Endre Tót

Endre Tót

Born November 5 1937, Sümeg
Lived in Berlin (1978 – 1980)
Lived in Cologne (1980)

Hungarian painter, drawer, performer, and conceptual artist. One of the most active practitioners of the Mail Art movement and creator of artist's books. He freed himself from painting for the benefit of the Zero idea through which he developed the ideas of joy. He has has performed a number of activities in the streets, which have won him renown on the international artistic scene.

conceptual art, mail art, performance, object, artist's book, action art, painting


From the beginning of his studies at the Academy of Arts, he was in conflict with the prevailing doctrine of socialist realism, as a result of which he was expelled from his studies.


He was admitted to the College of Applied Arts in Budapest, the wall painting studio. Through his work he professed to use Informel art and was one of the first initiators of this absolutely new artistic trend in Hungary. He used unconventional techniques and methods through which he approximated the vocabulary of Pop Art and Minimal Art in his drawings and coloured calligraphies.


At the beginning of the decade he still expressed his spontaneous feelings using the Informel techniques in his collages. The lyrical and passionate atmosphere of the period was reflected in his white paintings, which were reminiscent of calligraphies from the Far East, as well as in his diary drawings Angyalföld in which he concentrated his intuitive gestures around a single central motif. From the rhythmical Indian ink drawings with almost invisible motives, he moved to patterns, texts, and font prints with the same spontaneous painting gestures which were still present in his work. He met Dezső Korniss who was one of the most important artists of the time. He declared him his main master/teacher as opposed to the teachers at the college. He considered the education and the college to be outdated and conservative and was considering quitting. Finally, he finished college as he was advised to do by his friend Korniss. The academic title authorized him to teach drawing, an activity in which he felt free. At the same time, he could continue his Informel experiments.


In this year he made his first Informel experiments. In 1965 he made works which later appeared in the collections of various institutions. It was only after the political overturn that the works from this period were incorporated with his other works and jointly presented at his retrospective exhibition.


He participated in two exhibitions of the Iparterv group which were pronounced scandalous by the official circles and which were greatly castigated. The movement was later identified as the beginning of the neo-avant-garde. This was due to their rejection of socialist realism and the traditions of Hungarian fine arts, in order to benefit from finding a new general view and orientation. The second exhibition was symbolically opened on the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution. It directly referred to the regime, which banned it soon afterwards.
Iparterv I (group exhibition, Budapest)


Iparterv II. (group exhibition, Budapest)


He quit his Informel experiments in favour of conceptual art and supported the Zero tendency, which was a significant turning point for his later works and which made him very distinctive on the international scene. The reason was his need to communicate through his own works that which he could not do because he was not allowed to freely exhibit. His frantic desire for modernity and contemporaneity eventually resulted in blank canvases, which he called My Unpainted Canvasses (1970). Thus, he symbolically closed his first stage by the virtual presentation of canvases he never created. He started to realize the importance of space for expressiveness after the fashion of American artists such as Jackson Pollock and Robert Rauschenberg who worked in huge studios. At the same time he was aware of the changing atmosphere and the upcoming conceptual experiments in western Europe. He started to develop ideas of nothingness and emptiness which have become the basis of his works since then. He created black areas which represented a missing painting and attacked the visitors with his titles. He not only reflected the crisis of painting through them, but also that of the institution – the museum. He experimented with the visualization of nothingness and absence using the aesthetic of disappearance. Similarly, in his objects made of books, there was an almost invisible text with zeroes printed over it. The absurdity of communication in a dictatorial country became a central theme of the letters he wrote in zero code and in which the text was absorbed by zeros. In many of his printed materials and drawings, he declared: "We are glad if we are happy." The basic media he used were telegrams, postcards, newspaper ads, photocopying machines and banners. In addition, he performed events, street projects, and created artist's books, which later earned him international renown. First, he published his books as samizdats


TOTalZEROS was a part of the series of works based on linguistic signs through which Tót examined reductionist painting. Painting elements contained an area which was, in most cases, indicated by a zero which had meaning within broader philosophical, social, and political connotations and which supplemented the strictly formal element of abstract painting structure. Since "zero" can also be read as the letter "O", the middle sound of his name, he played with his own name and with the identity of the artist who was present, in the form of his signature, zero in this case, and at the same time present and absent on the canvas. He multiplied the zeroes to create an ornament which he made into a formula by indefinite repetition and which, as in the case of words, lost the original meaning. The indefinite repetition of zeroes in his work is related to the monotony and greyness of everyday life in communist Hungary. This is how he revealed the emptiness of pompous statements and various proclamations in public and political life in totalitarian countries.
He first exhibited his conceptual works at the Biennale in Paris. He experienced an incredible feeling of freedom. He literally leaped over the Iron Curtain and avoided censorship by mailing envelopes with his absurd telegrams and letters written in the zero code, exactly in the spirit of Mail Art. Through mail, he could organize many exhibitions in the west as well in the east (Paris, Berlin, Wrocław, Łódź, Jerusalem and so on) later.
VII. Biennale de Paris (group exhibition, Paris)


He exhibited at the exhibition in Fluxushoe thanks to which he visited several cities in England. He built a strong communication network with the west thanks to which he could work unhindered from his home in Budapest. Despite his loneliness he was not completely isolated from current events. His mailbox was filled with letters, magazines and even books from the west on a daily basis. Some of his works appeared in the western press almost every month. In the former Czechoslovakia, he maintained intensive correspondence with Jiří Valoch, Petr Štembera, and J. H. Kocmanem, whom he also visited in Brno.


He created one of his most famous projects through which he also clearly supported Mail Art. Zero Post, in the form of various postmark seals or stamps, aimed to neutralize all external elements and parts of postal communication.


During the Cold War, when diplomatic relations between Israel and Hungary were interrupted, he was afraid to send his works by Hungarian mail to an exhibition in a museum in Israel. He decided to place his works in a suitcase and leave for Belgrade, from where he sent it as luggage by local mail. It was unthinkable for him to arrive in Jerusalem, but the plan to send the works via mail eventually succeeded without a problem. Thus, he could exhibit in a progressive institution where the classic people of conceptualism, such as Christian Boltanski, Douglas Joubert and others exhibited before him.
(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Jerusalem)
(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Poznań)


He accepted an invitation from John Armleder, the founder of the Ecart Gallery in Geneva, to stay at the institution which he had established and which was the centre of Mail Art. During his six month stay, he carried out his first street performance (TOTalJoys) and it was shot and later published on DVD by Paris Bureau des Videos (2005).
(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Lund)
Rainproof Ideas (solo exhibition, Bad Münstereifel)
(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Paris)


In spite of his international activities, which rendered him one of the most famous East European artists in the west, he was little known in his native country. His application to travel to the DAAD programme held in Berlin was rejected by the Hungarian authorities several times and this aroused strong reactions in the western press. (Neue Züriche Zeitung, CH


In the busiest streets of Berlin, he gave performances with posters in hands or on backs (TÓTalJOYs) which were shot within the DAAD programme and later published in the form of a book. He supported the Fluxus movement through his performances and activities within the Mail Art. In the René Block Gallery, he met Wolf Vostell, Robert Filli, Nam June Paik, and other artists from the Fluxus movement. He maintained correspondence with them and received from them many invitations to a number of joint exhibitions by Fluxus (for example he participated in an exhibition by Fluxus in Germany in 1962-1992 which was prepared by René Block. The exhibition presented the works of artists who had a long-term or short-term stay in Germany. It was a mobile exhibition and in the 1990’s it was presented in over thirty exhibiting institutions worldwide).
(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Reykjavík)
International Drawing Triennial in Wroclaw (1978) (group exhibition, Wrocław)


He used an electronic display with text for the first time and he hung it on a wall of the renowned René Block Gallery in Berlin. He was the last but one to exhibit there before the legendary Joseph Beuys, after whose exhibition the gallery terminated its activities.
West - Berlin
West - Berlin (mixed media)

(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Berlin)


Having spent a year and a half in Berlin, he moved with his German wife Herta to Cologne. The years he spent there were his least productive period. He was almost artistically inactive until the second half of the decade. His apartment, including the fittings and fixtures was confiscated as a result of his emigration. His brother saved his works which were moved from place to place for several years and finally ended up in the Hungarian National Gallery.
Zero demo
Zero demo (mixed media)

Received grant from Stedelijk Museum


(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Cologne)


He was invited to Artist Place and flew to New York with a piece of chalk in his pocket, which he used to draw graffiti on the walls of the gallery. He met a number of famous artists, including Alan Kaprow and his old friend John Armleder. He started to work again in the late 1980's after the end of the "blackout years", as he called the period. He examined the idea of absent paintings, which he developed from the paintings he had produced in Budapest in the early 1970's (My Unpainted Canvasses, 1970, Night Visit to the National Gallery, A Visit to the Museum, both 1974). However, his symbolic return to painting ended with a phase of total destruction.
Young Fluxus (group exhibition, New York (NY))
Partituren sind Handlungsweisen... (group exhibition, Bochum)
Livres d'Artistes = Books by Artists (group exhibition, Montreal)



Drawings of Cologne (group exhibition, Cologne)


Endre Tót (solo exhibition, Cologne)


Fluxus and Friends (group exhibition, )


After the political changes he returned to Hungary with the works he had created there previously. Several exhibitions were held. He was the first Hungarian artist who was offered a solo exhibition at Documenta in Kassel. His studio works and street performances earned him international renown, even though it puzzled or even embarrassed passers-by in many cities and there were frequent police interventions. International reviewers later identified them as a form of anti-demonstration in response to the compulsory political events that took place in totalitarian Hungary when the artist was young. Through his Zero demonstrations, Tót revealed the conservative development of Hungarian cultural politics. He was not particularly interested in the reaction of the spectators on the streets. He concentrated on the careful documentation of photographs which he continued to publish. He wanted to mediate the real goal of the demonstrations and this was achieved only after they were published in magazines and in various forums.


(Endre Tót) (solo exhibition, Cologne)
Layout-Bilder (solo exhibition, Cologne)
Wortlaut (group exhibition, Prague)


Concrete and Visual Poetry (group exhibition, Cologne)


Tót Endre: Zero (solo exhibition, Szombathely )


Fluxubritannica (group exhibition, London)
Zwischen Zeit Raum I (group exhibition, Düsseldorf)
Freundschaftsspiel (group exhibition, Frankfurt am Main)


Tót's commemorative bronze plague was installed on a sidewalk in front of Artpool Art Space in Budapest with a quotation in Hungarian: "I'm glad I have stood here." Six years later, a similar quotation "Ich freue mich, dass ich hier gestanden habe" was installed on the roof terrace of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.
Fotos und Fotocollagen (group exhibition, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)


Protest & Survive (group exhibition, London)
Art in Central Europe 1949–1999 (group exhibition, Barcelona)


40 years: Fluxus and the Consequences (group exhibition, Wiesbaden)
70th birthday in memoriam: Wolf Vostell & Friends (group exhibition, Bad Münstereifel)
Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art (group exhibition, Karlsruhe)
Endre Tót - Layout as an ironic quote (solo exhibition, Freiburg im Breisgau)


Early Pencil and Ink Drawings (solo exhibition, Székesfehérvár)
Yellow Pages (group exhibition, Helmstedt)
Art and Politics (group exhibition, Bad Münstereifel)
Distant Proximity. Hungarian post-war Art from the Collections of Szent István Király Museum in Székesfehérvár (group exhibition, )
Portable I2 Museum – Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Actionism in Hungary of the Sixties (1956-1976) (group exhibition, Budapest)
multiple joy (group exhibition, Freiburg im Breisgau)


Tombola (group exhibition, Kassel)
Illusion - Irritation (group exhibition, Munich)
Superstars - The Principle of Prominence. From Warhol to Madonna (group exhibition, Vienna)


Received award from The Munkácsy Mihály Prize


Living Color (group exhibition, Budapest)
Fluxus East. Fluxus Networks in Central Eastern Europe (group exhibition, Berlin)


He received the title of honorary artistic member from Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Muzej u senci/ Museum in the Shadow (group exhibition, Novi Sad)
Carried Away – Procession in Art (group exhibition, Arnhem)
Museum in the Street (group exhibition, Ljubljana )


He published the monograph "I’m glad that I can write one sentence after another" with Noran Publishers, Budapest, and it was something between a diary and an autonomous artistic work, in which the substance of the text is questioned by the overall arrangement of the book.
He carried out his Flyer Actions, handing out leaflets in the main squares of major cities (Belgrade, Berlin, Tallinn, Budapest). By doing so, he revealed the absurdity of communication (some sheets were blank, others were written in the zero code, or they contained a text saying: “It is my pleasure to give you something.“).
Received award from The Kossuth Prize



Ludwig Goes Pop + The East Side Story (group exhibition, Budapest)

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