József Mélyi

Pampered by Time
On the Museum of Modern Hungarian Arts

The matter of the Museum of Modern Hungarian Arts is languishing held captive by time and money. Ever since the beginnings shrouded in mystery those who are concerned have been taking steps relating to the steel grip of time (as it is a single opportunity, which must not be missed!), justifying the partial or complete exclusion of publicity by saying sometimes this or something else at other times. The few initiated ones behave as if they were participants of a great game. They do not seem to realise that with one single democratic step they could break out of the vicious circle at any time; instead they take up a hedgehog position. In the meantime the events of the past slowly sink into oblivion, new conceptions and constructions leak out, and the whole affair is just moving on at an evil, slow rate, on its way, which seems to be inevitable.

Everything started with the idea. It seems irrelevant now whether it was Sándor Demján"s or Zoltán Rockenbauer"s idea. In his time even Jókai dealt a lot with the estate affairs of the Pest side, and from SimCity 2000 it became clear to everybody that cultural buildings significantly increase the value of the neighbouring offices and shops. Cultural investments are monuments of different governments: Sulinet (Schoolnet) is evanescent, but buildings stand for a long time. So joint realisation seemed an extremely attractive construction for the two concerned parties. The first problem was that they treated the whole museum affair affecting the profession dealing with contemporary arts as if it were the issue of building an office block for ministerial purposes. And the issue of building office blocks is not anybody"s concern apart from the architects and problem solvers (CCC+Bogner acting as Harvey Keitel), anybody who wants can find out information from the ministerial decrees. And time is running out.

For example, the time up to the deadline was running out. According to the first reports the plans were going to be made by December 2000, and the opening planned in the autumn of 2002 seemed a little late. And money was running out. In this case the public acquisition act necessarily could not be applied, as the private investor would not provide such favourable conditions again for making a museum. As time and money was running out, the preparation of the museum technology plans had to be started rapidly to be able to start preparing the architectural plans after a quick tendering process. Afterwards everybody would have had enough time to think over the concept. The crazy pace called for suitable decision making processes, the opinion of the profession may provide interesting additional information in connection with this later on. And then immediately a previously promised private collection was needed to ensure the position of the museum. Finally time was running out for the concept to be born.

Let us see the individual pressing problems one by one, which - as it turned out time was passing by - are surrounding the affair like soft semolina pudding. There is no real deadline any more, there is no chance for significant representation either before parliamentary or the local authority elections, the year 2004 is stated in the present plans. Maybe. Public Acquisition has been forgotten, and the financial affairs have turned upside down, numbers never seen before have appeared from sources never seen before. The decision-making processes are incomprehensible, it can only be guessed whether Gábor Bellák, who prepared the concept, holds responsibility with respect to the investor or to the minister, or whether the architect holds responsibility with respect to Demján or CCC+Bogner (or maybe the minister). Due to Gábor Bellák - who, avoiding the official way, sent his proposal to a few specialists asking for their opinion - the opinion of the profession can be listened to again (although it is not guaranteed at all), but the whole of the construction still remains in mystery. CCC+Bogner still insists on being responsible only for the technology. As a result of more than twelve months of work the museum technology plan (funnily in the arguments they always talk about setting the humidity) must be approaching the peaks of precision, although a sound museum concept was prepared during these twelve months. The architectural plan is being changed at the moment, and the person of the architect may be the only thing that still fills us with hope. Unfortunately we all know what happened to the Vasilescu collection, it is obvious now that it was a premature and legally unprepared decision to talk about it.

The concept is the only thing that should have been argued since the very beginning, although none of the parties concerned seem to find it important. Nobody brings up the issue any more that what is really missing is a comprehensive strategy in connection with the collective sphere and future of the Museum of Contemporary Arts, the National Gallery and other smaller institutions (and then we have not mentioned the theoretical questions of the museum of the future). The narrow concept, only relating to the new institute to be established, which is necessarily only a slap-dash concept, may be made public now as a result of the counter-advice. Gábor Bellák"s essay clamps Hungarian art history in the iron hoop of the period between 1910-1980. Both its creator and the owner of CCC+Bogner, Dieter Bogner, find it a temporary solution, which may determine the character of the institute for the next 10-15 years. And then hard-handed directors will come, with iron-willed ministers in the background, who will be allowed to change everything. Until then we can all lie back and let ourselves be pampered by time.

15. November 2001.
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