Eight artists are in competition for the Leopold Bloom Art Award, aimed at supporting creative artists in Hungary

“Strengthening the international engagement of Hungarian visual artists”

Eight artists are in competition for the Leopold Bloom Art Award, aimed at supporting creative artists in Hungary

More than fifty applications have been submitted for the Leopold Bloom Art Award, aimed at supporting visual artists working in Hungary. We are now pleased to announce the eight artists who have made it to the second round: Lőrinc Borsos, Ákos Ezer, Anna Fabricius, Márk Fridvalszki, Ferenc Gróf, Hajnal Németh, Andi Schmied and Eszter Szabó. The winner of the ten thousand Euro biennial prize, established in 2011, will be announced in September at the Új Budapest Gallery, where the finalists’ work will also be on display. Unlike other prizes in the visual arts, the goal of the Leopold Bloom award is to promote the international engagement of Hungarian artists. This year, the organizers have invited Audrey Illouz from France, Doris Krystof from Germany and Woodrow Kernohan from Britain to form the jury. The distinguished three-member panel will come to Budapest in the autumn to familiarize themselves with the artists and the Hungarian visual arts scene more generally through a series of studio visits and personal meetings. Applicants had to submit an invitation from a foreign gallery as part of the application process, and the winner will be able to use the prize money to mount their exhibition.

Project manager Krisztián Kukla, the curator of the Budapest show in September says: „From the point of view of the show, it’s interesting that the finalists work in a number of different media: installation, photography, figurative and abstract painting, video, and animation. The list is very distinguished and the prize supports career development in the best possible sense of the term. The goal is to strengthen the international engagement of Hungarian artists. The finalists are chosen from among those artists whose work fits in with the Western outlook on visual arts.”

The fourth Leopold Bloom Art Award, awarded biennially since 2011, is aimed at supporting visual artists in Hungary. The artist chosen by the international jury receives support to organize an exhibition abroad, thus helping those artists who are already active and acknowledged in the Hungarian artistic world to present themselves to the wider world. The prize is international in its very background, having been established by an Irish collector couple, Mary McLoughlin and John Ward, owners of the shipping and art handling firm of Maurice Ward. The Award is named after a defining work of Irish literature, James Joyce’s Ulysses, using the hero, Leopold Bloom, and his Hungarian roots to call attention to the importance of innovative artistic creation, cross-border cultural relations and independence.

Artists, irrespective of age, working in Hungary had until May to submit their applications in English. The application had to include a professional CV, professional statement and a digital portfolio as well as the concept, and plans, for an exhibition abroad. They also had to have a letter of intent from a gallery abroad that would host their show. This could include a one-person show of the artist’s works or a group exhibition that included the applicant. The jury selected the eight artists announced above who have made it into the second round from among 63 applications. There will be a group exhibition of their work at the Új Budapest Gallery in the “Bálna Budapest” building, opening on the 22nd September, and running until mid-November.

A special feature of the award is that the artists had to upload their applications to an online portfolio platform called Works.io. The jury will make their final decision based on personal interviews and studio visits, before an exhibition of the finalists’ work and prize-giving. Following their discussions of the application, the members of the jury will meet for the first time in Budapest, making their visit – in keeping with the goal of the Award – a visual arts initiative which will allow internationally renowned experts to get a closer view of the visual arts scene in Hungary.


The jury:

Audrey Illouz is a freelance curator and critic, and teaches at the École Supérieur d’Art et Design in Rheims as well as the Institut Supérieur des Arts in Paris.

Woodrow Kernohan is an artist and curator. Since 2017, he is also the director of the John Hansard Gallery. He was formerly the director of EVA International, Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art.

Doris Krystof is an art historian and writer on art. She was formerly the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Kunsthalle in Vienna and is now in the same role at the K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf.  


The finalists:


Lőrinc Borsos
The fictitious artist Lőrinc Borsos – not someone to shy away from technological innovation - was created by artists János Borsos and Lilla Lőrinc, and was initially interested in examining questions of national self-representation, and later in those relating to contemporary social problems. More recently, Borsos has concentrated more and more on the medium of painting itself, and specifically on black paint: the extent to which it can be directed, its relationship to its environment, and its dependence on external influences.


Ákos Ezer
Ákos Ezer is the youngest artist to make it to the second round, having graduated in painting from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2014. In his large-format paintings with their characteristic colours and forms, the drama of the expressive is in dialogue with caricature. His heroes appear in, or rather fall into, grotesque situations; the prelude here is not known, only the result – a helpless human being wandering in the forest of obscure reality.


Anna Fabricius
Anna Fabricius is a photographer whose pictures features groups of people in the same profession – they are a mix of documentary and staged photography, since her subjects really are there (as subjects) as representatives of particular trades, but the scene itself is staged. Thus, the subject of her analysis is not only photography as a medium, but - as self-designated sociologist - the community of workers as well.


Márk Fridvalszki

Márk Fridvalszki works with easily identifiable, unique stylistic hallmarks: a black-and-white photocopier aesthetic, geometric forms, the now ancient-looking technology of the 1980s. His works are research-focussed and look at various specific themes. Most recently, he has been examining people’s place in technoreality, which is to say people’s possible roles in the consciousness of the post-apocalyptic vision of the future of the Anthropocene era (and Mad Max). 


Ferenc Gróf
Ferenc Gróf rose to prominence as one half of Paris-based Hungarian and French artistic duo Société Réaliste, now disbanded. His work is not confined by media: he works with installations, films, performance, and typography as well. With his creations, he manages to get his viewers to re-evaluate slightly distorted historical memories and social situations, by getting them to think about their own relationship to them.


Hajnal Németh
Hajnal Németh has represented Hungary at the Venice Biennale, and has exhibited in Paris, Madrid and Berlin. The focus of her visual art is popular music and choral works, operas and performances, as well as the photo and video documentation of these events. Through music, she has us experience historical trauma, or transforms well-known hits into political statements through small changes.


Andi Schmied
Andi Schmied studied architecture, something that informs her art: she makes her photo series and short video clips into installations that record – and unmask - complex urban phenomena. Her latest work was executed during a scholarship in New York: disguised as the wealthy Gabriella, she visited the metropolis’ most expensive apartments as a potential buyer, taking photos with a hidden camera.


Eszter Szabó
Eszter Szabó presents us with everyday scenes, placing under the microscope social and political questions and post-Communist reality that determines people’s everyday lives in Hungary. She calls our attention to those details that are, though significant, perfectly everyday, and therefore go unnoticed. To do this she brings to life apparently painting-like, but actually digital (and in many cases animated) works.


Though László Nagyvári Nosek, Roland Farkas, Sári Ember and Tamás Schild did not make it to the second round, nonetheless the jury gave them a special mention during the selection process.

Two of this year’s finalists - Eszter Szabó and Anna Fabricius – have been in finalists before, picked by two independent international juries. This just goes to show that this year’s applicants for the Leopold Bloom Art Award are once again artists with a great deal of international potential.