About Csaba Nagyházi (1944-2012)
The founder of Nagyházi Gallery and Auction House
The presence of the gallery's founding owner, who was known for his affectionate and kind personality, and for his loving devotion to his work, left a unique and lasting mark. Numerous recollections and memories have reinforced this impression. The records kept by old friends, businessmen, art experts, collectors, and clients, as well as political declarations and recollections, form a detailed picture of his habits, work ethic, struggles, and achievements.
The story of our gallery is tightly interwoven with Csaba Nagyhazi’s thirty years of ownership. These three decades turned out to be the decisive years regarding the rebirth of the domestic art market. The years following the end of Communism in Hungary offered greater opportunities for those in the antiques market that did not exist prior to 1989. Csaba Nagyhazi played a pivotal role in the transformation of this market, which had previously functioned as a state monopoly. Early on, he received collectors, colleagues, art traders, and jumble-shop dealers in his flat on Labanc Street. Legendary friendships and extraordinary business relations were established at this "romantic" location, as it is remembered today. Indeed, a neighbor from the original Labanc Street location, who first developed a collector's passion during those times, is still a regular visitor and customer of the gallery today.
In the peculiar cultural circumstances of the seventies, many of our fellow Hungarians began to recognize the importance of collecting and preserving our past traditions, folk art objects, and the fine and applied art objects that remained in Transylvania and the Hungarian countryside. Csaba Nagyhazi's earliest acquaintance with art collection was in great part due to his childhood experiences growing up in the Protestant culture of Debrecen as well as his father's well-known collecting pursuits. Later, in the company of some of his closest friends, he made collecting trips to Transylvania and the Uplands of present-day Slovakia, areas rich in art objects. Naturally, he also traveled to provincial Hungarian cities, villages, and markets, establishing many new acquaintances along the way. By the time he opened his antique shop in a garage on Jaror Street, he had already developed a countrywide network that allowed him to maintain a fresh circulation of art objects. Yet he remained unsatisfied, and from the 1970s onward, his curiosity drove him to the great art markets and shops of Spain, France, and Germany. Relying on his instincts and the practical knowledge he gained through daily experience, he would also make adventurous purchases with an undeniable element of risk.
Csaba Nagyhazi worked quickly and diligently, with an admirable and enduring work ethic. Those trying to work with him had to quicken their pace to keep up. This was true in both a symbolic and a literal sense, as he often put his partners to the test. He planned and designed the current auction house on Balaton Street with great intensity, organizing the first successful auction in April 1994 in collaboration with the London branch of Sotheby's. He organized another 188 auctions over the following eighteen years. The auction catalogues of Nagyhazi Galeria, containing over fifty thousand art objects already in inventory, occupied a prominent place on the bookshelves of Hungarian libraries. Once, while attending the TEFAF conference in Maastricht as an inquiring exhibition visitor, Csaba introduced himself to an art dealer from Antwerp who had an appealing collection. Csaba offered a glimpse into his collecting pursuits, but he truly attracted others' attention when he gifted several auction catalogues. The accomplished dealer from Antwerp immediately understood what it meant if someone could organize over one hundred and fifty auctions in less than two decades. The magnitude of Csaba Nagyhazi’s thinking and tireless work was one that commanded respect and admiration. Whatever project he undertook, he executed it in accordance with the scale and ambition implied by his name.
Throughout the previous decades, as a result of his deep curiosity and interest in art objects, he assembled a remarkable collection. He loaned several pieces of his art collection to national and international exhibitions. Among the many diverse genres represented in his collection, the ones related to Hungarian folk art were the closest to his heart. Not only did he strive to acquire extraordinary signature pieces from particular regions, but he also aimed to become one of the most distinguished experts of Hungarian folk art. He systematically gathered ethnographic literature and became acquainted with the material of national museum collections, occasionally giving lectures about his beloved objects as a guest of the Hungarian Ethnographic Museum.
In his work as an art dealer, he established true friendships with various collectors and art enthusiasts, with whom he gladly shared his experience and knowledge. With his affectionate and cheerful personality, he won the confidence of many, and his kind and helpful nature was widely known among his colleagues and friends alike.
Csaba Nagyhazi was selected as the first President of the Association of Hungarian Art Dealers and Galleries upon its foundation. He was an active president of the association for over fifteen years, for which he was awarded a presidential lifetime achievement award in 2010.