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Auction of Communist Art Helps Red Sludge Victims
A painting of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin is seen on a display during its auction in the Pinter Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010. More than 200 pieces of communist era relics, found by the Hungarian government in various ministries and state warehouses, are being sold in an auction in benefit the victims of last month's red sludge disaster. AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky.
BUDAPEST (AP).- An auction of relics and artworks from Hungary's communist era was held Monday to raise funds for the victims of October's flood of toxic red sludge that killed 10 people and left hundreds injured and homeless.

The sale at the Pinter Gallery in Budapest included around two dozen eerily similar portraits of Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin, busts of Bulgarian communist leader Georgi Dimitrov, as well as paintings and drawings in the Socialist realism style exalting physical labor and the supposed friendship between Hungary and the Soviet Union.

The items going under the auctioneer's gavel were found in ministries and state warehouses, where many had been stored for decades. Fetching the highest bids was a 1957 oil on canvas titled "He Told Us Everything As It Was" by Iraqi artist Kadhim Haydar, which sold for 1.6 million forints (euro5,700, $7,600).

A photograph of Matyas Rakosi, who was removed as Hungary's Stalinist-type ruler just months before the 1956 anti-Soviet revolution, was auctioned with a symbolic starting bid of 1 forint — a fraction of a penny — and sold for 80,000 forints (euro290, $380).

A few of the Lenin portraits went unsold, but paintings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, authors of the 1848 Communist Manifesto, selling for as much as 130,000 forints (euro470, $620), well above estimates.

"For many people, these works are a reminder of their youth," said Zsuzsanna Sebesteny, a 70-year-old retiree who was at the auction to browse but not to buy. "It's fortunate that these relics now are being used for a good cause."

The 102 items at auction raised 13 million forints (euro47,000, $62,000) for Caritas, a Catholic charity, which will use the money to help the residents of Kolontar, Devecser and Somlovasarhely. The three towns in western Hungary were the most affected by the Oct. 4 flood of some 700,000 cubic meters (184 million gallons) of highly caustic waste water and mud which spilled from the burst reservoir of an alumina plant.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Pinter Gallery | Matyas Rakosi | Budapest | Communist Art |

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