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Cultural Interview
Going, going, gone
Judit Virág is one of the most acknowledged art-dealers and art historians. Her establishment, the Virág Judit Gallery and Auction House, one of the bests that focuses on 19th and 20th century art and the high period of Zsolnay porcelain.
Alica Árvay
Diplomacy&Trade online | February 11, 2011


Imagine someone flexible, tough but refined, and then you have a fairly good picture of Judit Virág. The more time one spends with her the stronger the feeling becomes that you are in good hands. A sketch of her: an air of friendliness, alertness and acute appreciation of the values of training and knowledge. When asked about great or spectacular moments in her life, she firmly denies any dramatic moves in her career. She says “there was no secret, whatsoever” that made her love of art her life work. Unless you consider ‘luck’ she adds seriously and with immaculate politeness. Of course, for ‘luck’ one needs knowledge, skills, endless working hours, morals, money and timing. Her strand of practicality is striking given that she is, after all, engaged with artists.

Her calling as an auctioneer

As for Zsolnay porcelain artifacts, her involvement is through her husband and partner, István Törő, a philologist whose love of this art form rounds out galleries offering. In this family business, her husband is the tough businessman and she is the communicator. However, she insists that her ability to deal well with people is not a talent on her part. “What talent?” she laughs. In considering an auction and the preparation for the event, she admits that some exhibitionism is a must. In order to be well prepared, at the beginning she turned to a speech therapist, because if one happens to be an auctioneer it does matter how many breaths one takes while listing the items and how one breathes while talking. She is a professional in every sense of the word and it is moving to see the extent of her joy when in action: to run an auction is the best role she plays. She loves the dynamics of the game - this is her real call.

Have ‘fate’!

During her professional life, there were hundreds of exciting stories of famous and less well-known paintings that were under- or overvalued or unexpectedly turned up somewhere. This was the case with the Csinszka portrait by Ödön Márffy. The painting suddenly appeared out of the blue. Or, a famous painting by Béla Czóbel from his early period that he painted in Paris between 1905 and 1906.

Judit Virág
Two old ladies dropped by carrying a dirty, filthy painting that was not even framed and they casually asked where it could be sold at all. The auction house expected for it about HUF 2-3 million. The old ladies were grasping for their breaths during the auction when they heard the final bid. It was HUF 46 million!

Quality of information

During the interview with Diplomacy and Trade, she also revealed what she acknowledges to be the key of success in the art-dealer trade. ‘Wealth, and mostly the quality of information and discretion’, she claims. Vilmos Zsolnay, who made the Zsolnay factory famous wrote to his son on October 23, 1886: "The road I trod along was not dangerous, or too risky, and at all times I listened to my personal convictions. I've never been foolish and light-headed, therefore, I had no reason to make reproaches about myself.’ Judit Virág has a similarly splendid aura of this kind of greatness. The greatness of the makers, movers and shakers.




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