Since I just spent a weekend in Hungary, I can’t resist posting about what I saw there. I didn’t bother with the National Gallery, as the only contemporary artist there was Helmut Newton, and, love him as I do, I saw enough of him recently at the Newton Museum in Berlin.
The Kunsthalle is defiantly contemporary. The attendant even saw fit to warn me, wearily, of this fact before I entered, lest I confuse it with the Museum of Fine Arts opposite – clearly a mistake irate tourists had made before. Tamas Koronsenyi (1953 – 2010) is Hungarian born and bred, and here is his entire oeuvre; mainly sculptures in red, green, yellow and blue, exploring colour, surface and shape, varying in texture and size through his career.
And as you can see, it’s not bad. The earlier stuff has potential and the later stuff fulfills it. Planes and bodies become more complex, more meaningful, more loaded. Whether it entirely deserves three rooms to itself is debatable. I got the sense that there wasn’t an awful lot of choice when it came to selecting art to represent the national psyche.
The show’s eponymous piece, Art Lives!, is playful, a small square hung on the wall with a section jutting out of it, doing what it says on the tin, projecting art out of a classically flat space.
So again, not bad.
Koronseny’s work from the Seventies is displayed in a couple of side rooms, almost as an afterthought, with no discernible theme. As much as I hate to say it, this is probably the most interesting of the lot, created before he became, oh the horror, establishment-tised.
A set of female busts from indeterminate eras stand on plinths, gazing eerily at the viewer. The point where their stares converge is signposted by a black square with a round hole cut out of it, through which the viewer is invited to look, like a photographer documenting a worlds of ghosts.
On a complete tangent, Koroseny’s It’s a pleasure to drill with Black and Decker series (1981) simply displays holes he’s drilled with his Black and Decker, an amusing conceit, if nothing else.
The most illuminating part of his early work reveals the genesis of his later sculptures, the seed of his idee fixe. Can you guess what it was? I didn’t see it coming. Camouflage paint:
Altogether, an odd mix. To add to my sense of the show as a mish-mash, there was also an installation called Guns (1994). This was four massive pistols hung in the four corners of a room.
I can only assume this is by Korosenyi, as it didn’t say differently, but it’s so bizarrely out of step with the previous rooms that I was stunned. In the centre of the room was Shark (2005). In answer to Hirst’s wordy The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1994), the 14 foot tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, Korosenyi presents a human body suspended in liquid:
Don’t worry, it’s not real. Decidedly Arabic in appearance, the body inevitably evokes the war against terror, water-boarding and Guantanamo Bay. As with Hirst’s piece, there is a visceral response to seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.
In conclusion, I don’t know what to say. I have no idea why these overtly political installations are on show alongside the more ethereal sculptures, or why Korosenyi’s ironic pieces are side-by-side with his serious work. I also visited the Kogart Gallery on the same day. They had a show entitled Analogue: 21 Hungarian Photographers from the 20th Century. If that was the best Hungarian photography has to offer, they’ve got a long way to go. Especially with Newton just down the road, shaming their socks off. I don’t want to say the same about every aspect of Hungarian art, but I’m definitely still waiting to be wowed. Maybe on my next visit…
Tamas Korosenyi – Art Lives! runs at Kunsthalle, Budapest, till 8th September 2013
Analogue: 21 Hungarian Photographers from the 20th Century
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