RomaMoMA at OFF-Biennale Budapest

Mara Oláh (Omara): Venice Biennale, 2010. Courtesy of KuglerArt Szalon Galéria.

The 3rd edition of OFF-Biennale opens Friday, 23 April 2021.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, this edition will take a hybrid format, with the opening streamed online, 8pm CET.

For up-to-date information on all programmes throughout the third edition, 23 April to 30 May 2021, please see:


Here, the OFF-Biennale team offers an outline of RomaMoMA projects and programmes within this third edition of OFF Biennale, one of the core sections of programming in Budapest.

The largest independent contemporary art event in Hungary, OFF-Biennale Budapest opens on Friday, 23 April. The central theme of this year’s edition is INHALE!, which is based on the seminal 1935 Hungarian poem, “A Breath of Air” by Attila József. The biennale premiers 14 projects that look at ecology, Eastern European nationalisms, and political imagination – with a focus on artistic propositions that aspire beyond just pointing to these complex, entangled problems.

RomaMoMA is a long-term contemporary art project initiating a forum for collaborative reflection on a future Roma Museum of Contemporary Art, with the involvement of local and international, Roma and non-Roma artists, cultural experts, social scientists and the civil sphere. RomaMoMA is a joint initiative of the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC, Berlin) and OFF-Biennale Budapest. In the form of an art project, involving stakeholder communities and exploiting the possibilities of collective thinking and discourse, as well as the critical and discursive potentials of contemporary art, it “prefiguratively creates” itself: an imagined and yet real space, that is home to both the Roma arts and artists.

RomaMoMA at OFF-Biennale embraces multiple exhibitions and public programmes. The exhibition, Collectivity Carried Out centres Tamás Péli’s 1983 large-scale panel painting, Birth, which depicts an imaginary-dreamed Roma creation myth. It was completed as a commission for the refectory of the children’s home in the town of Tiszadob. Since the panel painting’s removal in 2011, it had been stored in a museum corridor—safe, but unseen. Realised as a collaboration between OFF-Biennale and the Budapest History Museum, the purpose of the exhibition is more than rendering the painting visible: the goal is to introduce the painting into the collective public space, generate discussions, interpretations, and initiate a dialogue about the final placement of the work.

The exhibition, ! – Omara Occupies the Sound-Space is dedicated to the life work of Mara Oláh, alias Omara, one of the most influential, internationally acknowledged Hungarian Roma painters. The artist passed away in March 2020, but the visual power of her narrative painting, and the emotional load of her captions have rendered Omara’s voice eternal. By addressing and actively involving people (representatives of cultural spaces and institutions) who were important to Omara, the exhibition recalls the stages of her career with the help of such boundary objects that express the artist’s impact on them, the experiences of encounters and collaborations. A fundamental element of the exhibition is a theatrical reading, where the diverse voices of Omara’s autobiography are sounded by Roma women. The exhibition will be complemented by guided tours and museum education sessions at the Glove Factory Community Space, which transforms the exhibition into a backdrop to the social encounter between Budapest’s 8th District locals (the neighbourhood in Budapest with the highest concentration of Roma inhabitants) and the OFF-Biennale audience.

Anxiety of the Roma Artist comprises an installation, a large brick wall by Norbert Oláh in front of the former building of the Roma Parliament in Budapest. The bricks have clearly legible words written on them, representing concepts and perceptions that are ingrained and instilled into us. The choice of venue is an open critique of power. The building was repossessed arbitrarily by the government, justifying this action with their promise of establishing the headquarters of a Roma cultural mega-institute in its place. The banner behind the wall bears the artist’s text titled “Anxiety of the Roma Artist”, in which he makes every effort to put into words the utter confusion felt by an artist, in this case, an artist of Roma roots. The installation is a point of departure for the punk opera, Tales of Bees, by the Independent Theater Hungary, about the efforts of Roma communities in gypsy settlements and cities to attain middle-class integration.

For additional information on all RomaMoMA at OFF-Biennale projects and programmes, please see:

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