The main work of the Munkácsy Award-winning visual artist István B. Gellér was the Growing City, which he himself “founded”. In this series, to which he added continuously from 1978 until the end of his life, Gellér diligently “discovered” an ancient civilisation whose inhabitants considered not facts, but the emotions and meaning surrounding them, to be the basis, or starting point, for their existence and interests. The single room of items “excavated” from the now perhaps only semi-fictitious City over a period of 30 years, gives us an insight into a multidisciplinary project that can be regarded as a life’s work in every sense of the word.
In 1978 he moved away from his hitherto impersonal artistic approach, creating a mythology through the archaeological excavation of a non-existent ancient culture, the Growing City, and the exploration of its cultural history. In the course of his “excavations”, the artist, and his archaeologist alter-ego, brought into existence the literature, customs and cults of the City’s archaic society. He documented the results of the excavations in the form of installations, photographs and videos, and published the “deciphered” texts.
On this occasion the exhibition’s curator, Sándor Kardos, has selected statues, boxed works and pictures from the artist’s estate. The 1996 film Growing City, directed by Kardos and starring István B. Gellér himself, will also be viewable at the exhibition.
“Where you are now, in the constellation of Taweret – where the Ancient Egyptians imagined the departed to be – there are many great people like yourself. Pheidias, Escher, Magritte, the list is endless. Feel free to tell them that you’re the same as anyone else there; but the commanding officer told you to jump at the wrong time, and there were problems with the parachute, and you had a rough landing. There were snarling dogs down here, and you had to use all sorts of tricks just to keep them at bay while you were here.
This is how you lived your life as a paratrooper on a lonely mission, compelled to create an entire culture; and it was the excavated relics and faith-permeated, earnest rituals of this that made our world bearable.” (Sándor Kardos)