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<nettime> antidemocratic makeover of the cultural scene in Hungary
Janos Sugar on Tue, 11 Dec 2012 13:55:04 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> antidemocratic makeover of the cultural scene in Hungary

The antidemocratic makeover of the cultural scene in Hungary

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Recent legislative steps in Hungary point towards the authoritarian
transformation of the institutional structures and funding system of
cultural life, by giving an ultra conservative artist group close
to the rightwing government, the Hungarian Academy of Arts, an
unassailable position of power. As a result of these decisions, the
government has endangered the long term autonomy, professionalism and
democratic procedures of Hungarian contemporary art. The government
established the Hungarian Academy of Arts (MMA) as the preeminent
authority in the field of arts through the new constitution or
Fundamental Law, which came into force on 1 January, 2012. The
Academy, which was originally founded as a private association in
1992, is made up of artists strongly loyal towards the government. 

In order to be accepted as a member, the Academy requires a commitment
to the nation, a certain "national feeling." In 2011 the Hungarian
Academy of Arts was transformed into a public body, in a process
lacking the minimum of transparency, and was provided straight
off with a considerable amount of funding and its own a grandiose
headquarters. In November the government further extended the cultural
political role of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, endowing the
organization with unprecedented power, including exclusive right of
decision making over the contemporary cultural infrastructure - and a
gigantic budget at the expense of the whole of the Hungarian cultural
scene. According to the announcement of the Ministry, the Academy
will have the right to be involved in the committees deciding about
important state awards, and next year the entire system of public
cultural funding and subsidies will be reviewed in a process involving
the president of the Hungarian Academy of Arts. This funding system,
which up till now has been operated through advisory boards made up
of representatives of the respective artistic fields - including the
National Cultural Fund, the organization with the most comprehensive
activity in the field of distributing state support on a professional
basis - is in danger of being centralized and subordinated to a
particular interest group, an ideologically based community.

The Hungarian Academy of Arts, according to their stated intentions,
would take over several state tasks and responsibilities in the
field of culture, thus for example they would participate in the
selection of directors of cultural institutions and museums, and even
encroach on how professional organizations work. From 1 January 2013
the M?csarnok (Kunsthalle) Budapest, which is the most significant
venue and symbolic space for contemporary art in Hungary, will
become the property of the Hungarian Academy of Arts. The Hungarian
Academy of Arts will also have the right to define the principles and
professional concepts of the art policy of the institution. Following
this announcement, the present director of M?csarnok has resigned.
The legal background of the Hungarian Academy of Arts may guarantee
its legitimacy in legal terms, it does not however make up for its
lack of professional legitimacy. The upgrading and extending of the
role of the Hungarian Academy of Arts in cultural policy, including
raising its budget without any public and professional consultation,
have taken place in an antidemocratic way, excluding professional
organizations and forums. Together with the general, dramatic
financial restrictions in all fields of culture, these processes will
result in the mutilation of the possibility of maintaining a diverse
artistic environment in Hungary. With these measures, the Hungarian
government, through the Ministry of Human Resources, have given over
the right to make the most important cultural decisions to a society
of artists that avows and commits itself to conservative values and
national culture, that also opposes the rejection of state and the
church control, and rejects a contemporary culture that stands for
the autonomy of art and believes in the critical social role of art.
It has become evident that the political executive power intends to
control contemporary culture in a direct way with the help of legal
regulations and put an end to its still existing plurality.

Board of the Hungarian section of the International Association of Art
Critics (AICA) nemma {AT} autistici.org or aicahu {AT} freemail.hu







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