As it happened, back at the end of the 1990s, György Gajzágó, the director of Bergman Contemporary Art Gallery, was looking for market niches in the art sector when he met the predecessor of RAVATHERM Hungary Kft. He wanted to bring new materials and new technologies into the art of making sculptures. He wanted to find easily workable, affordable, light but still stable and sustainable materials. In his gallery in Buda, we discussed how he managed to achieve his goals.
Where did the idea of making sculptures from polystyrene foam come from?
If we look at the practical side, these materials, like e.g. polystyrene are a kind of basic pillars in marketing. However they cannot be as easily made attractive through parameters and numbers as when we approach customers in an emotional manner. I wanted to solve this problem and said that we should produce art from these materials. The present marketing tools are not really suitable for generating demand anyway, as the market is just what it is. We’d better concentrate on sustaining the attention already gained. And to achieve that goal we need to do things that go beyond simple product shows. Once these materials have been built into the house, they become invisible. If, however we make a sculpture out of foam, then a unique thing with a long-term marketing value may be produced, which also has artistic value. In addition, the positive characteristics of the material also become visible and tangible, e.g. that it is creative, endurable, does not depreciate etc.
How did you first find out about the blue heat insulating material of RAVATHERM Hungary Kft.?
Our relationship goes back to earlier times, to the days of R.W. Bautech. I first contacted them because I was aware that they market a number of interesting materials. We chose the compact décor plates called Trespa and the glass foam to produce pieces of art. We burnt patterns and pictures into Trespa but at that time it wasn’t a success, even if we were really ahead of our times. (I saw later in Vienna, at an art fair that somebody – independently of us – created a whole brand from it). Our greatest achievement was the glass foam project, which is a rather unique thing. I still haven’t seen anybody to work with such a material. When R.W. Bautech was restructured, the glass foam was abandoned for a while, but not forever, I guess, as we still have more than one and a half cubic metres of it. RAVATHERM Hungary Kft. already focuses on manufacturing new materials, namely they make the blue extruded polystyrene foams, which are also used for producing works of art. We were also able to maintain the positive attitude towards each other in the new situation. I must also tell you that on I was invited by Gábor Gerendi the technical and marketing manager of the company when one of the machines was installed. He wanted me to see it, because actualy sculptures were coming out of the machine. It was truly an interesting sight – but of course had to be stopped as the aim was to produce heat insulating plates ( – he is laughing, the editor).
Have you also contacted other companies? How did they react to the idea? To what extent has it been implemented?
Of course I have contacted several companies, as sometimes different types of materials are needed for a piece. We introduced our pilot project, the Kaï Bergman sculpture project in 2014, which is related to RAVATHERM Baumit and Holcim. The three metre tall oval – or we can say egg shaped – work of art called “Solutions” debuted last year at the 33rd Construma International Construction Industry Exhibition in the main square of Hungexpo and now can be seen at the southern façade of Bálna Budapest Cultural Centre. It is a pleasant thing to look at, as it is a soft shape with rather intensive colours that ensure that it can produce a little sunshine in the colourless winter world. Although it is something that everybody can reach and touch, it does not really depreciate. It is not pawed or graffitied either. Its quality and appearance create a certain positive aura and evoke respect.
It is not a secret that we would like to build up some kind of cross-branding so that it is beneficial to the goodwill of each stakeholder. Why couldn’t we work together in this sector, in art? The more sculptors are inspired, the better for the company. It is also advantageous for me, because my artists, who would like to excel in this area, may find their way to the international scene through the channels of RAVATHERM Hungary Kft., and then it will be easier for me to contact potential representatives outside Hungary. And this will generate a big cycle, where I first just give and give and give… but in the end will also be given. The process will start, artists will be commissioned and the company will have more publicity. The new materials and sculptures will start to appear in public places. It is a win-win situation for all.
How do you see the future of these new materials and what do you think of their integration into modern art?
I believe, even little steps are useful if we have a long-term goal. The egg was a smaller project and now I’m thinking in much bigger volumes. I would like to achieve that Budapest is not ranked behind Prague or Berlin concerning statues in public areas. There are no progressive sculptures in Hungary; genre sculptures are much more common. At least for the time being…
The medium of sculptors is space, and most of the times these sculptures are not allowed to be erected. However, we need the opportunities and they are in the hands of decision makers. We hope this will change in the future. We make efforts to introduce these sculptures at the popular fairs with a lot of visitors like Construma, so that people can have a look, form an opinion and based on that, the stakeholders can also get acquainted with the idea. I do believe that pushing the boundaries is definitely necessary to help the audience form a fresh attitude. They must see conceptual and progressive things that communicate quality to them and we can only hope that a demand for these things will also arise.
It is important to produce sculptures for the future and not for the past. That is why we need new materials, new structures and new messages, and all that should be disclosed to the public. The important thing is to prompt the reaction when people think “Wow, this is really something I have never thought of”. In order to achieve this, we need partners and the kind of co-operation that I have with RAVATHERM Hungary Kft..
It is a great pleasure for me that I am now in the Organising Committee of Sziget Festival, where I help to implement the artistic visual elements of the festival. We are planning to bring these materials there as well, within the framework of the “mega-tender” called Contemporary Challenge. I do hope that an increasing number of artists will get acquainted with these innovative materials and start using them.
György Gajzágó is a gallery owner, the director of Bergman Contemporary Art Gallery and the main curator of the sculpture section of Art Market Budapest. By profession he is an architect, designer, design manager, as well as a marketing expert. Originally he intended to be an artist, but, as he puts it: “life had different plans”, and he ended up becoming an integrating personality in the field of arts, who believes that one of his main tasks is to renew sculpture. “Basically I believe that I’m a creative person. However, I’ve never been interested how something can be done, as that should be rather obvious. I’ve always been more concerned with the process itself and sustainability.” With a contemporary mindset and his innovative ideas his aim is to develop an environment that would make our capital a more liveable place. His concepts show the way forward and chime with the western trends that seem to be already realised in France. “The messages of sculptors should be created from alternative materials that are cheaper, faster and allow the sculpture to stand the test of time with its shape and colours in the given surroundings. And, if it is worth it, in 15-20 years it can be stabilised from a more enduring material. In addition, using these technologies and materials may bring a renewal into Hungarian sculpture and may help continuously sustain its development.”