Hungarian national gallery director resigns in protest

By Richard Unwin. Museums, Issue 230, December 2011
Published online: 07 December 2011

Ferenc Csák, left, is leaving the Hungarian National Gallery

The general director of the Hungarian National Gallery, Ferenc Csák, has announced that he will resign on 31 December in protest at the planned merger of the institution with the city’s Szépmuvészeti Múzeum (Museum of Fine Arts).

“I did not feel it was fair to be involved in a process I have been criticising and don’t agree with,” says Csák, who has led the national art museum since 2010, which is housed in the Buda Palace .

Preparations for the merger of the two institutions, which hold Hungary’s most important art collections, are under way. The national gallery is due to lose its independent status on 1 March 2012. Csák’s position as general director was due to be abolished the day before.The merger is being overseen by László Baán, the director of the fine arts museum, who has been awarded a government commission to create a museum quarter in Budapest (The Art Newspaper, November, p26).

Baán’s project has proved controversial. Although some support a potential €150m investment in a new museum quarter, there is widespread anger over the government’s decision to back Baán’s vision before there has been any public consultation.

Writing in the Hungarian publication Magyar Narancs, József Mélyi, the president of the Hungarian section of the International Association of Art Critics, said that a formal debate and impact assessments should have been carried out.

Csák calls the process: “Very unprofessional, anti-democratic and short-sighted.” He criticised the fact that he and his colleagues first learned that the national gallery was going to “cease to exist” when they read about it in the press. “There haven’t been any feasibility studies. No risk assessments have been done, nor professional studies,” he says.

Gábor Gulyás, the director of the Mucsarnok art centre in Budapest, says he recognises the potential of a museum quarter to boost the city as a cultural destination, however.

Baán says that the two-year time frame of his commission is intended to enable discussions with stakeholders. Tenders are due to be put out in 2013.

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