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The exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery opening on the 31st of October presents a selection from one of the most significant private collections of contemporary art in Hungary. The name of the collection Irokéz (“Iroquois”) is a pun on the name of the company founded by Gábor PADOS and Zsolt PAJOR, Írókéz (“Writing Hand”) Stationery Wholesale Company. In accordance with the intentions of the two Szombathely-based owners and managers, the collection, which already put up shows in Szombathely and the Budapest Műcsarnok in 2001, seeks to present the development of contemporary Hungarian art from the generation of young artists who had made their debut around 1990.
The core of the collection is made up of the works by the Újlak Group (Zoltán ÁDÁM, Gábor FARKAS, Péter SZARKA, Tamás KOMORÓCZKY, Hajnal NÉMETH, András RAVASZ, etc) and those associated, which have by now come to be seen as important period documents, subjects of professional dialogue on the era. In the first and the following periods, Pados and Pajor undertook to collect, apart from traditional oils, canvases, drawings and sculptures, forms and types of artwork, including digital print-outs, installations and videos, that international museums and collectors had already recognized and acknowledged, but found their way into Hungarian museums and collections only later.
At the turn of the millennium, the self-evident question arose: How and in what direction could the collection be developed, expanded and completed? The solution that came up was to step beyond the boundaries of generation, to expand an already existing attitude: the concept of contemporary was to include not only attention to starting artists (Róbert BATYKÓ, Hajnalka TARR, the “Mouth and Brain Painters”), but also buttressing the middle generation (Gyula VÁRNAI, Attila SZŰCS, Ferenc VARGA) and the taking in of an artist (Tamás ST. AUBY – TNPU) and a work (by Csaba NEMES) that provided a point of reference retroactively. The profile of the collection has been flexible enough to incorporate the work of artists who have had difficulties in adapting themselves to the framework of art life today, such as András SZIGETI, Péter HALÁSZ, Csaba UGLÁR or Róbert FERENCZI. Its character is thus defined by the progress made by the younger generation, but it also expands to a wider thematic and generic circle.
The exhibition at the National Gallery seeks to document this consistent labour in expanding the collection with particular sensitivity to the changes in art. At the same time, based on the very works in the collection, the exhibition also attempts to group them, to provide a possible reading of the recent past of Hungarian art and current tendencies from the beginning of the 1990s to the present. The exhibition tries to find the answer to the question in what ways the personality of the collector, the period(s) and artworks reflect rapid economic, social and cultural change.
Obviously, this diversity, this simultaneous presence of parallel approaches, explains the sometimes surprising extremities in the collection that has redoubled since the 2001 exhibition: apart from works stridently absurd and grotesque, which skirt sometimes horror, sometimes infantilism, the shifting and decorative worlds of alternative universes counterpoint or strengthen spaces calling for time-consuming, deeper immersion. It is perhaps running the risks of proclaimed subjectivity to an unusual degree which makes this collection exemplary and thrilling. This approach sets an example as people have appeared in business life who actively shape contemporary culture and committedly support its actors. They do so openly, in order to present the works collected to the public at large and professionals, thereby fulfilling classically conceived museum functions, as well.
The Irokéz Collection naturally does not pretend to collect all the tendencies in contemporary art, rather it seeks to assert and fine tune its conception further, which can be characterized by the aspiration to discover, present and take sides in culture. It follows that its clearly definable characteristics differentiate it from most current Hungarian collections and liken it to the collection and exhibition policies of organizations such as the Dunaújváros Contemporary Art Institute. Personally motivated, the two-decade art-supporting and collecting activity and the energizing participation of the owners have been proven right as the artists concerned have gained recognition, exhibited their work at home and abroad, and come to be present in public and private collections.
A catalogue in two languages ekes out the exhibition, including studies discussing the collection (Gábor ANDRÁSI, Zsolt PETRÁNYI, János SZOBOSZLAI), as well as photos and the data of the exhibits, biographies of the exhibitors. The editor of the catalogue is Zsolt KOZMA, and the exhibition is arranged by the Contemporary Collection (László SZÁZADOS) on the part of the National Gallery.
As a coda to the exhibition, a conference on the tendencies and aspirations in contemporary Hungarian art after the changes (1990-2005) is among the plans.
The material and history of the Irokéz Collection is presented in detail on its homepage:www.irokezcollection.hu