30 de ani de Optimism

MATCA artspace, Cluj-Napoca


11.12.2021 – 15.01.2022

Alexandru Mihai Budeș

Lisa Marie Schmitt

In 1992 shortly after the fall of communism Michael Jackson was the first Western mega star to come for a concert to Bucharest. While until 1989 great mass events served only political purposes, suddenly thousands of youngsters made a pilgrimage from the North Station to the National Arena blocking tramways, buses, streets, singing loudly, turning the whole city upside down.

Mihai Coman, Media Scientist and Professor at Bucharest University describes this event as a ritual of collective purification, with an almost religious meaning for the people in a country in an unclear, very insecure political and economic situation.

30 de ani de Optimism is a collaborative project between German artist Lisa Marie Schmitt and Romanian artist Alexandru Mihai Budes interweaving the socio-political phenomenon of the Jackson concert in 1992 with the story of Florian Istrate, former owner of a porcelain manufacture in Alba Iulia.

In the mid 90’s Istrate was contacted by Dieter Wiesner, who later became Michael Jackson’s manager, for a commission of over 100.000 figurines of the King of Pop decorated in gold and platinum.

After the first delivery of the first 1.000 pieces, contact was cut abruptly and Istrate remained with thousands of unfinished figurines. After closing his company and quitting his entire staff, the ceramic workshop was left almost untouched for about 30 years, inhabited only by figurines and artifacts of production. Why Wiesner suddenly ended their cooperation remains unclear to this day.

The title of the project, 30 de ani de Optimism, quotes the current Coca-Cola advertising campaign in Romania referring to the fall of communism as well as the import of Coca-Cola products. Likewise Jackson serves as a symbolic figure here, a western product with the bright aura of a Saint seemingly to finally bring the long-desired freedom.


Alexandru Mihai Budeș is a Romanian visual artist based in Berlin. Born in ’92 in an artist’s family, he first studied architecture in High School and later followed a BA in Theory and History of Art at the National University of Arts from Bucharest. Here he continued with an MA in Fine Arts/ Sculpturing, finishing with a scholarship abroad in the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar, Saarbrücken, Germany.

In 2019, he attended a residency at Cité internationale des arts Paris offered by the Cultural Institute of Romania. Recently he was selected by – the Senate Department for Culture and Europe Department of Culture for the Kulturaustauschstipendium – Istanbul (March-May 2022).

Lisa Marie Schmitt, born in 1991 in Trier is a German artist working with video, photography, text and sculpture. Based on research, her works often combine a scientific background with a poetic one. She completed her studies at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar in Saarbrücken under Prof. Georg Winter in 2017. Her works were shown in German art institutions such as Kunsthalle Mannheim, Kunstverein Ludwigshafen or at the Arp Museum. She attended a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris funded by Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral in 2018. For 2021 she received the Scholarship for Cultural Exchange Berlin Global by Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe for a project in cooperation with Alexandru Mihai Budeș. Lisa Marie Schmitt lives and works in Berlin.

This project is funded by the Berlin Senate Department for Culture and Europe.