus Album (1999-2006) – Fundamenta Gyűjtemény (Budapest: Amadeus Alapítvány, 2006

Berecz, Ágnes. Contemporary Hungarian Painters – in association with the Shashoua Collection. Selected and edited by Eva Skelley (London: Shashoua Press, 2001)

Bucharest Budapest Bridge. Contemporary Romanian and Hungarian Art. The Gábor Hunya Collection, ed. Emese Kürti, Budapest, Vince, 2009

Ébli, Gábor. Magyar műgyűjtemények 1945-2005, Budapest, Enciklopédia, 2006

Ébli, Gábor. Műgyűjtés, múzeum, mecenatúra. Esettanulmányok a jelenkori magyar gyűjtéstörténetből, Budapest, Corvina, 2008

Gulyás, Judit – Szeleczky, Ildikó. Gyűjtőszenvedély Budapest: Geobook, 2008

Hungarian Artists: An Exhibition of Passion, Interludes and Progress. The Collection of Former US Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker (Tequesta, Fl.: Lighthouse Center for the Arts, 2005), new catalogue by Éva Forgács in 2007

Jürgen Weichardt, ’Ostmitteleuropäische zeitgenössische Kunst: Erfahrungen eines Sammlers’, in Thomas Strauss (Hrsg.), Westkunst – Ostkunst. Absonderung oder Integration? Materialien zu einer Standortbestimmung (München: Scaneg Verlag, 1991), 213-220.

Készman, József. Magyarországi kortársművészet az ezredfordulón, (Budapest: BUMBUM, 2005

Kilencvenkilenc év Antal–Lusztig Gyűjtemény I., Debrecen, Modern Művészeti Központ, 2006), cat. ed. Gulyás, Gábor; Testbeszéd Antal–Lusztig Gyűjtemény II., 2007, cat. ed. Szoboszlai Lilla

Kogart Kortárs Művészeti Gyűjtemény 2008, cat. ed. Fertőszögi Péter, Budapest, Kogart, 2008

Kolozsváry, Marianna, (ed.), Modern magyar művészet a Kolozsváry-gyűjteményben (Budapest: Kolozsváry Gyűjtemény Alapítvány és Műcsarnok, 1998)

Kortárs magyar művészet a Raiffeisen Gyűjteményből, ed. Ébli Gábor (Wien: Collegium Hungaricum, 2007), with German translation

Körmendi-Csák Gyűjtemény. Kortárs magyar művészet, ed. Körmendi Anna (Budapest: Körmendi Galéria, 2001)

Living Classics [The Gaudens Pedit Collection] (Győr: Városi Művészeti Múzeum, 2005); cp.

London, Katalin. Túlélésre ítélt tárgyak Budapest: Athenaeum 2000, 2008

Magyar képzőművészet az ezredfordulón. A Raiffeisen Gyűjtemény (Budapest: Athenaeum, 2002), ed. Hajdu István, with English translation

Mayer, Antje, ’Der Szene verbunden. Das junge Budapester Sammlerehepaar Katalin Spengler und Zsolt Somlói’, Spike 3, 2006 (#9), 88-91.

Mayer, Antje, ’Selbstbewusst: Zsolt Somlói und Katalin Spengler gehören in Ungarn zu den Topsammlern’, Kunstzeitung 8, 2006 (#120), 8.

Molnos, Péter, „I’ve enjoyed every minute of it”. The Kolozsváry Collection’, Art Magazin special edition in English, 2005, 18-21.

Mravik, László, (ed.), ‘Sacco di Budapest’ and Depredation of Hungary 1938-1949 (Budapest: Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, 1988)

Pictures of a private collection. Works of Miró, Tápies, Chillida, Alechinsky and their contemporaries in the Marghescu collection (Budapest: Museum of Fine Arts, 1999), cat. ed. Judit Geskó

Spengler, Katalin, ’Das Sammeln zeitgenössischer Kunst in Ungarn’, in KunstKöln 2003 Katalog (Köln: Koelnmesse, 2003), 41-42.

Szájról szájra. Válogatás az Antal–Lusztig Gyűjtemény kortárs anyagából, ed. Nagy T. Katalin (Bécs: Collegium Hungaricum, 2008), with translation in English and German

Ungarische Malerei in baden-württembergischen Privatsammlungen I. Sammlung Lajos Gracza (Stuttgart: Ungarisches Kulturinstitut, 2005), cat. ed. Kurucz, Gyula; II. Sammlung Thomas Lützenburger (2005), cat. ed. Ébli, Gábor; III. Sammlung Friedrich Wehinger (2006), cat. ed. Várkonyi, György

Vasilescu Gyűjtemény – Győr (Budapest: Vasilescu Alapítvány, 2005), also in English edition

Völgyi Kortárs Gyűjtemény, ed. Bretus Imre, Budapest, 2008

Wisecrack. Contemporary Art From The Péter Szép Collection, ed. Gábor Ébli, Vienna, Collegium Hungaricum, 2008, with catalogue in English in 2001 and 2008