FIRST INSTALLMENT OF “THE INVISIBLE HAND” ESSAY FOR BOOKMARKS EXHIBITION LONDON: The year is 1980. An attractive young couple in matching white trousers, tennis shoes, and shirts position themselves on Budapest’s Heroes’ Square in front of a row of monumental statues of Hungarian kings on horseback. Tourists amble past, seemingly oblivious to the proceedings. In fact, they are witnessing the creation of an artwork by György Galántai, a Hungarian artist, and his partner and collaborator, Júlia Klaniczay. Striking an epic pose—hands aloft, backs arching, necks craning skyward—they reenact a 1937 Socialist Realist classic, Worker and Kolkhoz Woman, by Vera Mukhina, a Soviet sculptor. Sometime later, a third participant, the Italian artist and collector Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, also known as GAC, scribbles the names of seminal international art figures on the Hungarian duo’s clothing with a black felt-tip pen. The performance lasts about three hours.
The year is 2018. It’s summertime in Berlin. A black-and-white photo documentation of Galántai and Klaniczay’s 1980 performance is prominently featured in Hello World: Revising a Collection, at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart. The exhibition is part of a long-overdue broadening of the narrative of twentieth-century art now taking place in many art institutions of the so-called West. As I stand in front of the grainy images on a warm June afternoon, I am reminded of how difficult it must be for today’s viewers to access the full measure of their complexity and meaning. To appreciate what was going on in those pictures, one must conjure up the reality under which the Hungarian artists were operating—a reality that has all but disappeared since the toppling of the Berlin Wall just nine years after the performance took place.
IMAGE: György Galántai, Homage to Vera Mukhina (1980), performance, Budapest. #bookmarksexhibition #art #hungarian #sixties #seventies #performance