16 January 2009

"The notion of national schools or styles is meaningless"...

...according to Iwona Blazwick, director of London's Whitechapel Gallery.

The earliest relic of Hungarian painting is this 12th century fresco found in the church in Feldebrő

The quote from Ms Blazwick is taken from Sarah Thornton's entertaining and informative book "Seven Days in the Art World".

What does this statement mean in the context of trying to promote artists from a particular country? Do the artists that InterUrbanArt is promoting have anything in common besides Hungarian surnames? Are they bound by an underlying Hungarian sensibility? Does it matter if they are or aren't?

Another point that is raised by Thornton is that "quaint ideas of nationhood are collapsing under the weight of globalization". She is specifically referring to national pavilions at the Venice Biennale, but the thought can certainly be extended to galleries and just about any other business, cultural, or social institution.

Again I wonder---is it true, and if it is, does it matter in the context of promoting a group of artists that are Hungarian (or any other nationality) by heritage?

Would it be any different if InterUrban was promoting a group of Hungarian vocalists (one of whom sang opera, the other jazz, the other rap)...or sportsmen?

For me, the "take-away" from these questions is that first and foremost, InterUrban isn't about promoting the notion of a Hungarian school or style. Rather, we are promoting a group of artists that we believe in, and believe deserve exposure.

We are certainly proud that they have Hungarian heritage, but that is not the fuel that drives our ambition. Rather, the art that they create is the fuel, and their heritage is the spark that lights it.


...it is very worthwhile to have a look at Thomas I. Nonn's "Modern Hungarian Painting" on the Kieselbach website:

Thomas I. Nonn

A quote that jumps out:

"it can safely be stated that many Hungarian painters evolved in a modern formalistic direction and that at least a few of them could be considered significant innovators whose life-work in many ways paralleled that of world-renowned Western artists. Yet these Hungarian painters are generally unknown to the Western World"...

And begs the question: why do they, to this day, remain unknown?

(Interestingly, all of these "revelations" come on two pages (242-43) of "Seven Days in the Art World")

Says she of her experience at the 2007 Venice Biennale:

"I walked into the Hungarian pavilion and walked straight out again"..."I thought, 'Six black boxes. I can't be bothered. I haven't got the time.'" Thankfully, she returned to the pavilion, by thirty year old Andras Fogarasi , and discovered that each black box contained a video that was "a very quiet, complex, poetic and funny meditation on the failure of utopia."

2007 Hungarian Pavilion "Culture and Leisure"

I would be very curious to know what inspired Ms Blazwick to return to the pavilion. Did she go back before or after it was announced that the Hungarian Pavilion had won the Golden Lion award for Best National Participation? And just as, or even more curious to know whether the Hungarian pavilion will be on her "must see" list this year. Ultimately, I'm MOST curious if she would consider putting together a show by a Hungarian artist at Whitechapel.


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