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

Gábor Ébli


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.


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

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ahea.2012.65

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