Barnabás Bencsik has been involved with the Hungarian art scene since the early 1990s. He has worked in numerous positions, such as chief curator in Mücsarnok|Kunsthalle, as artistic director of MEO–Contemporary Art Collection and as director of Ludwig Museum–Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest. In 2006 he initiated ACAX, an independent agency for contemporary art exchange, whose program he runs since then. Furthermore he has contributed to the realization of the OFF-Biennale, Budapest. In context of curated by_vienna 2015 Bencsik curated the show at Georg Kargl Fine Arts, which examines the intricate link between contemporary art production and the art market.
Reading Armen Avanessian's essay "Tomorrow Today", which served as the theoretical basis for this year's curated by_vienna, what were your first thoughts?
I found his text really inspiring and full of relevant statements. Avanessian put on questions and opened up discourses, which are hot issues and fruitful to confront them with my personal experiences. I very much agreed with him when he was talking about the artworks as "object of speculation" and he took a warning notice about the disappearance of "critical" intellectual voices from the public discourse towards the ruling logic of the global art market. During the last years I faced quite often with the same phenomena and I've met several artists, who are dealing these types of issues. Many artists meet these new developments of the global art world already and some of them have reacted in a very innovative and subversive way in their artistic practice, so I was happy to show these types of positions on this occasion.
The exhibition you curated for Georg Kargl Fine Arts intends to examine "the intricate link between the production of contemporary art and the players of the international art market". With regard to this intention could you please explain the work by Antal Lakner, Ryan Gander's "Rolex watch", and the contribution by Vermeir & Heiremans ?
I'm convinced that a strong and relevant artistic position is always based on deeply personal experience in close relation with the social-cultural context charged with critical attitude and capacity to re-evaluate the actual status quo of. What I see in the artistic practice of these artists is something like this. Years ago Antal Lakner created a fictitious brand called INERS, simulating the production developing method of the industrial system and he treated his new works as the new products extending the offers of the product line. The artistic works are the prototypes of a potential, but fictitious mass production. With this gesture he completely repositioned both the status of the artist and the status of the art piece that completely lost its fetishistic nature by becoming a tool with function.
Ryan Gander's art objects are concentrated containers of complex and multi-layered stories, thoughts and emotions that are invisibly in the background of the visible object. You can enjoy the physical and esthetical presence of the objects, but if you want to grasp the whole it's better to get acquainted with the story in the back. One of his pieces in the show, the Rolex watch casted in steel has such a type personal and emotional story with lots of fine details about the valuation system of artefacts, but it would be too long to tell now.
The video installation by Vermeir & Heiremans is an encyclopaedic overview about the present actors of the global art industry from the curators, to the art experts and up to the investment advisors and a unique attempt to explore their inherent logic and motivations. And in the same time the artists start a challenging experiment to create from their own artistic production mixed with their own real estate possession such an investment asset, which is attractive enough for bankers and portfolio advisers. It is a very complex attempt of balancing on the thin edge between fiction and reality, since the art house index they constructed is a real time, valid data based financial indicator.
Since quiet some time we are not anymore talking about the art market but about the art industry. How do you feel about this circumstance?
In this new situation after the subprime crisis since 2009, the financial opportunities offered by the obscure evaluation systems in the contemporary art, made the art market extremely attractive in the eye of the financial speculators and investment advisers who are active in the field of financing innovation. In this situation as Avanessian stated in his text the art works became "perfect objects for speculation". And this is a real danger for all the actors of the art world. If the personal credibility and the professional legitimacy will start to melt away in the art scene and the art industry will take over the business, I'm afraid that the consensus about the artistic quality will be more and more difficult to gain. The professional responsibility of the critical intellectuals has to be increased since the temptation from the direction of the art market speculators is obviously growing.
Art has after all the capacity to function as part seismograph and part sniffer dog, detecting things not yet seen. Do you think that art could be more than that?
I suppose art could be anything. Art and the artists have unlimited capacity for exploring unknown terrains of our time and life. Of course if you want, you can find certain function for the artistic activity but the untameable creativity of the artists will overcome any constrains. If art has any function in our society, it is kind of serving as an energy supply source to keep on the capability for providing innovative thoughts and offering constantly renewed visions instead of the boring old ones.
You work as director of ACAX, an agency for contemporary art exchange. Would an exhibition-format or networking-project like curated by_vienna be interesting in the context of this institution?
It is already proven that the organizational structure and the format of curated by_vienna works quite effectively, the local and international media and audience is following the event. I'm sure that if the people at the city of Budapest who are responsible for cultural tourism, will recognize how important it is to provide international networking for the local galleries, ACAX would be their best partner to invite the curators and organize the logistic.
Subtle Patterns of Capital
curated by_ Barnabás Bencsik
Artists: Ryan Gander, Ferenc Gróf,Nicolas Jasmin, Antal Lakner, Little Warsaw (András Gálik & Bálint Havas), Thomas Locher, Falke Pisano, Julien Previeux, Société Réaliste, Vermeir & Heiremans (Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans), Stephen Willats
Georg Kargl Fine Arts, Schleifmühlgasse 5, 1040 Wien
More information www.georgkargl.com
Read the text written by Armen Avanessian, which has been serving as theoretical basis for the curators and galleries involved in "curated by_vienna: Tomorrow Today".
curated by_vienna is supported by Vienna Business Agency and its creative center departure. The project aims to intensify the networks between selected Viennese galleries and internationally renowned curators.