Unite for Contemporary Art (Budapest, Hungary)
via Budapest Times
More than 30 artists occupied the Ludwig Museum on Thursday to demand complete transparency in the selection process for a new director and the institution’s autonomy from right-wing ruling party Fidesz. The Ludwig’s current director, Barnabás Bencsik, endorsed by the Ludwig Foundation for his outstanding work, is competing against Fidesz-backed Júlia Fabényi for the position. The protesters entered the museum with signs saying “Forum – collaboration for contemporary art”, “Free Ludwig” and “Professional coordination”. News website index.hu said they want to hold forums about recent changes in Hungarian visual arts.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing government is crushing artistic freedom in Hungary, according to renowned orchestral conductor Ádám Fischer and other leading figures of Central European cultural life.
The art of politics
“It is practically written into the new Hungarian Constitution that works reflecting a Christian-nationalist ideology will be given priority when state subsidies are disbursed,” the signatories wrote this week in a swingeing critique of the Fidesz government’s cultural policy. Past controversial cultural decisions include the awarding of antisemitic writer Ferenc Szaniszló with the Tancsics Prize – the top state award for journalism – which he later returned due to strong domestic and foreign pressure, and the replacing of the National Theatre’s respected director Róbert Alföldi, despite popular protest, with Attila Vidnyánszky, a more nationalist director corresponding better with Fidesz’s state ideology. At the end of 2010 Fischer himself resigned as music director of the Hungarian State Opera in protest against the controversial media law. The letter was circulated on Monday by the Austrian branch of international writers’ club PEN. Among the 16 signatories are pianist András Schiff, director Árpád Shilling, director of the Viennese Burgtheater Matthias Hartmann, and Dietmar Schwartz of Deutsche Oper, the largest of Berlin’s three opera houses. They criticise new powers granted to the Hungarian Art Academy (MMA), a forum of Hungarian artists and intellectuals.
Politics in plays
“The MMA was founded as a national-conservative private association of artists,” they wrote. “However, with the ruling party’s adoption of relevant legislation, the Basic Law now pronounces the MMA the public body that decides on the distribution of public funds. This means that a closed circle of conservative artists now have the right to play a key role in the distribution of state aid, incomes, scholarships and state awards.” The letter continues: “The fact that the government of an EU member state attempts to trammel the arts in the twenty-first century is a serious violation of the basic principles of a liberal-minded democracy. It is unacceptable that artists in Hungary who do not rhyme, write or paint as the system pleases can have their livelihoods threatened.” The artists called on their peers from Europe and around the world to join their protest against what is happening. They called on the government to remove the laws giving special status to the MMA, and to end the “extraordinary influence of narrow-minded ideologues” on Hungarian artistic life.
9th May 2013
Unite for Contemporary Art
We demand complete transparency in the running and adjudication of professional competitions in the art world!
The lack of transparency and culture of secrecy surrounding the current competition for the post of director of the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art Budapest is unacceptable!
The anti-democratic practices afflicting education and society in the last two years have now reached the art world, including: the merger of the Hungarian National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts without proper consultation with art professionals, the appointment of the director of the Műcsarnok Kunsthalle without a competition, the unjustified elevation of the Hungarian Academy of Arts (MMA) to a position of institutional dominance holding sway over public funds, and most recently, the lack of transparency in the Ludwig Museum competition.
These developments are making it impossible for contemporary art to function and force us to come together and make a stand. It is for this reason that we are holding a Fact Finding Forum (9th May 5pm – midnight) where we aim to debate the problems of the institutional system of the art world and the reasons for its dysfunctionality, along with exclusionary practices in the distribution of public funding for the arts.
A week ago, on 2nd May 2013, the Free Artists group sent a letter to the Minister of Human Resources, Zoltán Balog, demanding the lifting of the secrecy regarding the decision making process and competition for the post of director of the Ludwig Museum, to which they have yet to receive a reply.
Unite for Contemporary Art demands transparency in decision-making processes and the immediate release of the minutes of the professional committee of the competition for director of the Ludwig Museum!
The action is not directed against particular persons and does not take sides for or against either candidate.
We invite the Minister of Human Resources, Zoltán Balog, to come to the Ludwig Museum at 12pm on 10 May 2013. Roll back the secrecy! Listen to the opinions of a professional forum of activists, contemporary artists and art professionals!
Professional agreement! Institutional and professional autonomy! Professionalism and transparency in decision making in the cultural field!