Sam Havadtoy’s new exhibition: “The three chinese emperors”
The new exhibition entitled “The three chinese emperors” of Sámuel Havadtőy (Sam Havadtoy), Hungarian painter of the first rank of contemporary art, will open on 13 November 2008, in Gallery B55. It is for the first time that the two series of works on the theme of China, created by the artist who mainly paints his pictures on old pieces of lace, are now presented to the public. Havadtoy pays tribute to three monarchs of China of the 17th-18th centuries: emperors who kept a strict hand over their empire as military leaders, yet at the same time were receptive to poetry and fine arts, and built up their power not by destroying, but by preserving and cherishing the values of past times.
The China of the 17th-18th centuries represents a unique bond between the two series of works presented at Havadtoy’s latest exhibition. When the artist moved to New York in the mid- 1970s, he started collecting small Chinese vases, because he was fascinated by their beautiful light blue colour. At that time he had a job as a designer of interiors in a gallery, and he displayed all his 11 small vases as a decoration in the window of the gallery. One day it happened that an art collector walked in the shop, and it was him who enlightened Havadtoy on the precise age and the actual value of these artefacts. The price of these several-hundred-year-old vases was such that by selling them Havadtoy was able to buy a house, and this is how these light blue objects proved to be the solid basis for both his existence and artistic development.
The other series displayed at the exhibition pays tribute to three emperors of China, Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, also of the 17th-18th centuries, who kept a strict hand over their empire as military leaders, yet at the same time were receptive to poetry and fine arts, and built up their power not by destroying, but by preserving and cherishing the values of past times. “One of these emperors, soon after having taken possession of the Forbidden City, took a walk all the way through the thousand rooms of the palace, and in one of the rooms he came across two paintings of a painter of the 13th century. Then, burrowing in the inventory, he discovered that he had two more paintings of the same painter in his possession. In the end he had a new room built, and placed all four artefacts in that room, which he named in the style of the Chinese language ‘all four paintings are together, at last’. This attitude simply entrances me, the way in which these powerful Chinese monarchs, having such a respect for the past, recognised that this heritage would at the same time enrich their lives, would strengthen their empire, too. For the man of our days, I think, there is much to be learnt from these Chinese emperors.” – said Sam Havadtoy speaking about the message of his paintings.
Born in London, Havadtoy later in his life lived in Hungary, New York and Geneva, and ever since 2000 has been living in Budapest again. In the course of his career the artist had intellectual, artistic and friendly relationships with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, George Condo and Donald Baechler, to mention just a few. He has been in a close connection with the contemporary art world of New York to this day. For 20 years he had been living with Yoko Ono, who actually gave its name to Gallery 56, run by Sam Havadtoy between 1992-2000.
Havadtoy has been a collector of old pieces of lace for a decade, because their tangible beauty, the endlessly variable forms, but first of all the life stories of those anonym women who had made these pieces fascinates him: the life stories which are imperceptibly, hardly visibly, yet somehow palpably interwoven with the lace. The several layers of lace make these pictures almost three-dimensional. By placing the different layers in this way, one on top of the other, Havadtoy creates his own narrative. From the white lace of the bride’s veil to the black lace fan of the seductive lover, the very material of lace suggests a complexity of metaphors. Sam Havadtoy is fully aware of these manifold connotations, his art daringly stretches its boundaries to the utmost, so that he makes the most of the main function of lace, that is to hide and to conceal.