The Situation of Artpool Is Finally Settled after Many Years

20 November 2015.

Many years had to pass for the situation of Artpool to be finally settled. The invaluable material of Artpool has been made part of the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, allowing the art research centre to work in a well-established environment it deserved, with more researchers and a broader scope of operation. According to plans, the collection built by Júlia Klaniczay and György Galántai will form part of the Central European Art History Research Institute (KEMKI), to be set up within the framework of the Liget Budapest Project in the National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre (OMRRK) in 2017. The earliest section of the Artpool collection, created between 1965 and 1991, entered state ownership thanks to the Hungarian National Bank’s (MNB) Depository Programme.

The addition of Artpool’s unique material to the Museum of Fine Arts’ collection will open up new opportunities for research as well as for Hungarian and international cooperation.

The unparalleled collection of the Artpool Art Research Centre documents the history of art movements, trends and aspirations that emerged from the 1960s, including what is termed as unofficial artistic trends (underground, samizdat). The archives’ 650 running metres and 2,300 hours of digitalised material allows research into some 7,500 artists, art groups and institutes, extending to virtually every branch of fine and applied arts, representing a staggering spectrum with an astounding number of artists. Thanks to the documents and works it preserves, Artpool is an ideal place of research providing an insight into the intellectual developments of an era. The Artpool archives is a treasure trove of letters, descriptions of artworks, notes, sketches, concepts, interviews, various writings and works, as well as photo-documentation, catalogues, invitations, placards, bibliographies, chronologies, monographs, periodicals, diagrams, portfolios, video- and audio footage. The diverse material makes research into a wide range of art forms possible, including Fluxus, conceptual art, performance art, visual and concrete poetry, sound poetry, artist’s bookworks, Mail Art, the artistamp, artists’ postcards, artists’ periodicals, copy art, computer art, video art and ‘public art’, supplemented by documentations about the oeuvres of Sándor Altorjai, Miklós Erdély, György Galántai, Endre Tót, Ben Vautier, G. A. Cavellini, Ray Johnson and Monty Cantsin, only researchable in Hungary in the Artpool archives.

The history of the collection
The antecedent of Artpool was fine artist György Galántai’s Balatonboglár Chapel Studio, which opened in 1970 and during its four years of operation, until its termination by the Communist authorities in 1973, became the centre of ‘tolerated’ and ‘banned’ (Avant-garde) art and the ‘cradle’ of a cultural system change. When they founded Artpool six years later, in 1979, György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay made a renewed attempt at creating an underground art institute accommodating the concepts and ideas of new art at a time when publicity was only granted to those following the guidelines of official cultural policy. Between 1979 and 1990, existing on the verge of being banned and tolerated, Artpool organised numerous exhibitions and arts events, while also publishing and producing many periodicals, anthologies and albums under ‘unofficial’ circumstances. In 1983-85 the centre published 11 editions of the quasi-samizdat art magazine AL (Topical / Artpool Letter), which still serves as the only source material documenting the unofficial arts events of those three years. The objective of Artpool was on the one hand to compensate for the isolation and lack of information that characterised Hungarian contemporary art at the time, and, on the other hand, it undertook the task of documenting those arts events in Hungary that were out of favour with the era’s cultural policy and thus was not given any publicity. By collecting documents retrospectively and prospectively, the founders built an archive that allows future generations of artists and art historians to continue those intellectual and artistic endeavours that were carried out by the artist generations of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Initially, the Artpool project was defined as an Avant-garde arts ‘archive’, which meant that it sought new forms of social action, organised various events and proactively participated in processes ongoing at the time, while documenting and archiving it all, and freely sharing information. Founded on this ‘Active Archive’ concept, the Artpool Art Research Center, which was opened in 1992 as a public institution and operated by its founders for more than twenty years as a non-profit organisation, first sponsored by the municipality of Budapest and then by the ministry of culture and funds through tendering, grew into a scientific institute with an international repute. Thanks to Artpool’s exhibitions and its network of relations in the international art scene, its documents, artworks and library grew manifold and its collection was enriched by many prominent Hungarian and international donations. Its well-organised archive has been attracting researchers from all over the world. Research conducted here in the past two decades contributed to more than seventy theses and more than twenty PhD dissertations, as well as to the organisation of numerous international exhibitions, arts events, conferences and workshops. The printed and online publications and catalogues of Artpool are invaluable educational and research resources.