The roots of Artpool go back to the Chapel Exhibitions held in artist György Galántai's "summer studio", the Balatonboglár Chapel, from 1970 to 1973. By the time the police closed it down in August of that year, the Balatonboglár studio had established itself as the center of officially proscribed avant-garde art, and in retrospect, one of the cradles of cultural change in Hungary.
Six years later, in 1979, György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay made another attempt to create an alternative art institute, one that would make room for the new trends in art. They established Artpool at a time when art forms out of keeping with the official cultural policy were denied access to the public. Periodically banned, but on the whole tolerated, Artpool organized many exhibitions and art events, and published several anthologies and art catalogues between 1979 and 1990. From 1983 to 1985, they put out eleven "illegal" issues of "Aktuális Levél" (Artpool Letter), a "samizdat" art magazine which continues to serve as the sole documentary source on the non-official art of those years.
Artpool's aim was to provide contemporary Hungarian artists with information and potential contacts on the international art scene, as well as to publicize and document the activities of Hungarian artists out of favor with those who dictated the cultural policy of the time. Collecting what documents were extant on the alternative art of the `60s, `70s and `80s, Artpool set up an archive which, they hoped, would provide future generations with ammunition and inspiration when it came to moral stands and artistic struggles of their own.
Originally the Artpool project was defined as an Avant-garde arts ‘archive’, then as an "Active Archive" which meant that it sought new forms of social action, organised various events and proactively participated in processes ongoing at the time, while documenting and archiving it all, and freely sharing information.
In the ten years of its "illegal" existence, the archive accumulated several rare collections of international significance.
Subsequent to the political changes of 1989, Artpool, which already had an international reputation, was officially recognized, and was open to the public.
The Artpool Art Research Center has been operating by its founders from 1992 till 2015 as a non-profit organisation, first sponsored by the municipality of Budapest and then by the ministry of culture and funds through tendering. From 2015 the invaluable material of Artpool has been made part of the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. Since then Artpool continues its operation as a department, a separate unit of the Museum of Fine Arts.