“Let it be worth travelling here from Budapest for an exhibition.”
Krisztián Kukla philosopher, new director of Debrecen’s MODEM
Krisztián Kukla is the recently appointed director of Debrecen’s Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts (Modem). Kukla left Nyíregyháza College for the museum, where he was promoted to director from deputy in May. He was vice dean at the college and is well familiar with ideas about communicating fine arts to the public. He lectured on aesthetics, visual communications, the history of philosophy and theory of arts. He has also translated theoretical works. “My perspective in terms of Modem is unusual because I see it from both the outside and inside at the same time. I already worked part time here when I was still teaching in Nyíregyháza,” he says. Although Krisztián Kukla moved from Debrecen at the turn of the millennium he already saw the building before its opening and because he has been following the work in the institution since the beginning most of his colleagues did not have to introduce themselves. He is well aware of Modem’s local impact and the regional role it plays as a museum of contemporary arts, and he has been getting to know the museum from within for some time. Unparalleled attention, criticism and reaction have followed those five years which have been magnificent in all respects. Modem with its outstanding installations and facilities has become a major attraction of Hungary’s eastern region. Gábor Gulyás (the previous director), who has been managing the Kunsthalle since February, knew how to promote the gallery. The nude series of André Kertész and the Vilmos Aba-Novák retrospective were excellent exhibitions to launch the venue, and he also drew attention to Debrecen with international shows, or if needed with some political discourse and museum happenings. “Modem suddenly appeared without any antecedents, so to say, and he could communicate that situation very well,” says Krisztián Kukla. “He wanted to provide an alternative, to make it worth travelling here from Budapest for an exhibition and to provide a real example of cultural decentralisation. This, of course, is not my doing. I simply dropped into a situation which colleagues here regard as natural. When Gábor and I were still working together it was already obvious that exhibition organising and providing the technical basis had become strong features of practical activity. I can build on that very well.” Modem is Hungary’s second largest temporary exhibition space after the Ludwig Museum. Krisztián Kukla continues to commission outside experts to arrange exhibitions since jobs like those of curators, graphic and image designers have been outsourced so far. “Today it is not necessarily art historians and museum professionals who determine the content, image and possibilities of exhibitions. The space changes, installations are no longer permanent. But that also makes a permanent collection interesting in that we comment on it with temporary shows,” he says, referring to the Antal-Lusztig collection of which the Modem holds a part on behalf of the city. Péter Antal deposited his modern and contemporary Hungarian artworks with Debrecen, and Modem has already exhibited thematic selections.