Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Fekete,
We have gathered here to express the nation’s appreciation of a dedicated and battled-hardened warrior of Hungarian culture: an artist, a cultural policymaker, the founder and guardian of the Hungarian Academy of Arts; and a man who can claim several distinctions. The first of these is that although over the past few years he has been targeted by many, and from a variety of directions, not once have they scored a hit. The second is that he has completed not one life’s work, but at least two. Twenty-three years ago, in 1994, with a full career behind him as an artist and a cultural policymaker, György Fekete decided to retire. During his peaceful years of retirement he first became a Member of Parliament, then Vice-President of the Christian Democratic People’s Party, and over the past six years he has built Hungary’s most important cultural institution: the Hungarian Academy of Arts. Now he is retiring again, although we no longer believe that, but instead curiously await the next surprise from him.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Imre Makovecz once said that the true value of an artist’s work does not stem from self-expression, but from the accurate transmission of a language, a culture and a tradition. As can also be seen in the careers of Zoltán Kodály, Béla Bartók and Károly Kós, art is a return to pure sources. Those who identified this path no longer aimed for self-realisation, but sought to maintain and preserve a spirit – the unique spirit of the diverse culture which we Hungarians created here in the Carpathian Basin – and to make it visible and accessible to all. And I believe that this is the point at which art and culture enter the realm of politics. Because with this recognition, we also understand that unless we maintain and preserve this spirituality we may lose everything that still makes Europe European and Hungary Hungarian.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Culture is a battlefield for the preservation of our national identity; and in this arena György Fekete is a true veteran. He deserves this title not on account of his age, but the number of battles he has fought – much the same as Miklós Toldi. If we review his career, we can see that, both with his art and his service in the sphere of cultural policy, he has worked and continues to work and maintain the spirit of Hungarian culture. This has been served by the struggles in which he learnt – together with a great many Hungarian artists – to live outside socialism, while existing in the socialist system. That purpose was also served by the efforts he made when, as State Secretary for Culture in the Antall government after the fall of communism, he established the National Cultural Fund of Hungary: a system for promoting Hungarian culture, which has been fully operational and has worked well ever since. And finally, that higher purpose was again served by the efforts with which he created Hungary’s foremost cultural institution – the Hungarian Academy of Arts – in perfect harmony with the form earlier devised for it by Imre Makovecz. As Hungarian science has such an institution, Hungarian culture also needed one. This is why we elevated the Hungarian Academy of Arts to the level of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and this is why we also incorporated it into our Fundamental Law.
Please accept this honour, in recognition of your extremely rich creative life’s work, several decades of active involvement in culture within the public sphere, and your dedication to enriching cultural life in Hungary as President of the Hungarian Academy of Arts.