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Budapest Business Journal

A well-known local auctioneer starts an online service, aiming to increase public understanding of Hungarian art

Art collector and trader Tamás Kieselbach presented his gallery's free art portal, www.kieselbach.hu, last week, opening a window to more than 10,000 paintings by more than 1,200 Hungarian painters.

"Hungarian art is excellent if it is carefully selected. When I started collecting the pieces, I found that it is not respected enough," Kieselhach said.

In addition to pictures of the paintings, the portal presents the whole material of the 25 auctions held by the gallery, along with studies and articles on paintings, schools and trends, both in Hungarian and English.

"The target group of the portal simply includes everyone, not only Hungarians," Kieselbach said. According to Kieselbach, the main advantage of the portal is that it can be extended without restrictions and the history of Hungarian art can be presented without making compromises. "I started working on a book a few yeah ago. I felt that it was not enough, so I started working on a second one after the first was published. I still found that it was not enough, so I started working on the portal," he recalled. "The current stage of the portal is only the beginning, but it is already much more than anything we had before in Hungary," he said.

According to Kieselbach, the gallery bas been working for two years to set up the portal. In order to prevent royalty problems, pictures of the paintings are presented in a format that does not allow the pictures to be used in publishing. In one of the services the portal offers, members of the public can send in digital pictures of paintings and receive an identification of the picture - or an estimate of its value. This service has already scored its first success, as a canvas depicted in a digital photo sent to the gallery was identified as a painting by Pá1 Szinyei Merse. The canvas will he offered for sale in the gallery's autumn auction, with a starting price of Ft 15 million (Euro 59,000). Kieselbach said that in addition to paintings, he also collects letters, documents, photos of art treasuries, photos of ateliers, and anything else that provides information on the history of Hungarian art.

At the same time as presenting the portal, Kieselhach sent 100 copies of his book, "Modern Hungarian Painting," to institutes, libraries and schools in Hungary. The second part of the book will be published this year, focusing on Hungarian paintings between 1919 and 1964. At the same time, the gallery is working on a book presenting the entire catalogue of works by József Rippl-Rónai, and another album on the history of Hungarian art collecting in the 20th century. Books already published by the gallery include "Hungarian Modernism l900-1950" and "Hungarian Painting 1900-1945," containing a selection from Kieselbach's collection.

In an auction of the gallery this spring, paintings with a total value of Ft 454.5 million were sold, with a typical value range of Ft 1 million-Ft 10 million; 79 paintings sold for a price between those two figures. The most valuable painting was a canvas by István Csók, which started at Ft 10 million, and changed hands for a final price of Ft 34 million.

Anita Benkő

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