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(Fragment) Géza Perneczky. Art-ball (concepts like commentary), 1971-1972

A Hot Autumn for Budapest’s Galleries 0

An introduction to the Budapest galleries that participate in viennacontemporary

Agnese Čivle

While Budapest’s state art institutions were hosting several well-publicized, international-level art events, a rather “small and sexy” art event directed at the local art scene was also taking place during the second weekend of September – Gallery Weekend Budapest (GWB).

Read in the Archive: “Not a mammoth, but a small & sexy contemporary art event”. Q&A with Gábor Rieder, art director of Gallery Weekend Budapest 2016

Not long after the National Gallery of Budapest had closed down its grandiose Pablo Picasso exhibition and opened its retrospective on Amedeo Modigliani (through 2 October), and while on the opposite bank of the Danube, the exhibition hall of the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art was showing fashion photography by way of the Peter Farago Ingela and Klemetz Farago collection “Women in Chanel” (and anticipating the forthcoming October exhibition featuring the Wroclaw avant-garde movement of the 1960s), 16 commercial art galleries were busy presenting their GBW contemporary art programs.

It may have been the middle of September, but the 32-degree heat made it seem like the Central European metropolis was experiencing a summer heatwave. Nevertheless, the city’s quick pulse didn’t slow down a bit, and both locals and foreign visitors took advantage of the warm sun. Despite the migrant crisis, and the fact that the city’s railroad stations were closed down for a while last summer, Budapest is still one of the most-visited cities in Europe. It’s worth noting that this last occurrence (with the rail stations) has been emotionally and profoundly documented in the paintings of Csaba Nemes, a politically reactive artist whose works could be seen at Knoll Galéria during GBW.

Initiatives of commercial galleries in the shadow of ultra-conservatism and under a regime of “tied hands”

“Hungary’s new cultural politics foresee the sponsoring of ‘court artists’ [read: approved artists]”, revealed the former museum director of Budapest’s Ludwig Museum, Barnabas Benczik, in a 2014 interview with Benczik was relieved of his position at at time when only people loyal to the political elite were allowed to keep their appointments at cultural institutions. Over the last six years – ever since the national conservative “Fidesz” party has been in power, with Prime Minister  Viktor Orbán as their head – the disproportional influence and deficient ideological attitudes of Hungarian politicians on media and culture have elicited heavy criticism on both national and international levels.

Csaba Nemes. Day to day, 2013. Oil on Canvas, 150x150cm. Courtesy of Knoll Galleries Budapest & Vienna

Even now, the contemporary art events going on in Budapest have not been able to escape a political context. Gábor Rieder, the creative director of GWB, revealed to that since 2010, traditionalist and ultra-conservative governmental bodies have occupied all of the best art institutions. In fact, Rieder went on to say that the local gallery scene has become something like a “shelter” – it is the private galleries that now constitute the new institutional framework for progressive Hungarian art. It may well be that the only silver lining here is that this regime of “tied hands” is precisely what motivated various private initiatives to rally. It was because of their concern for the presence of contemporary visual art in the Hungarian cultural scene that the organizers of both GWB and Art Market Budapest (13-16 October) took on their respective tasks. The situation has also caused the galleries themselves to rally, as they now have to be much more active in finding their way in the international art market. Case in point: this autumn, the gallery Vintage will be presenting the latest Hungarian star artist, Dóra Maurer, at the Frieze Masters art fair (6-9 October); Maurer’s works have already been exhibited this year at London’s White Cube. And at this September’s viennacontemporary, six Budapest galleries will be showing their artists.

A selection of Budapest galleries – a short introduction

A visit of galleries can turn into a wonderful study of the city as a whole, for as everyone knows, Budapest did not suffer heavy damages during WWII, at least when compared to other Eastern European cities. This led to the city’s streets having been, for the most part, protected from the invasion of socialistic architecture, and the majestic pomposity of Budapest’s 19th-century architecture still manages to stupefy. In Budapest, wonderful spaces (of the kind that, due to high real estate prices, galerists in most of Europe’s big cities can only dream about) contain slews of galleries, many of which are just starting out.

In the following article, introduces 4 Budapest galleries that have signed up to take part in the viennacontemporary international contemporary art fair. Introductions to the rest of the group will be coming soon…

Knoll Galéria Budapest

The way to the gallery from rather noisy Liszt Ferenc Street takes you through a quiet capsule of romantic inner courtyards, in the center of which is a now-dry fountain with a central figure wearing a frock of rambling vines.

Paul Horn. Room well, 2015. Mixed materials 60x110x215 cm. Courtesy of Knoll Galleries Budapest & Vienna


Knoll Galéria Budapest is the oldest privately-owned commercial gallery in Hungary, having opened its doors in 1989 as the region’s first gallery for contemporary art. With it’s exhibitions – in cooperation with Knoll Galerie Wien – it creates a consistent program: the works of Hungarian and other Eastern European artists are shown in the West, while those living in the West are shown in this area. 


In addition to the exhibitions presenting the works of artists represented by the gallery, Knoll Galéria also hosts thematic exhibitions in connection with theoretical discourses defining contemporary art. Besides maintaining a regular presence at international art fairs, the gallery performs institutional tasks as well: it organizes symposiums and has published not just monographs of its artists, but also a volume entitled “The Second Public” (at first, in German – in 1999, then in Hungarian – in 2002), which is an essay-collection on the significant phenomenon of art in Hungary in the 20th century.

In 2009, Knoll Galéria started a research project on the topic of collecting in the former socialist countries, titled “Eastern European Collectors”.

Knoll Galéria regularly organizes art tours throughout the region in which it is active: Budapest, Bratislava, Bucharest, Moscow, Krakow, Lodz, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Warsaw. The program includes visits to artists’ studios, galleries, museums, and occasionally to private collections. With the guidance of a local art historian or artist, the gallery always focuses on the development of the local art scene, as well as on the most essential and – at the same time – most exciting initiatives that are taking place.


The gallery represents the following artists: AES+F, Ákos Birkás, Blue Noses, Tony Cragg, Igor Gorshkov, Paul Horn, Bartosz Kokosinski, Kamil Kukla, Csaba Nemes, Jan van der Pol, and Klára Rudas.

Through 5 November, Knoll Galéria is showing the exhibition “The Age of Nation”, which includes a work by Hungarian artist Csaba Nemes in which he speaks about a timely topic in today’s Hungary – the removal of historical monuments and their replacement with new national heroes. The photo shows Nemes in his studio, working on his latest work dealing with the volatile subject of refugees in Hungary. Photo: Agnese Čivle 

Exhibition program 2016

- The exhibition “The Age of Nation” (through 5 November) explores manifestations and tendencies which question established notions of nation and nationalism, as well as mechanisms that try to change the bourgeois-liberal model of nations: the development of racism, social exclusion, enemy images, and radical nationalism.

- The thematic exhibition “Homage - Ideal or Pattern?” (curator: Edit Sasvári) seeks answers to the questions of how the old authoritarian concept of homage can be rethought today, and whether there can be a non-hierarchical form of homage. Does this attitude exist specifically within a certain generation? How, and in what form, may older artists’ homages towards younger generations be interpreted?  At the same time, in view of the existing “patterns”, we might also ask how the Eastern European artist can query another hierarchical relationship, that of center and periphery, in relation to the Western World.

Participating artists: Ákos Birkás (HU) in collaboration with György Jovánovics (HU), Noah Fischer (NY), Tamás Kaszás (HU), Genti Korini (ALB), Olivia Mihaltianu (RO), Csaba Nemes (HU), Klára Rudas (HU), Mózes Márton Muranyi (HU)

Presentation at the viennacontemporary art fair

- Early abstract works of Ákos Birkás.

- Paul Horn’s objects from concrete, e.g., “Vechicle-Isle”, which also contains living plants.

- A painting series from Csaba Nemes titled “Central European Orient”, which shows venues in Budapest, Vienna, Dresden, where orientalistic elements were used in architecture, for new factory buldings, or to new enterprises, like the zoo in Budapest.

- A colorful, humorous, amorphous iron statue by Ivan Gorshkov, and more surrealistic-abstract paintings from the young Polish artist, Kamil Kukla.

- Site-specific abstract installations from the very talented young Hungarian artist Klára Rudas.

Ani Molnár Gallery

To get to the Ani Molnár Gallery, one must pass through a secretive and timeworn inner courtyard that has been laid down with green carpeting. In addition to exhibitions, the gallery also organizes projects in public spaces, such as Lajos Csontó’s site-specific installation “Run With Me”, which was exhibited at Budapest’s MOM Park shopping center in 2015.

It’s worth noting that in 2013, gallery-owner Ani Molnár was awarded with the Creativity & New Inspiration Award by the Federation of European Art Gallery Associations.


Ani Molnár Gallery is a well-established Budapest-based private gallery that is deeply integrated into the international art scene. Its owner-director personally takes an active role in promoting contemporary art, both locally and on a European level. The cultural mission of her gallery embraces promoting a roster of talented CEE artists towards an international career, with a special focus on both new media and conceptual and installation art. Through constantly searching for ways in which to support new methods of artistic expression, the gallery regularly represents its artists in top international art fairs and cultural forums.


14 artists are currently represented by Ani Molnár Gallery. They vary from established Hungarian artists to emerging young international and local talents.

Dénes Farkas. Off places no longer being separated, 2015. Installation view, Ani Molnár Gallery, Budapest. Courtesy of Ani Molnár Gallery

Péter Forgács (HUN, 1950), the most prominent Hungarian media artist to have taken part in Loop Barcelona in 2016, with his latest installation titled “Installing My Own Death”. The video installation is a medial re-composition of Péter Nádas’s novel “My Own Death”. Forgács’ film and video installations have been exhibited at MCNY, The EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam, Bozar in Brussels, and elsewhere. In 2009, he represented Hungary at the Venice Biennale.

Szilárd Cseke (HUN, 1967) will be having a solo exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Miami, in October 2016. He was also Hungary’s representative at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Cseke has been creating installations that deal with the themes of migration and identity; he assembles them from found objects and ephemeral industrial materials, and many feature moving parts and neon lighting.

Dénes Farkas (HUN/EST, 1974) represented Estonia at the Venice Biennale in 2014 with his project “Evident In Advance”, as curated by Adam Budak. Farkas is most recognizable for his minimalist yet sensitive and poetic works that mostly question geometry, function and dysfunction, doubt and melancholy. 

Marge Monko. Ten Past Ten, 2015. Various sizes, 7 pigment prints. Installation view in Tartu Art Museum, exhibition ”From Explosion to Expanse”, curated by Anneli Porri. Courtesy of Ani Molnár Gallery

Marge Monko’s (EST, 1976) works reflect on social issues, with a special emphasis on the role of women in the modern world. Many of her works combine various forms of art such as choreography, photography, objects, and video art. She received the Henkel Art Award in 2012, as well as a Köler Prize nomination that same year. Among many other exhibition spaces, Monko has held shows at mumok in Vienna, and at the Tartu Art Museum in Estonia; she also exhibited her work at Manifesta in 2012.


Ani Molnár Gallery places great emphasis on presenting its artists internationally through constantly providing them exposure at several top international art fairs, as well as by granting opportunities for solo and group exhibitions at the gallery.

The gallery regularly attends viennacontemporary, Art Brussels, and Artissima. The gallery has exhibited at the Armory Show, at ARCOMadrid in 2014 and 2015, and at LOOP Barcelona in 2016. In the cases of the Armory Show, Artissima, and LOOP, Ani Molnár Gallery was the first Hungarian gallery to exhibit there.

Exhibition program 2016

- Ani Molnár Gallery’s next exhibition will be a solo show by Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair, titled “Double Bind”; it will open on 28 September. Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair was born in Moscow in 1980, but since 2004 she has been living and working in Vienna. The exhibition will consists of a miniature statue modeled after “The Motherland Calls” (the original is located in Volgograd, Russia), surrounded by twelve angular sculptures and a video work.

- The exhibition following that one will be Péter Mátyási’s solo show, which will open on 30 November. He is currently one of the most promising talents on the Hungarian contemporary art scene. Mátyási works with a unique technique – he creates his architectural images on foil by drawing with a rubber eraser. The size and shade of the foil causes it to resemble filmstrips, which adds a personal perspective to his works, as well as evokes ideas that belong to the collective memory.

Chimera-Project Gallery


The Chimera-Project Gallery was founded in 2013 by Patrick Urwyler, a Swiss art historian and curator, and Bogi Mittich, a Hungarian sociologist; the two first met in Berlin. The gallery’s identity is shaped mainly through the mindsets, networks, and experiences of its founders.

The surrounding CEE region is the gallery's main focus when it comes to its represented artists. It is they – Mark Fridvalszki, Gabor Koos, Adrian Kupcsik, Aron Kutvölgyi-Szabo, Géza Perneczky, and Anu Vahtra – who characterize the gallery's identity the best.

© Anu Vahtra


Another important mission of the gallery is international exchange, which the gallery works on by way of its accompanying curated exhibition program, and through which it has collaborated with more than 80 international artists so far. Furthermore, the establishment of the gallery’s own art award (the Chimera Art Award) also plays an important role in connecting its artists to the international scene by annually inviting the winning artists and the Award’s jury members to Budapest. This commitment goes beyond the classical commercial gallery model; such an “institutional approach” is also part of the Chimera-Project Gallery’s identity, and an important statement in the recent politico-cultural context that Hungary is facing.

Read in the Archive: Q&A with Anu Vahtra after winning the Köler Prize 2015

The Chimera-Project Gallery represents four Hungarian artists of the younger generation, and to whom the Estonian artist Anu Vahtra has recently been added. An exception in this group of “youngsters” is the neo-avantgarde artist Géza Perneczky. Born in 1936, in the 1960s Perneczky worked for Hungary’s only national television channel, where he managed to reflect upon art at a time when such things weren’t commonly done. Later on, the artist emigrated to Cologne, which is where he created the iconic photography series “Art Bubble” under rather pressing circumstances; the series was recently featured by Paris’s Centre Pompidou.

Anu Vahtra’s solo show is on view through 14 October 2016. The exhibition serves as a continuation of “A room made of blank pages”, the artist’s recent solo show at Kjubh Kunstverein in Cologne, Germany. Taking as its starting point Anu Vahtra’s artist’s book “Untitled” (Lugemik, 2015), which documents ten of her spatially-concerned projects, the exhibition introduced a series of translations of a two-dimensional page into a three-dimensional physical space. Focusing on the idea of a blank page, the title of the exhibition referred to the empty space intentionally included in the book. For the exhibition at Chimera-Project Gallery, Vahtra presents a proposal for an extended spatial narrative, adapting elements from the previous set-up into a new structure


At the moment, viennacontemporary is the gallery’s first choice, and the only fixed date in its art-fair calendar. Taking into consideration the gallery’s background, in the future it plans to target the German- and French-speaking regions, and in fact, already took part in Positions Berlin last year. But for 2017, the Chimera-Project Gallery is planning on focusing on the renowned satellite fairs in both Basel and Brussels.

Exhibition program 2016

- Anu Vahtra’s solo show will be followed by that of the Italian artist Romina Giuliani, who won the Chimera Art Award in 2016. The Chimera-Project Gallery is looking forward to welcoming Giuliani, together with the jury for the 2016 award: renowned Hungarian artist Dora Maurer, Judith Welter (director of Kunsthaus Glarus, CH), and Stéphane Bauer (director of Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, DE).

- For December, the gallery plans on holding a small group show with its represented artists; immediately after that, Aron Kutvölgyi-Szabo and Koos Gabor will be holding their solo shows in the first months of 2017.

Presentation at the viennacontemporary art fair

Since viennacontemporary will soon be upon us, the Chimera-Project Gallery has been highlighting the artists it will present there this year: Géza Perneczky, Mark Fridvalszki, and Anu Vahtra, all of whom had their own solo shows this year at the gallery. At viennacontemporary, Géza Perneczky, a protagonist of Hungarian conceptual art, will be presenting his “Art Bubble“ series, while Mark Fridvalszki will be demonstrating a mixed media environment that follows his recent body of work titled “Hagere-Geometrie“; the latter is an attempt to combine the apparent discrepancies between the imaginary and the real, the digital and the physical, the bygone and the futuristic, and art and technology.

acb Gallery


acb is another gallery hidden within the lavish façade shell of Budapest’s magnificent architecture. Founded in 2003, it focuses on contemporary and Hungarian neo-avant-garde art. The gallery is a notable and active presence on the Hungarian gallery scene. In addition to its three exhibition spaces, which present three separate exhibitions, the gallery also regularly participates in important international art fairs. The acb Gallery runs its own research institute, which makes it quite unique even on an international level.


The most important element of acb Gallery’s identity is its mediating role. In Hungary visual art receives little attention compared to other genres of contemporary culture, therefore a lot of the gallery’s efforts is dedicated to education at all levels. To this purpose, a year ago the gallery launched acb ResearchLab to initiate and facilitate research and publications related to Hungarian avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s.

Gyula Varnai. Now I know, 2008. Installation, 1000x450x50 cm


Katalin Ladik (1942), a radical female performance artist of Yugoslav and Hungarian avant-garde, is perhaps the greatest rediscovery of recent years. Her visual and sound poetry, performances and body art are based on the intermedial reinterpretation of body and language, sound and visuality. She will be an exhibitor at documenta 14 in 2017, and was recently announced as one of the four recipient artists – alongside Ai Wei Wei, Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson – of the Lennon Ono Grant for Peace 2016.

Hungarian neo-conceptual artist Gyula Várnai (1956) has been represented by acb Gallery since its foundation in 2003. The most characteristic medium of Varnai’s art is installation, but he works in several other media, often using found objects. Várnai’s works usually speak of universal topics, such as the boundaries of physical and intellectual senses, or the individual’s relationship to everyday reality. Várnai will represent Hungary at the Venice Biennale in 2017.

Bosnian Mladen Miljanović (1981) is a defining figure of the new generation of artists that emerged after the Balkan Wars and introduced a radically new art practice that reaches far beyond national boundaries. His multi-faceted art challenges the limits of art and life and questions the relevance of the power of rules, traditions and stereotypes. Miljanović gained international attention and acknowledgement at a very young age: in 2009, he was granted the Henkel Art.Award and went on to have a solo exhibition at the mumok in Vienna. In 2013 he was invited to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. There are numerous solo and group exhibitions to his name – from New York to Berlin to Bosnia-Herzegovina.


acb takes part in Art Cologne, Viennacontemporary and the local fair – Art Market Budapest. In October the gallery will exhibit at the FIAC.

Exhibition programme 2016

- Károly Halász, János Vető and István Felsmann solo exhibitions – on view until the end of October.

- In early November acb will open a Gyula Várnai solo exhibiton at acb Gallery, and a solo show for Gábor Gerhes at acb Attachment; acb NA will present a selection of works by Ferenc Ficzek.

Mladen Miljanovic. Museum Service, 2010. Installation view at Mumok. Photo: Eva Wurdinger

Also participating at the viennacontemporary art fair will be INDA Galéria (, and Trapéz Galéria (

Read in the Archive: An interview with Hungarian curator Barnabás Benczik