Béla Horváth, the former president and CEO of Aviva Life Insurance Company (now MetLife), has been collecting art in the spirit of social responsibility. He began to build his collection in the 1990s.
First, he bought 20th century modern Hungarian art, soon he got interested in contemporary art. With his fresh, open-minded and sensitive attitude, he “blew into” the world of contemporary art collectors in 2001. Soon he became the maecenas of the most progressive artists and art events. In 2004 he set up the Horváth Art Foundation.
During his visits in the US, he could personally experience, that it is an evidence for well-to-do people to take social responsibility and act in this spirit. When in 2001 his former company, MEBIT was purchased by AVIVA, AVIVIA bought a fresh new, Western atmosphere and management policy, and the top management was encouraged to buy contemporary art.
“I consider myself a conservative business man, yet I feel the world of contemporary art very close. I see my young bohemian self in the extravagant young artists and their works. I buy art works with the help of art historians, art experts. Naturally, my investor-self is always alert. You have to consider and think about contemporary art as a long-term investment, which is quite easy for me, as I was dealing with long-term, minimum 10 year- long life insurances.”
“The main mission of the Horvath Art Foundation is to establish and develop a significant contemporary art collection. Mr. Horvath and the Horvath Art Foundation is committed to supporting the production of contemporary art and is actively engaged in commissioning new art productions as well as theoretical research and publications.” says the foundation document. Zsolt Petrányi is among the members of the curatorial board. The foundation not only collects works of art but also supports artistic and critical works, and always helps to resolve emerging, current “issues,” problems. The motto is, “think globally, act locally,” the Horvath Art Foundation want to contribute to making Hungarian art more visible and to have more impact in the international art scene. The foundation supported the participation of the Hungarian artist duo Little Warsaw at the Venice Biennial in 2003, by contributing to the finances of the project, the Body of Neferteti. In return, the Foundation received the right to use the image of the Body of Neferteti in its logo. Later, Béla Horváth purchased the statue itself. He also supported several art publications, the participation of István Csákány at Documenta 13 in 2012, as well as the recent Off-Biennial. The foundation also supports a residency program that receives international artists to spend a few months in Hungary in Tinnye.
What are the highlights of your collection, or something that you lately bought?
"The collection is rather big, so it is hard to highlight one or two pieces. If I need to name a few, I would definitely mention The Body of Neferteti by the artist duo, Little Warsaw (Bálint Havas and András Gálik), which has just got back after several international exhibitions, or I really love Attila Szücs’s painting, Visitors, as well as I am proud of a recent acquisition of an important work by Imre Bukta. Attila Szücs’s sculpture, Planking woman is now in the sculpture garden of Hefter Gallery in Pannonhalma, as a long term loan."