1941, Bikács, Hungary; lives in Budapest, Hungary
Homage to Vera Mukhina, 1980
performance with the participation of Julia Klaniczay and Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, Heroes' Square, Budapest, May 1980
photo: György Hegedűs
Donation to the Arteast 2000+ collection
György Galántai is a renowned Hungarian artist and member of the Fluxus movement, who spearheaded the launch of several art institutions. At the time of the socialist regime in Hungary, when censorship was strong, Galántai organized a famous series of shows, entitled the Chapel Exhibitions. Today we would describe this as a four-year (1970–1973) multimedia marathon of contemporary culture – it included 35 exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings, theater performances, and movie showings, among other events. This flurry of activity drew the attention of the secret police, however, after which Chapel Studio, where the events were held, was closed. The complex situation in Hungarian politics prompted Galántai to turn to mail art in the late 1970s. Correspondence as an artistic practice was one of the few ways to be part of the international context. An archive of this correspondence formed the basis of the Artpool Archive, a Budapest institute engaged in preservation and holding exhibitions which preserved a mass of information about Hungarian artistic life in the form of plans, notes, books, photographs, catalogs, invitations, diagrams, films, and other media. From 1983 to 1985, the institution published 11 issues of a samizdat magazine, Artpool Letter, which was essentially the only source of information about contemporary art in Hungary during this difficult period for culture.
In the performance Homage to Vera Mukhina, the artist, together with Julia Klaniczay and Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, recreated the composition of Mukhina’s sculpture Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (1937). Dressed in clothes bearing the names of important figures in world art, the artists stood immobile for three hours in the police-patrolled Heroes’ Square in Budapest. This deconstruction of communist symbols, together with the challenge to the city’s repressive machine, transformed the status of the artists’ bodies, which became living sculptures. In this way the performance proclaimed a set of meanings with a social, political, and artistic genealogy.