The arts community in Hungary is suffering under conditions reminiscent of the Soviet era, with the right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Hungarian Academy of Arts (MMA), a private institution that has since become the official state arts apparatus, taking almost entire control of the cultural sector.
Orban’s party, Fidesz, was triumphant in the 2010 elections and has since begun restructuring Hungarian society, and has implemented a new constitution.
The ultra-conservative MMA, headed by 80-year-old György Fekete, recently took over Budapest’s premier contemporary art venue Mucsarnok, which is also a public institution. Protesters outraged by the takeover were prompted to crash the MMA’s general assembly meeting in December. During the disturbance, a banner was unfurled that stated ‘The MMA is exclusive, art is free.’
Since the new Hungarian constitution, which is known as Fundamental Law, came into place on January 1 2012, the MMA has been tasked with selecting the directors of museums while also administering prizes in the arts industry. Aside from this official level of power, the organisation has also received the majority of the national cultural budget.
The banner used during last year’s demonstrations also appears on a press release from Free Artists, a group opposed to the MMA. The exclusivity to which the organisation refers denotes one of the main criticisms of the Academy heading up the Hungarian cultural sector.