March. Banned and tolerated art in Szentendre in the Kádár era

A selection from the collection of the Ferenczy Museum Center

2019. 09. 12 – 10. 13.


Hungarian Academy, Rome


Dalma EGED, Gábor GULYÁS


7:30 pm 12 September 2019

The Ferenczy Museum Center’s exhibition at the Hungarian Academy in Rome
Margit Anna • Endre Bálint • László Balogh • Jenő Barcsay • Péter Bereznay • Imre Bukta • Béla Czóbel • Pál Deim • ef István Zámbó • Ádám Farkas • fe László Lugossy • László Hajdú • György Holdas • János Kmetty • Imre Kocsis • Dezső Korniss • Viktor Lois • János Pirk • Piroska Szántó • János Szirtes • Ottó Vincze • András Wahorn
Szentendre is a small, multicultural town by the Danube, next to Budapest, which visual artists discovered for themselves at the beginning of the 20th century. From then on, more and more painters moved into the antiquated streets that exude a Mediterranean atmosphere. In the 1930s, two of the period’s most important Hungarian artists, Lajos Vajda (1908–1941) and Dezső Korniss (1908–1984) named their comprehensive strategy of marrying tradition with progression the Szentendre Programme. Free schools and artist colonies were established in the town, which retained its central role in the country’s art life even after the Second World War. Although the institutional framework, which was remodelled on the basis of the Soviet doctrine, and the party-state regime’s ideologically motivated cultural policy after the 1956 revolution were barely for the benefit of Szentendre, which represented the Western traditions, the town continued to garner respect from the profession. In the state socialism of the Kádár era, artists were classified into three categories, which were not publicly proclaimed but were evidently employed by the authorities: a creator could be supported, tolerated or banned. Those supported could count on significant material and public recognition, whereas the artists most highly esteemed by the elite of the intelligentsia were usually those whose accomplishments were autonomous irrespective of or even in the face of—the regime’s expectations. During this period, Szentendre was home to several tolerated and banned artists, and this exhibition selects from their works.
It was characteristic of the locals’ mentality that when the latest group of mostly self-taught, young artists was barred from the official exhibition venues, they created their own forum in 1968: held on Sundays on Church Hill (Templomdomb), the Szentendre Open-air Salon welcomed any work by any artist. These occasional exhibitions soon became treasured by exhibitors and audiences alike—and became increasingly awkward for the powers that be. Administrative steps were taken to counter the event, usually involving the police (one of the organizers, István ef Zámbó was imprisoned for a time), but the genie of free art could no longer be ordered back into the lamp: the Szentendre Open-air Salon became a pivotal cultural event of the country. To be able to monitor the activity of the group, the authorities finally gave them an exhibition venue of their own, a run-down basement. This was where the Vajda Lajos Studio was established in 1972, and went on to become one of the most important nodes of progressive art in Hungary. Most of the artists who exhibited were members of the Studio, or were associated with this important base of dissident art.
The Ferenczy Museum Center’s mission is to cultivate Szentendre’s artistic tradition, a key period of which coincided with Hungary’s communist dictatorship, when culture became one of the most important mediums of experiencing freedom. Every year, the authorities organized massive parades on 1 May to demonstrate the presence of democracy and freedom. The symbolic march that was art in Szentendre was less ostentatious and did not make its way into the headlines—but it was authentic because it was about freedom.

Further Exhibitions