Focus on collecting Central European art:

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In Primo Piano

Focus on collecting Central European art:
interview with Lóránd Hegyi

  • –di Francesca Pagliuca

Born in Hungary, Lóránd Hegyi is one of the foremost European curators, art historians and is member of the UniCredit & Art international acquisition committee. He is currently the director of Le Musée d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne and the former director of the MUMOK, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna as well as founding director of the new centre for contemporary art in Naples, the Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli (PAN). Beside his museological activities in Hungary, Austria, Italy and France he is working as exhibition curator in several countries, first of all in Italy, Spain, Austria, France, USA and most recently in Korea.
Lóránd Hegyi was co-curator of the Venice Biennial and the Toyama Biennial in 1993; artistic director of the Sculpture Triennial of Stuttgart in 1995; co-curator of the Biennale of Buenos Aires in 1999 and curator of the Valencia Biennial in 2003. He has recently been appointed as curator of the Poznan Biennial 2008 and curator of a special exhibition project in the frame of the Architectural Biennial of Venice 2008.
He has published 14 books about modern and contemporary art and art-theory, among them 'New Sensibility - Change of Paradigm in Contemporary Art' (Budapest, 1993), 'Avantgarde and Transavantgarde - Periodization of Modern Art' (Budapest 1996), 'Roman Opalka's Places' (Prestel, 2000), 'Erro, the Jongleur' (Vienna, 2000), 'Alexandria' (Pécs, 2001), 'Mao´s Last Journey to Venice' (Vienna, 2003), 'I Love You' (Vienna, 2004), 'The Courage to Be Alone - Re-inventing of Narratives in Contemporary Art' (Charta, 2004).

Most recently he published with Skira the book 'Fragilitŕ della narrativa. Nuovo approccio all'arte contemporanea e Mitteleuropa come paradigma', focused on the process of the historical process of the change of narratives from the utopian Avant-garde to our days and the Central European culture as a postmoderne paradigme.
Lóránd Hegyi is also author of numerous publications on contemporary art and cultural criticism in different art reviews like "Arte e Critica" (Rome), "Art Press" (Paris). He is lecturing at different universities and high schools of art in Europe, USA, Japan and Korea.
The numerous thematic exhibitions by Lóránd Hegyi include: 'Co-existence of Art: Central European Artists' (Venice Biennial, 1993), 'Europe/Asia: Positions of Contemporary Sculpture (Sculpture Triennial of Stuttgart, 1995), 'Abstract/Real - Reference: Malevich, Duchamp, Beuys' (Vienna, 1996), 'La Casa, il Corpo, il Cuore - Construction of Identities' (Vienna and Prague 1999),'Concepts of Space' (Barcelona, 2002), 'Solares: The Ideal City or the Optimism' (Valencia Biennial, 2003), 'Settlements: Search for Possible Places' (Saint-Etienne, 2004), 'Passage Europe: Art from Central and East Europe' (Saint-Etienne, 2004).

You are a critic specialising in modern and contemporary art from Central and East Europe. What about collecting art from that area?
Generally speaking the strategy of collecting art from Central Europe should not going on at the usual roads like art fairs, galleries, auctions because these artists are only in a very limited way present in the Western professional institutions.

Could you briefly explain us the political and social issue of Central and East Europe in the 50ies?
During the so-called Cold War period the Central European culture was not completely isolated from the Western cultural movements.
At the creative fields of film, theatre, literature, music, architecture, design as well, as visual art there were several connections between artists and writers, theoreticians, architects of the both side of the Iron Curtain.
From the late 5Oies and even stronger from the early 60ies we can see real cultural parallelities between the Western countries and Central Europe. Even if the so-called 'official culture' neglected the different forms of that time avant-garde, there were very important artistic events and productions all over Central Europe. Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw, Bucharest and Sophia manifested this 'modernist wave' of the 6Oies.
If a Western collection wants to create a historically correct structure it should begin to collect the main artists from the period between 196O and 198O.
Roman Opalka, Zbigniew Vinarsky (Poland), Zdeněk Sýkora, Karel Malich, Stanislav Kolibal, Stano Filko, Richard Sykora (former Czeckoslovakia), György Jovánovics, Tamás Hencze, Istvan Nadler, Imre Bak (Hungary), Julije Knifer, Dean Jokanovic Toumin, Braco Dimitrijevic, Marina Abramović (former Yugoslavia), etc.

Then, what happened in the 80ies, the period of the so-called "perestroika"?
The young artists of the period of "perestroika" and "glasnost", that means the reformation of existing socialism with its contradictions and limited liberalism could make profit from the transitional society which manifested a deep crisis of all cultural values and political sensus comunism. There was a period of step-by-step "pragmatical" opening and the establishment of new international rules of art life. This generation could already go to abroad and could participate in international events, processes, even market.
Some of the leading figures of these artists got recognition today in Western institutions and are present at the art market.
Dan Perjovschi (Rumania), Nedko Solakov (Bulgaria), László Fehér, László Révész (Hungary), Jiří David, Ivan Kafka (former Czeckoslovakia), Goran Petercol, Dubravka Rakoczi, Marjetica Potrč, Mrjdan Bajic (former Yugoslavia), Miroslav Balka (Poland), etc.

After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, how has the situation changed?
After 1989 the situation has changed radically in the whole Central European world. New free market strategies are fighting with conservative ideas of the closed economy and the centralized interventionist economical policy as well, as liberal and democratic – New Labour like – political visions with the different forms of new fundamentalism of any type (like radical nationalism, neo-conservative religious fundamentalism, extreme right authoritarian ideas, nostalgic leftist egalitarianism, etc.). The situation in the Central European countries has became even more contradictionary after the opening of the European Union towards the new member states in the region. Anti-European politics – connected mostly, but not exclusively with hyper-nationalism and isolationism – present a new danger against European integration and democracy. In this turbulent period a new generation of artists emerged which represents a basically international, global view on art and politics, economy and culture. This young generation is everywhere present at the art fairs, is working with Western galleries, is going to live – at least shortly – in some favourite Western capitals, first of all in Berlin. Their art is still easily to buy, their prices are not yet high and they are very mobile and open minded.
Denica Lehoczka, Erik Binder (Slovakia), Agnes Szepfalvi, Zsuzsa Mojzer (Hungary), Hanna Rajkova, Mihael Milunović ( (Serbia), Veronika Holcova, Katarina Vincourova (Czeck Republic), etc.

Nella foto: Lóránd Hegyi

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