Budapest mayor opposes €250m National Gallery project on environmental grounds

The new left-wing mayor of Budapest may be heading for a showdown with the right-wing government of Hungary with his opposition to the €250m New National Gallery planned for Budapest’s City Park, on the grounds that it will have an "enormous impact on its environment", The Art Newspaper reports.

Gergely Karacsony, a member of Hungary’s Green Party, was elected mayor of the capital city in October. He had been an opponent of the museum, which he said would take up "one of Budapest’s few and very precious green areas".

The New National Gallery is one of the buildings comprising the €1bn Liget cultural quarter development in City Park, which was initiated in 2011 by the Fidesz government of Prime Minister Victor Orbán, and which had been proceeding under Mayor Karacsony’s two-term predecessor.

But on 5 November, Budapest’s General Assembly, which the mayor leads, backed his proposal to stop elements of the Liget scheme on which work had not yet begun, according to the newspaper.

Construction of the New National Gallery, designed by Japanese architect Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates, has now stalled, said the newspaper, as has work on another planned building, the House of Hungarian Innovation.

Gergely Karacsony (Office of the Mayor of Budapest)

In a statement to The Art Newspaper, the Hungarian government said it "remained committed to Budapest projects", but did not wish to implement them without the support of the mayor of Budapest and the leaders of the districts. It added that the government was "open to conducting a normal dialogue with the capital in the spirit of fair partnership".

The Liget cultural quarter scheme envisages the construction of five museums and an expansion of the city’s zoo.

The gallery was to have housed Hungary’s largest collection of fine arts, focusing on painting and sculpture produced between 1800 and 1950. There was also to have been a contemporary art collection. Work was to have begun in the beginning of 2020 and to have been completed in 2023.

The National Gallery was the prize in an invitation-only international design competition held in 2014. This ended in a tie between Japanese architect Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates and Norway’s Snøhetta. Their designs were judged to be of equal merit, although the Japanese firm was chosen following a year of negotiations with the organisers of the competition.

Top image: Sejima and Nishizawa and Associates’ design for the National Museum

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