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The archive has been one of the most popular topics in the humanities of the past few decades. The archive as such has not only influenced historical, art historical, cultural anthropological research, but it has also become a corner stone for philosophical and art theoretical thinking. In Derrida's conception, there are two forces at work in an archive: one is that of conserving, the other is destructive, the latter phrased as “the archive fever” (mal d'archive) which works against conservation, wishing to destroy (to suppress). A good example of this two-way force may be the so-called “Heidelberg suitcase” which, after Lukács's death, turned out to have been deposited in a Swiss bank safe. It contained the philosopher's early writings, sketches, diary and correspondence. In Lukács's oeuvre biographical and autobiographical elements are mixed, life is replaced by “lived thinking”.

The Lukács Archives is located in the philosopher's last apartment in Budapest, it is both a memorial and a research place. Contemporary artists' Interventions in May 2010, in memory of the 125th anniversary of the philosopher's birth, partly explored the law-creating power (arche) of the archive and partly the hidden sides of Lukács's life and work. Lukács had been an inspiring source for contemporary art. László Lakner's book objects and hyper-realistic book pictures (1970) tried to explore the relationship between philosophy and art in general and presented, at the same time, Lakner's (critical) attitude to the philosophical sources. Lukács also appeared in a different role, in film, approximately at around the same time: in the legendary, censored and banned film by Dezső Magyar entitled Agitators (1969). The script was the adaptation of Ervin Sinkó's documentary novel, Optimists by Dezső Magyar and Gábor Bódy. Writing the history of the Hungarian Republic of Councils of 1919, they used several personal recollections, including those of Lukács' and Sinkó's. The directors of the film approached the events of the Republic from the viewpoint of the so-called “ideological group”, action was often replaced by speech in the film, and they used archive film footages, uniting Eisenstein's “intellectual montage” and Jean-Luc Godard's propaganda language. Also, György Kemény painted a secco in a room of Ferenc Kőszeg's apartment in 1972, at a time when the renaissance of Marxism and the rejection of “existing socialism” did not yet involve total disappointment from Marxism. The iconography of the mural was worked out by the then-tenants of the room, philosophers György Bence and János Kenedi. The secco represented not only Lukács himself but also Angela Davis, as well as Leo Trotsky. Photographer Gabriella Csoszó and curator Lívia Páldi have been working on an accurate photo-documentation of the Lukács Archives since 2008. Some of these photos under the title Shelves were on view at the Budapest Kunsthalle's exhibition Other voices, other rooms – reconstruction attempt(s), fifty years of the Balázs Béla Studio.Interventions was conceived and organized by artist Tamás Soós who, like Lakner, was inspired to study Lukács by his childhood and youth memories. Soós' approach to the archives and also to Lukács is esoteric: the figure of the philosopher can only exist in allusions (consequently, his attitude to him is uncritical), through his books and the narration of his most important student and follower. The figure of Lukács has been faded by time: even to talk about him is already history, he himself belongs to the archive, simple past has turned to past perfect. Soós is preoccupied by the melancholy of this transiency against which one may fight with dreams, remembrance, meditation.

In János Sugár's intervention, the archive appeared as the place of preservation and law. Sugár did not wish to evaluate Lukács' oeuvre: in his interpretation it is the archive itself that is to be preserved. Sugár focused on the actual state of the Lukács Archives, its functioning at the mercy of economic and political decisions. The central element of his intervention is the gesture of conservation. He sprayed onto the wall, under a picture of the study room, one of his earlier graffiti works (Arbeite gratis oder verrichte eine Arbeit die du auch gratis machen würdest [Work for free or do a work that you would do for free]) so that, in case of an evacuation of the archive it is revealed as a warning, a deterrent for the liquidators.

Miklós Erhardt's intervention presents the philosopher as an active political actor, “Realpolitiker” whose activity in this capacity also raises ethical questions. Addressing those who were present, he revived a historical event of 1919 (as the political commissar of the Red Army, Lukács ordered seven people to be shot dead), a fact that is to be faced up to here and now. The covering of a crushed memorial plaque was his reflection upon the inclusion of a historically and politically laden monument in the archive as a piece of furniture, i.e. meaningless surface.

Balázs Beöthy addressed Lukács' the Soul and Forms, and installed his research findings in the memorial room of the archives on Lukács desk. Beöthy was interested to pinpoint the biographical-philosophical moment that made the young Lukács choose between personal life and work. Of all Intervention participants, it was Beöthy alone who studied the documents in the archives instead of just trying to capture the “spiritus loci” or the figure of the archive-founder philosopher in general. Next to photo copies of Lukács's private letters (first of all Irma Seidler's letters) Beöthy put a video piece (Hancsi) narrating a love story from his own life that had some similarities with that of Lukács'. Beöthy does not only question Lukács's choice: the video is a testimony that the question itself – life or work? – is fundamentally wrong. Life is the source and model of the work – as the dedication of Soul and Forms also supports.

It was Lukács “alive” (impersonated) who was the protagonist of the intervention of Little Warsaw (András Gálik and Bálint Havas). Their attempt to present the real person in his original setting can be seen both as a minimalist performance and as a hyperrealist statue. By giving shape to a quasi mythical figure, Little Warsaw also put their finger on one of the sorest points of Lukács' esthetic thinking. Their intervention confronted Lukács' realism concept with the everyday realities of contemporary art. By conjuring up the figure of Lukács in this environment, the dusty backdrop of the archive, they did not only ask how it was possible to preserve anyone's memory, but also pondered how to face the historical-esthetic and political legacy and its contradictions of the most prominent and influential Hungarian philosopher of the 20th century.

The present paper is the second part of two connected essays (following One night at the Lukács Archives: György Lukács and contemporary art, Művészettörténeti Értesítő 61. 2012/1. 1–31). Both attempted to present a special point, Lukács' antipathy to modern, avant-garde art that is obviously there in his work ever since its beginning. Even though Lukács carried the flag for 19th century classical realist art, his writings influenced the art discourse, he influenced thinking in the 20th century, and his ideas were important for contemporary artists, even if in the form of rejecting them. The Archive Fever was working in these Interventions as well, and the same fever may help to demolish the wall between Lukács and contemporary art.


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Senior editors

Editor(s)-in-Chief: Árpád MIKÓ

Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont, Művészettörténeti Intézet
P.O. address: Budapest, 1250, 31, Hungary


Chair of the Editorial Board: Anna JÁVOR

Magyar Nemzeti Galéria
Budapest, 1250, 31, Hungary


Editorial Board

  • Géza GALAVICS (Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont, Művészettörténeti Intézet)
  • Erika KISS (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum)
  • András KOVÁCS (Babeș–Bolyai Tudományegyetem, Kolozsvár)
  • Ildikó NAGY (Budapest)
  • Enikő RÓKA (Budapesti Történeti Múzeum)

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CrossRef Documents 18
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Művészettörténeti Értesítő
Language Hungarian
Size A4
Year of
2020 Volume 69
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Founder Magyar Régészeti és Művészettörténeti Társulat
H-1088 Budapest, Hungary, Múzeum krt. 14.
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ISSN 0027-5247 (Print)
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