Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Art as a Tool of Power: Censorship and Suppression of Culture in Hungary and Poland
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Location Note

1501 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th Street, 15th floor

This is a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event. Registration required for attendance. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events. Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. All other attendees may participate virtually on Zoom or YouTube.


Please join Columbia’s Harriman Institute and the Artistic Freedom Initiative (AFI) for a panel discussion on right-wing governmental interference in the arts and cultural sector in Hungary and Poland.  The event will center around two reports recently released by AFI, Systematic Suppression: Hungary’s Arts and Culture in Crisis and Culture Control: Censorship and Suppression of the Arts in Polandboth offering an in-depth analysis of how illiberal approaches to governance have impacted Hungary and Poland’s artists, cultural workers and arts institutions.

AFI’s Co-Executive Director Sanjay Sethi will deliver a keynote address and will moderate the sessions with AFI’s human rights research officer Johanna Bankston.

The Hungary panel will focus on the rise of FIDESZ, the placement of the Hungarian Academy of Art (MMA) as a conservative oversight body for arts and culture, the consolidation of media, and the systematic stacking of the country’s major arts and culture institutions with party loyalists.  The featured presenters will include:

  • Barnabás Bencsik: former director of the Ludwig Museum (2008-2013), co-founder of the Glassyard Gallery in Budapest, independent curator and gallerist
  • Szabolcs KissPál: Hungarian visual artist and academic
  • Emese Pásztor: assistant professor in the faculty of law of ELTE University and legal counsel at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

The Poland panel will discuss PiS’s use of blasphemy and defamation laws to intimidate artists, the Ministry of Culture’s overhaul of the management of arts and cultural institutions, the denigration of artists in the media, and the emboldening of private actors to harass and threaten artists.  This session will feature:

  • Filip Pawlak: former head of production at the Nowy Theatr in Warsaw, ‘cripple-queer’ performer and activist
  • Agnieszka Jakimiak, theater director and playwright
  • Malgorzata Kazmierczak: art curator, researcher, vice president of AICA International, and professor at the Pedagogical University of Kraków

A reception with food and beverages will be served prior to the event in 1500 IAB, beginning at 5:30pm.

We invite anyone with an interest in arts and culture, human rights, or legal and policy advocacy to join us!

Artwork featured above by Marta Frej.

Event Video