Will Hungarian Private Collectors Turn International? Private Engagement in Contemporary Art in East Central Europe


  • Gábor Ébli Moholy-Nagy University, Budapest




private collecting, art market, modern and contemporary Hungarian art, art patronage and sponsorship, art museums


The recent spectacular surge in private collecting in Hungary – which began around the fall of Communism and abated only with the current financial crisis – can be seen as part of the steady expansion of private involvement in the art scene, with some of these developments pointing beyond local significance. This paper examines the historical roots and the current structural characteristics of this spread by looking at the motifs and the choices of collectors, their co-operation with commercial galleries and public museums, as well as the advantages and side-effects of blossoming art patronage. Based on ten years of research, including close to two-hundred interviews with the actors in the art world in Hungary, I argue that private collecting, which had already strongly benefitted from the cultural thaw of the last decades of the Communist regime in the country, has earned over the past quarter-century high social status, the promise of lucrative investment and the liberty of creative self-expression for buyers of modern and, subsequently, contemporary art. The paper aims briefly to place these multiple factors in an international context; further research into art collecting in Eastern Europe will be needed to yield a more complete comparative regional study.

Author Biography

Gábor Ébli, Moholy-Nagy University, Budapest

Gábor Ébli earned a PhD in Aesthetics from Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest and one in History from the University of Sydney, Australia. He was a Fulbright Fellow at the New School for Social Research, New York and is currently Associate Professor at the Institute for Theoretical Studies, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, Budapest. He specializes in research on museums and private collections, which combines theoretical approaches to culture with historical inquiry, particularly in relation to modern and contemporary art. His studies on museums, published in Hungarian in two volumes in Budapest (2005, 2011) address international issues of museum policy, patterns of representation in permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as the dilemmas of canonizing the art of the 20th and 21st centuries in these public institutions. A more empirical approach to research, one that focuses on the history and the current development of the art market and of private collecting in Hungary in an East European context, underlies the paper that follows here.






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