Museums Controversies Hungary

Hungarian national gallery director resigns in protest

Backlash in Budapest to proposed merger with Museum of Fine Arts

Ferenc Csák, left, is leaving the Hungarian National Gallery

The general director of the Hungarian National Gallery, Ferenc Csák, has announced that he will resign on 31 December in protest at the planned merger of the institution with the city’s Szépmuvészeti Múzeum (Museum of Fine Arts).

“I did not feel it was fair to be involved in a process I have been criticising and don’t agree with,” says Csák, who has led the national art museum since 2010, which is housed in the Buda Palace .

Preparations for the merger of the two institutions, which hold Hungary’s most important art collections, are under way. The national gallery is due to lose its independent status on 1 March 2012. Csák’s position as general director was due to be abolished the day before.The merger is being overseen by László Baán, the director of the fine arts museum, who has been awarded a government commission to create a museum quarter in Budapest (The Art Newspaper, November, p26).

Baán’s project has proved controversial. Although some support a potential €150m investment in a new museum quarter, there is widespread anger over the government’s decision to back Baán’s vision before there has been any public consultation.

Writing in the Hungarian publication Magyar Narancs, József Mélyi, the president of the Hungarian section of the International Association of Art Critics, said that a formal debate and impact assessments should have been carried out.

Csák calls the process: “Very unprofessional, anti-democratic and short-sighted.” He criticised the fact that he and his colleagues first learned that the national gallery was going to “cease to exist” when they read about it in the press. “There haven’t been any feasibility studies. No risk assessments have been done, nor professional studies,” he says.

Gábor Gulyás, the director of the Mucsarnok art centre in Budapest, says he recognises the potential of a museum quarter to boost the city as a cultural destination, however.

Baán says that the two-year time frame of his commission is intended to enable discussions with stakeholders. Tenders are due to be put out in 2013.

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19 Dec 11
16:51 CET


Tenders will not be put out until 2013 - that sounds very 'fishy'. Baan must already have things in place if this is the case. The whole thing reeks of politics and probably will not turn out well the way it is being handled. The best thing most museums can do right now is cut spending to the bone and hold tight for a few years. This sounds like a grand plan which may line a few pockets, but this is not the time for new plans. I know - I've been in the museum field for a long time.

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