“We are happy and proud that we can be their understanding audience. “
Árpád Balázs and Andrea Dénes, an art collector couple
Árpád Balázs is the partner of the multinational consulting and auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Andrea Dénes studied economics, and she also worked for a multinational company. Now she is busy with raising their three kids. They began buying art works approximately 7 years ago. When their home was refurbished, they thought, “Let’s have nice objects,” and they began searching for them in contemporary galleries. This is how it all began. During this process they got acquainted with more and more gallerists, art professionals and they learnt more and more about the exciting but troubled Hungarian contemporary art scene. Being open and interested, within a relatively short time, they could collect a lot of information not only about art objects but also about the problems of contemporary art, the lack of financial resources, the difficulties of art management, and how Hungarian art could be put on the international map of art scene.
Contemporary art has brought a lot of new excitement in their life, and their motivations have also changed in the meantime. At the beginning, Árpád Balázs was reluctant to be called an art collector at all, as the term seemed too vague for him. Later, feeling more and more “at home” in the contemporary art world, they were even playing with the idea of opening their own gallery. By now they see clearer, they know that collecting gives them great pleasure. They also love to participate in professional events, they want to understand more about contemporary art. They have also found galleries of contemporary art which they think are rewarding to work with. “We believe that the most effective way how we can help Hungarian contemporary art is supporting the work of professional galleries, and their artists by our conscious acquisitions. We think, for example, that Kisterem Gallery is worthy of such cooperation. We have been acquainted with the owner Margit Valkó for a long time, we appreciate her work, and we learn a lot through her. We try to be really active, as we see that one of the biggest problems of Hungarian contemporary artists is the lack of financial resources and, especially nowadays, the lack of exhibiting opportunities. It can be rather frustrating when works of art cannot be realised because there is no money for them or no place to exhibit them. Our experience shows that when artists living around us, that is in Hungary, have no constraints on their work – financial or otherwise –they will create works that stand the test of the international art scene,” says Andrea Dénes. “There are values and artists in Hungary today that we highly appreciate. We are happy and proud that we can be their understanding audience and collector. I like to study the era that we have been living in since 1989, through art works, I am interested in the artistic reflections on how our society is changing. Andrea is more into art works that deal with universal values, important existential questions,” Árpád Balázs carries on.
The major focus points of the collection are conceptual art, objects, installations (from István Csákány, Tamás Kaszás, Little Warsaw, Ádám Kokesch, Antal Lakner and many others). “We are consciously building our collection with works by artists who we think are important, and we try to get key works from them, which define their art. We are following their artistic career, their exhibitions in Hungary and abroad. For us collecting, however, is more than buying works of art. We want to preserve and show value. We want to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. We also want to understand and be informed about contemporary art and make it part of our life, to contribute to a chapter of its story.” says Árpád Balázs. The couple visits several international art fairs in Basel, Paris, Cologne, Vienna, London, as well, every year but they have not yet opened up their collection beyond regional borders. “International experiences bring us a standard, a point of orientation. We think that we can define and gain a good position by creating a concentrated, high quality collection that represents our region. This is our plan that we have already begun, but we still need conscious preparation and learning” Andrea Dénes sums up their plans.
Árpád Balázs and Andrea Dénes were among the supporters of the participation of Hungarian artist István Csákány in Documenta 13 in 2012 in Kassel to realize his installation Ghost Keeping. They also supported Off-Biennale Budapest earlier this year.
(We thank Katalin Spengler for letting us use her earlier interview with Árpád Balázs and Andrea Dénes.)