Texts by Conceptual Artists from Eastern Europe: Hungary

What is Avantgardism? Can we consider it an avant-garde act that Miklós Erdély, György Jovánovics and János Major together exhibited a coat?

Miklós Erdély

The word avant-garde means “vanguard”. 

Avant-garde artists cannot be content with the beaten track of established aesthetic rules; they rather aspire to reveal new aesthetic fields and create new aesthetic categories.

The art of the great avant-garde masters (e.g., Picasso, Mondrian, Le Corbusier) is appreciated all over the world. Avantgardism has defeated prejudice and captivates increasingly broader masses of people.

In spite of this, avantgardism seems to be problematic, and the main source of the problem is the essence of avantgardism itself, its fundamental requirement: the continuous aspiration to the new.

That is to say: the avant-garde artist restricts her/himself and all other avantgardists with the creation of each new work, because no one of them can make anything similar ever again.

In this way, although it started as the art of freedom, destroying taboos, avantgardism sets more and more limits on itself with each new work of art. I consider the coat that we exhibited together an attempt to set avantgardism free.

This work of art contains no novelty.

Exhibiting a piece of clothing is nothing new. Claes Oldenburg exhibited trousers in 1962. 

There is nothing new in three artists signing a single work of art. The Kukrinyikszi-group is a well-known example.

An object d’art accompanied by a text that interprets it is not new, either, as it is the main characteristic of conceptual art (Joseph Kosuth). But there is nothing wrong in this, either, because there is also nothing new in that there is nothing new in it.

Translated by Adèle Eisenstein and John Bátki.

Miklós Erdély – György Jovánovics – János Major. János Major’s Coat. 1973. Pictured at György Galántai’s Chapel Studio, Balatonboglár. Photo: Éva Körner. © György Jovánovics; Heirs of János Major; Heirs of Miklós Erdély; Heir of Éva Körner. Courtesy to the Miklós Erdély Foundation

*First published in: AL/5, 1983. 6.; In: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde: the Chapel Studio of György Galántai in Balatonboglár 1970–1973]. Eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári. Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003, p.154.

© Heirs of Miklós Erdély, the translators, the Miklós Erdély Foundation

The original Hungarian text has been published by the Artpool Art Research Center and can be accessed online here.

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