New art calls for new ways of exposition in order to remain current and accessible to audiences, even if sometimes this means that the demands and caprices of the art market are not entirely met. More and more art dealers are steering away from the typical gallery model for presenting and selling art, and even larger institutions and galleries understand the need for presenting art in a less commercial, if not completely non-commercial, context. Young Hungarian art dealer Peter Bencze foresaw this shift already some years ago, when he founded Everybody Needs Art, a platform based in his hometown of Budapest for selling and promoting the work of young artists. “It’s not a gallery,” he emphatically explains over the phone when I ask him when his ‘gallery’ was founded. “I do sell art for a living, but I don’t see Everybody Needs Art as a classic gallery.”
A water polo-athlete-turned-art-dealer, Peter Bencze founded Everybody Needs Art in 2013, a short time after his return from London. Bencze didn’t study art history, curation or something down that line, but cultivated his love for and understanding of contemporary art in London’s many galleries and museums: “There is no connection with contemporary art in my family, so I didn’t know much about art when I went to London eight years ago. Of course I knew about Picasso and other important figures from my high school education, but I wasn’t aware of the contemporary art world as much. In London I rented a room from a Pakistani painter, somewhere between Leyton and Leytonstone; that contact first made me think about contemporary art and what it is that artists do around us today. That’s when I got the urge to go around and visit as many exhibitions as possible in my free time.” Soon Bencze’s hobby became an obsession, and later on his profession: he presented his first exhibition with Everybody Needs Art in Vienna in 2013, and his exhibition space—the ENA Viewing Space—followed suit in Budapest the next year.
Τhis context is a good way to close the gap between contemporary art and the general public, to build a relationship with visitors.
What is so unusual about ENA Viewing Space in Budapest is that it’s not really a space, but more of a place, occupying the rooftop of a typical dwelling house very close to the city centre. Peter Bencze came across the spot because his mother owns an apartment in the building, and he got permission to use it for exhibitions as long as he was responsible for the space’s maintenance. “I also pay a small rent,” he says,”but it’s really not a significant amount. I like the fact that it’s a rooftop because it’s very far from a usual gallery, so when people come to our openings they are often expecting to find a roof party, but they come across contemporary art instead. Sometimes my parents or the neighbours come here too, so I think this context is a good way to close the gap between contemporary art and the general public, to build a relationship with visitors.” The ENA Viewing Space also functions as a project space, where artists are invited to create more experimental and non-commercial projects. This for Peter Bencze is essential for any city, because it removes the pressure from the artists to make something sellable, and allows them to develop their practice in more meaningful ways.
For its current exhibition, the ENA Viewing Space hosts a solo show with new works by Rade Petrasevic—a Vienna-born artist who did a residency at The Breeder gallery in Athens last year and whose work was featured in the latest edition of Art Athina, at the Everybody Needs Art booth. Rade Petrasevic paints cheerful and bright scenes and portraits with oil, but in a way that they appear they were drawn with crayons or thick markers. The exhibition’s title, “Ask Peter For Money To Go To Coxx”, came from a discussion Peter Bencze had with the artist during a visit in Budapest, when Bencze offered to lend Petrasevic money to go out to local gay club Coxx (Petrasevic had just arrived and didn’t have Hungarian forints on him). The exhibition shows some larger paintings on fabric hanging in the main space, and smaller works installed in the staircase leading up to the roof.
Petrasevic is mostly known for his still life paintings, usually depicting domestic scenes with furniture and interiors; for “Ask Peter For Money To Go To Coxx”, the works focus on the human form, and are explicitly sexual, playful and sensual. Depicting erotic or insinuating scenes between two or three partners in various gender combinations, the works are exuberant and seductive in their colourful patterns and enigmatic eroticism. The reason why they were hung from wires is a nod to the locale’s past: back in the days of communism in Budapest, every dwelling house used its rooftop for washing and hanging laundry. When Bencze mentioned this to Petrasevic, he immediately liked the idea of creating a site-specific installation with “paintings drying on the rooftop.” In that sense, Petrasevic’s colourful fabrics sway in the breeze like a batch of tongue-in-cheek and utterly imaginative linen that have been heroically saved from their mundane domestic fate and washed clean from the dry banality of the closet.
Rade Petrasevic, Ask Peter For Money To Go To Coxx, installation views. Courtesy Everybody Needs Art.