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Gábor ANDRÁSI, art historian, curator, 1954


What role did the regime change play in your professional career?

In the administrative sense, it played no role at all. I was able to continue my professionally independent work as an employee of the Óbuda Social Circle (predecessor: Óbuda Clubhouse, later Óbuda Cultural Center), organizing the parallelly running programs of the two exhibition spaces (Pince [Basement] Gallery of Óbuda and – as of 1987 – Óbudai Társaskör Gallery [Óbuda Social Circle Gallery]) just as before, since 1981.The concept of the galleries, however, did undergo a process of transformation as a result of the circumstances. The function of “rehabilitation” – meaning exhibitions organized for artists who were unknown or pushed to the periphery of the scene, away from prestigious sites of the official public sphere – lost its relevance and became obsolete. (In the eighties, the 45-square meter basement gallery of Fő tér [Main Square] still held important opportunities for middle or older generation artists regarded as “avantgardists.”) From that point on, the concept was comprised of three main components: 1. Holding first-time solo exhibitions for debuting artists (irrespective of age, but especially for the younger generation: e.g. Mária Chilf, Endre Koronczi, Kamilla Szíj). 2. Bringing shifts and turning points in the work of known artists to public attention (e.g. György Jovánovics, Róbert Swierkiewicz, Ernő Tolvaly, Péter Türk), and initiating the return of artists who had been “silent” for years (e.g. Péter Donáth, János Major). 3. Establishing international relations and organizing exhibition exchanges.

I had been publishing on a regular basis – at first on literary topics, later in the field of art – in various periodicals; between 1981 and 1984, I was an art critic for Vigilia. In 1991, however, I was asked by Péter Sinkovits to edit issues of Új Művészet [New Art], a periodical that had been launched shortly before.


What cornerstone events or publications in art / politics / public life / the professional sphere do you remember, and which of these influenced you, directly or indirectly?

As I have articulated on a number of occasions, in my opinion, the political regime change was preceded by a shift in the world of visual art (in other words, the critical and art historical canonization of modernism, as well as, in contemporary art, the appearance of the avantgarde, which had transformed into “transavantgarde” and a “new sensibility,” on such official public forums as the Hungarian National Gallery and the Venice Biennial). Thus, to me, the artistic and professional turn – which took about a decade – was manifest in the Tendencies exhibition series organized in the early eighties in Óbuda, the Sándor Altorjai exhibition, and later 101 Objects (Object Art in Hungary, 1955-1985) and Miklós Erdély’s exhibitions.

Today, I consider the Xerox Project of the Soros Foundation (thanks to which the Óbuda Clubhouse received a copy machine that could enlarge and minimize images, and whose use was strictly monitored only in the beginning), along with the increasingly bold distribution practice of the samizdats Beszélő and AL (Artpool Letter), as precursors of the turn.

Institutional changes on the scene were affected by such developments and factors as the institutional activity of the Soros Foundation (SCCA) and the new exhibition politics of the Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest, which demonstrated a new, modernist/ex-avantgarde canon; the turn of the periodical Új Művészet [New Art] in a more progressive direction (as compared to its predecessor); the foundation of the Ludwig Museum (1989), and the opening of its permanent exhibition (1991), The Sixties exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery (1991), as well as the appearance of the first commercial galleries.

Among the events that reflected the a more large-scale turn in politics and public life, the protest against the Gabčíkovo – Nagymaros Dams was a memorable community experience (12 September 1988), which was observed by the police in almost full passivity. The opening of the border a year later (19 August 1989) and the subsequent exodus of East German citizens through the Austrian-Hungarian border had the impact of a revelation. Imre Nagy’s reburial ceremony (16 June 1989) took place between these two events, with never before seen performative elements and a memorable installation by Gábor Bachman and László Rajk.


Through what channels, from what sources have you received your knowledge about this period?

I was lucky enough to experience it first hand and – within the scale of the two small galleries – participate in the process that was taking place on the art scene. It was possible to gain information not only from the samizdats, but also from the increasingly free press; it was possible to follow closely the negotiations of the Opposition Roundtable and the establishment of the multiparty system (the process of privatization to a lesser extent).


Has your picture of the regime change and its ideas been altered – if yes, in what way, and as a result of what – in the past 10 / 5 / 1 year(s)?

It hasn’t changed at all. I am forced to acknowledge the overwriting and relativization of past events according to the power dynamics of the time, as well as the evaporation of the inspiring intellectual potential that permeated the period marked by these two or three years, which briefly conjured up the illusion of intelligent freedom.

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