Debate Forum on the Modern Hungarian Museum

Summary of the Debate Forum on the Modern Hungarian Museum


During the period from 19 March to 7 May 2002, a total of 46 substantive opinions arrived in response to the 4M Debate Forum of exindex. Nearly half of the invited participants sent their responses to the questions that were raised, or brought up new problems. With the original questions in view, what follows is a summary of the most significant opinion groups.

It was clear for the participants of the forum that, in terms of possibilities for intervention on behalf of the professional art scene, the scope for action was limited. Further, it was understood that the discussion could only be continued as a function of the given political situation and the already concluded agreements. Alternatively, if, of the categories of desire and need (Zsolt Petrányi), emphasis was placed on the former, the debate could only have for its topic the invention of a completely new institution. The institutional organisation of the professional art scene – the question of “who is the responsible person in establishing a future museum” (László Beke) could serve as the basis for further debate.

The majority of the participants, explicitly or implicitly, held the opinion that the exhibition procedure of the Hungarian Museum of Modern Art thus far had been “a compromise guided by practical and formal considerations” (Gábor Ébli) and “a propaganda spectacle,” (János Sugár) which lacked “a responsibly taken, acceptable museological concept” (László Beke). All participants basically agreed that the involvement of the broader professional art scene was needed and that the elaboration of the concept was a minimal requirement towards making progress (György Szücs).

As a means of critique about the thus-far developed structure, a number of participants emphasised the need for the autonomy of the newly established institution (Krisztina Passuth, Éva Forgács, Péter Fitz). In formulating a profile for the new museum, many felt that the re-evaluation and redefinition of the role of already existing institutions were indispensable (József Mélyi, Katalin Timár, Edit Sasvári).

Considering the frequency of remarks, the idea which came up most often was the establishment of a new contemporary art institution (Éva Forgács, Márta Kovalovszky - Péter Kovács). Within this, various notions were outlined, among which were the concept of a museum of the 21st century (Erzsébet Tatai, Katalin Bakos, Judit Angel), and the idea of radical rethinking: “as if it were the first museum in Budapest” (Géza Perneczky). The contemporary museum could be established independently of, or in cooperation with, the Ludwig Museum (Gábor Pataki), provided that it did not start from point zero of the present; perhaps it could start building its collection as of the 90s (András Zwickl), or it could be the Hungarian Contemporary Museum of Visual Arts, beginning with the end of the 80s (Júlia N. Mészáros).

A few proposed the era which began after WWII as an alternative (Gábor Ébli, Gábor Pataki) . Presenting the art of the period from the neo to the 60s (Krisztina Passuth), as well as from the neo to the 90s (András Zwickl) also came up as a possibility.

A number of participants expressed the idea that, in deviation from the traditional museum concept, the contemporary art museum should develop gradually from a periodic exhibition space, in parallel with the “second Kunsthalle/Mucsarnok” function (Márta Kovalovszky - Péter Kovács) . In the beginning, in the absence of a collection, the Contemporary Art Institute, an organiser of domestic and international exhibitions, would develop its own collection through purchases (Péter Fitz) . As a possible alternative, the “Museum of Collectors” was mentioned (Julia Fabényi). In contrast, the opinion was also expressed that the new museum should under no circumstances be built on a private collection (Éva Forgács).

Many supported the idea of establishing an international collection (Krisztina Passuth, Erzsébet Tatai, Zoltán László) , and the development of an international exhibition program (Dóra Hegyi) . For the creation of an international context, many saw the path leading through Central European institutions with regional collections as more realistic (Balázs Beöthy, Júlia N. Mészáros) . The point was raised that, in addition to the Hungarian collection, the international context should be developed through periodic exhibitions (Éva Forgács, Gábor Bellák).

It occurred to a number of participants that the collector circle of the new institution could be extended to the wider areas of visual culture. Some argued for the abolition of the limitations of genres, in the interest of including architecture, design, photo, poster and typography in the collection (Krisztina Passuth, András Zwickl, Katalin Bakos) . Many pressed the introduction of works in media art, and artwork created with the help of technical media (Miklós Peternák).

11. June 2002.