The decision to buy seven pieces from the disputed Sevso Hoard surprised many in the media but the Wall Street Journal explains that Hungary’s government had already announced a massive program to repurchase some of the nation’s lost cultural treasures:
Hungary’s central bank said in January that it plans to spend 100 million euros ($136.8 million) by the end of 2018 on buying Hungarian works of art that have ended up in foreign hands during the country’s eventful history.
Visual art as well as literature plays a core role to define Hungarian identity. The cultivation of a sense of national togetherness is among the main goals of the current government, in which central bank Governor György Matolcsy, a close ally of the prime minister, served as economy minister between 2010 and March 2013.
“Hungarians have survived throughout the ages because they have been feeding on the 1,000-year-old cultural heritage of the Hungarian Kingdom, the statehood, only morsels of which have survived,” said Mária Prokopp, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance Art at the Eötvös Lóránd University in Budapest.
The goal of the central bank’s art program “is to repatriate the highest possible number of major works of art” to protect and treasure the nation’s cultural legacy, the National Bank of Hungary said. It didn’t say how it intended to finance the program that roughly equals three times its operating expenses in 2012.
“This is an unbelievably significant amount. It’s the biggest ever sum Hungary will have spent on art in its modern-age history,” said László Baán, director general of Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. Mr. Baán is also a member of the central bank’s four-member advisory body on possible purchases.
Hungary Central Bank to Buy Art (Emerging Europe Real Time – WSJ)