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You can't buy a butterfly. Contemporary art donated by Tatra banka

9. December 2021 — 3. June 2022
Esterházyho palác, Bratislava

Live art, in exceptionally diverse media, is in this period harder to lay hold of in museums than ever before. All the more therefore do we appreciate the generous financial gift from Tatra banka, now making it possible to take in live art for the second year running – to “catch the butterfly”. The exhibition presents the newest additions to SNG collections by artists of the middle generation of Slovakia's contemporary art. Erik Binder, Marko Blažo, Marek Kvetan, Denisa Lehocká and Milan Tittel together offer us a varied yet coherent assortment of contemporary art approaches, media, and themes.

Where Kvetan is a dynamic, visually fascinating artist, facile in responding to current themes, Lehocká has developed her program with painstaking patience, offering a meditative, poetic contemplation of space and female existence. Binder, with his vigorous temperament, can transform into art almost anything that crosses his path. Tittel is a  profound introvert who “caresses” his material, building on the subtlety of his gestures. Closing out the presentation is Marko Blažo, whose premature demise served to remind us of the fragility of human existence and the pricelessness of exceptional talent. His works serve as a gate to an unconventional creativity, where artistic maturity comes together with the innocence of a child's vision.

The exhibition's title is metaphoric, describing the relationship between the museum and contemporary live art. However we may try to keep current, to buy things while they're hot, to capture the uncapturable – to catch the butterfly – with this instant of life we always miss something. And though we might occasionally grab (purchase) this imaginary butterfly into an “art historical” box (pinning it into the Art History cabinet), this will always be a picture somewhat diffused...

One of the benefits of modern society is the decision to take great care with art collections, and enable everyone to come into contact with art and get something out of it. Yet this is often a difficult task – artists are challenging, the works tricky and financially fraught. Acquisition policy for contemporary art has always been a weak point for the SNG. Financing for art has been in short supply, less and less since 1989, until last year there was nothing at all. This is among the reasons the art history in our collections since 1989 is full of gaps.

Increasing portions of SNG acquisitions come from gifts. While we appreciate this, as a method of building collections it is not the healthiest. We know this is a difficult age, and that we have to cut back and limit spending. However there are areas that are unsustainable with reduced funding, and one of these is acquisitions. If the SNG is unable to purchase art, it cannot record history – to chronicle our society's visual culture. Its fundamental mission is thus left to others: to private collectors, and regional galleries. And so in Slovakia the art history is being written ever more manifestly by the hand of the market.

Assistance with this mission at present from a fair partner such as Tatra banka is not charity, but rather philanthropy, in other words an effort at making the world better. We believe the world is better with art, and works that say something about us, and the society that created them and lived with them, must be preserved. It is this perspective we hope to convey to you.



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