#ListeAsks Katalin Spengler and Zsolt Somlói, Collectors, Tate REEAC Russian & Eastern European Committee, Founding members of Centre Pompidou International Circle Eastern European Acquisition Committee, Board of Directors of the Friends of Centre Pompidou, Budapest
As you won’t be in Basel this June, what are you doing instead?
We have visited Basel every June since the early 2000s, this year we had already begun preparing our trip in January. For us, Basel in June is always a city of inspiration and new encounters, meetings and experiences. So, the postponement of the fair leaves a great gap. Right now, we are following artists, galleries, museums, exhibitions and fairs online. We regularly visit viewing rooms, read newsletters and watch interviews and talks on the internet, and that’s also how we follow the programmes of galleries that are important for us. Art venues reopened in Hungary at the beginning of June, so from now on we can be more present in the local scene as well.
What is something that you never thought would happen but that has now happened as a result of the lockdown?
While we are more confined to our physical spaces than ever, the internet has allowed us to access content that had previously never been accessible from the comfort of our living room. In April, for example, we bought an artwork from the online version of the Dallas Art Fair, although we have never been to Dallas. We bought the painting from a London-based gallery and had it shipped to Budapest from Krakow.
In what ways has the current state of uncertainty and unpredictability changed your attitude towards collecting?
There has been no change at all in our attitude towards collecting art. We bought artworks during the lockdown too, as we trust that the current situation will only be a momentary episode in the history of the art market, leaving no long-term impact on the values of art and of collecting. Local artists and galleries are enduring severe hardships right now and we’re doing our best to help them survive with our purchases. Before the pandemic we had also been following the progress of several artists outside Hungary, and now, with the overall decline of interest due to the crisis, we could choose outstanding pieces from a much wider selection of their oeuvres.
What is one of the most inspiring initiatives or projects by an artist, institution or gallery you’ve came across since the outbreak of Covid-19?
We greatly appreciate and respect the initiatives where galleries established joint platforms in a concerted effort, recognising their shared interests in addressing the public. Some of the most prestigious, well-established galleries, such as David Zwirner and Perrotin, opened their online platforms or gallery spaces to artists from lesser known, more emerging galleries. In hosting Elijah Wheat Showroom, David Zwirner’s online viewing room presented work by a remarkable young Hungarian artist, Zsófia Keresztes, whose pieces have also been shown at Liste by Vienna’s Gianni Manhattan. Also thanks to the online viewing rooms and to increased digital activity, the prices of artworks have, at long last, mostly become public—and this has resulted in the art market becoming much more transparent, basically from one day to the next.
How can younger and less established galleries that are representing emerging and yet-to-be-discovered artists approach you as collector in a time of online-only exhibitions, fairs, etc.?
Before the lockdown, we had been continuously following the programmes of non-profit institutions that focus on emerging and yet-to-be-discovered artists. Unfortunately, these channels have decreased significantly due to the epidemic. Therefore, now we are paying even more attention to the sections of online art fairs that provide visibility to young galleries.
Have you discovered any new artist during the lockdown?
In May, six local galleries were offered the opportunity to present themselves at Perrotin in Paris. Each gallery exhibited one artist and Crèvecoeur showed work by the young Argentinian artist Ad Minoliti, whose practice we initially discovered through Art Basel Cities: Buenos Aires and also saw live for the first time at last year’s Venice Biennial, “May You Live In Interesting Times”. So in May, we chose a remarkable piece from the exhibition hosted by Perrotin, and Crèvecoeur is also participating in Liste this year.
Can you tell us about the very first artwork you purchased at Liste and what it means to you?
At Liste many years ago we met Gregor Podnar, who became a major influence in shaping our view of art from Central Europe. We bought Pittura Grande, a black and white photo by Attila Csörgő from Gregor’s gallery. This photo is Csörgő’s last work with a painterly character; he is known more for his conceptual installations. Technically, Pittura grande is an aquarelle: the artist painted an oblong on the concrete floor with water. It was a temporary image (it evaporated quickly) that functioned as a mirror at the same time, reflecting the window behind it. It was a kind of “picture within the picture” structure, determined by the camera’s viewpoint. It is a photograph and painting, reality and optical illusion, subtly and poetically exploring the problem of perspective in the Renaissance and also Alberti’s iconic theory of the picture being a window through which one can view the world.