The Budapest businessman Adám Kovács began collecting paintings while a university student. In that period he drew heavily on the knowledge of his sister Katalin Bartha-Kovács, a specialist in French writing on art. Later, he made the acquaintance of István Árkoss, a painter and graphic artist originally from Cluj, who drew his attention to the art of that city and in particular to its Surrealist movements. It gradually became clear that this area was not only under-researched but was a significant phenomenon that held out the promise of multiple discoveries. While Surrealism did not take root in Transylvanian art during the inter-war period, it became a major source of inspiration for the painters and graphic artists of the 1960s and 1970s. For figurative painters recovering from the disorientation of socialist realism, contact with Surrealism opened up at least two possible ways forward: on the one hand, it offered them techniques with which to renew the visual language, while on the other it allowed them to create symbolic visual universes that could transmit veiled messages, sometimes psychological in their emphasis and at other times involving criticism of the regime. It is works of this kind that compose the most striking sub-group within the collection, from the paintings of Gábor Miklóssy, via the pictures of his pupil László Tóth, to those of “crazy Incze” (Incze Ferenc) and all the way to contemporary trends in Surrealism, as in the paintings of Tamás Todor. The exhibition features a number of works by the so-called Surnaturalists (Tibor Csernus, László Lakner); this was a current in art in Hungary that combined Realism with Surrealism. In parallel with forming this Surrealist-figurative nucleus, Ádám Kovács gradually began to broaden the chronological and geographical range of his collection by purchasing iconic works of inter-war Cluj art. Later, he also acquired major examples of the art currently being produced in the city. In all probability, it is in his collection that a hundred years’ worth of Cluj art is displayed with the greatest breadth of diversity. The visitor will also find in this exhibition major works belonging to progressive trends in Transylvanian art, the creation of important figures from the several generations of Baia Mare avant-garde artists (Tibor Boromisza, Sándor Ziffer, József Klein, Dávid Jándi) and of Leon Alex, Hans Mattis Teutsch and István Nagy. The interests of the modernist artists of Timișoara and Arad – Albert Varga, György Szántó, István Pál, Julius Podlipny – are clearly presented in the collection. A feature of this collection is that in addition to not restricting itself to presenting “national schools”, it also has a way of blending modern with contemporary pieces. Besides refusing to conform to any list of artists who must be included, Kovács also moves freely from one genre or style to another by juxtaposing on his walls works that initially appeared to have nothing in common with each other. This fresh and unprejudiced approach enables him to notice affinities between works, and their being shown in this way increases their impact and enriches our reading of them. The collection is expanding on a number of fronts: radical personalities in the art world, dramatic artists, Surrealists, the neo-avant-garde, contemporary art. More recently, these exhibits have been joined in the collection by major works by German, French and Romanian artists to provide a wider regional and European perspective. The decision to stage the exhibition in two venues has made it possible for us to show a major part of the collection, but in accordance with two different conceptions. The aim of the Cluj Napoca Art Museum exhibition is to give a chronological presentation, facilitating a linear reading, from the works of the Belle Époque, serene and full of the joys of life, to the meticulously executed and yet ironical mosaic by the Spaniard Enric Fort Ballester and the Romanian Șerban Savu, which dates from 2017, in the era of late capitalism. In its presentation of the first part of the twentieth century, the exhibition juxtaposes works by Hungarian and Romanian artists in a way that has probably not been done before. The raison d’être of this approach is the fact that both “schools” had links with Parisian Modernism. The influence of Neo-Impressionism, Cubism, the inter-war “returning to order” trends and magic realism may be traced in the oeuvre of Hungarian and Romanian artists, whose works are placed in dialogue with one another. Works by Transylvanian artists emerge from their previous isolation and display both their individuality and how they too were impacted by the Zeitgeist. The collection is dominated by figurative art, with abstract works rarely encountered even among the avant-garde pieces. The collector’s vision may also be seen in the way he constructs “genealogies” by focusing on motifs and techniques. Thus, for example, it is easy to see the link between the works of Tibor Csernus, executed in his characteristic “scratching” technique, and those of his pupil László Lakner, along with those of Nicolae Maniu, László Tóth, Gheorghe Codrea and István Árkossy – the connection can even be documented in some cases. One well-defined group of works is formed by the Hungarian conceptual avant-garde and subversive-punk works of the ’seventies and ’eighties, with many points of contact between them. Romanian equivalents of the latter of these two currents are lacking. While both countries belonged to the Eastern Bloc, Romanian works of this period are either strikingly subdued or rather reserved, since the kinds of humour, irony and direct criticism of the regime that were allowed in the tolerant atmosphere of Hungary in the ’eighties were unimaginable in the darkest decade of the Ceaușescu regime. Only in the art of the generation that mounted the stage post 1990 and in around the year 2000 would humour become a powerful means of expression and one that was central to the critique of nationalism and the retrospective analysis of the communist epoch. The material exhibited in the Quadro Gallery presents the collection from a thematic viewpoint and seeks to establish affinities between works from the inter-war period and up to the present day. These works capture the dramatic quality of the twentieth century. While there are few stylistic similarities between them, they are linked by the way they relate to major world events and by their sensitive awareness of the vulnerability of the individual. These works are exclamation marks in reaction to human existence. György Szántó’s Peer Gynt the Wanderer, driven by fears, meets Ștefan Bertalan’s “The Emigrant Clown”across the decades. In Albert Nagy’s almost soulful and yet still powerful picture “The Goat Kid” we feel the horror that comes before slaughter. In “Mad Self-Portrait” by Albert Varga there is likewise horror, which directs us on to Leon Alex’s “The Boxers”, with its premonition of the Holocaust: in both, slaughter and madness take on cosmic proportions. Alongside these paintings we have placed works belonging to the neo-avant-garde. Miklós Erdély’s mysterious piece, with its flowing bitumen, is part of his Armageddon cycle and alludes to the Apocalypse; we recall that this artist used to say of the Second World War that it was for him an 85% catastrophe (because that percentage of his family had become victims of the Holocaust). Tibor Hajas’s body art, even though inspired by Tibetan Buddhism, is a disturbing expression of catastrophe, not of reconciliation. The art of Sándor Molnár draws its inspiration from the same source as that of Hajas – Buddhist teachings as interpreted by Béla Hamvas – but he offers the positive symbol of fire as an element of birth. So too in Alexandru Antik’s installation entitled “Subjective Fluxus”, the form of the embryo and the “fire in the stove” are metaphors for birth and the positive flow of life. In Laurențiu Ruță’s photogram, the presence of water is captured as a negative image, resembling the light of a candle and literally suggesting a positive flow. Merely looking at the representations of fire in this collection would enable us to pinpoint the good and bad spirits of the century and capture its character/characteristics. While the menacing “The Evil Cat” painted by Gábor Miklóssy offers intricate symbolic interpretations of conflagration, the fire we see on the canvas of another Cluj painter, the young Ștefan Botiș, seemingly does not burn but becomes imponderable. As part of “post-truth” reality, burning can be observed from a position of comfort, and catastrophe becomes a spectacle that apparently no longer threatens us.