Endless Passage

Classic works of land art condense the almost ungraspable complexity of nature into a meditative format. The character of the works, which bring to mind the visual language of traditional cultures, is defined primarily by the choice of natural or semi-natural (mostly raw, unrefined) materials. When the tendency first appeared – in the late sixties – land art works mostly centred on the problematics of structure, material and scale. With time, thinking about nature became increasingly more refined. The activities of the artists’ colony of Tolcsva – the first such initiative in Hungary – have reflected the defining aspirations of land art since the nineties. The exhibition entitled Nature-Art, held at the ArtMill of Szentendre, showcases a representative selection – as well as an overview – of the artistic processes involved in creating these works.
Exhibited artists:  
Enikő Balla, Márton Barabás, Gabó Bartha, László Bodnár, Imre Bukta, Lajos Csontó, Ágnes Deli, Károly Elekes, István Erőss, Foster Colin, Endre Gaál, Pál Gerber, Krisztián Horváth, Zsolt Koroknai, Éva Ludman, László feLugossy, Ferenc Marosán, Henrik Martin, Erik Mátrai, Ágnes Éva Molnár, Rudolf Pacsika, Péter Pál, Pascal Leeman, Ágnes Péter, Attila Pokorny, Dimitrov Rumen, István Stark, Csongor Szigeti, János Szirtes, Filoména Thorday, Tibor Vass, Ottó Vincze, Tibor W. Horváth
László feLugossy: Endless Passage, 2013 © photo: István Stark


The Great Book Theft

In 1959 an exhibition of French books was organised at the Budapest Kunsthalle: by the end of the two-week show, most of the books on display had been stolen by visitors. Our exhibition explores this obscure episode of Hungarian cultural history, evoking the social-political context of book culture and fine art in the fifties. The show gives insight into the greyness of visual culture and the sense of isolation characterising Hungary in the period: the difficulties of accessing books, information and reproductions of artworks.
Many of the ‘thieves’ and visitors of the book exhibition sixty years ago were artists studying at the Academy of Fine Arts as well as art history university students, who would become outstanding representatives of their profession in the decades to come. The interviews recorded with them constitute a singular and colourful pool of resources about the 1950s and 1960s; excerpts from these footages are on view at the exhibition.
To illuminate the background of the book show, the exhibition reveals the development of French-Hungarian relations, which reached their nadir in the fifties with the arrest of French Institute personnel. Coming to power once the 1956 revolution had been crushed, the Kádár-regime intended to assuage its own isolation by launching international cultural projects: among the first of these was the exhibition of French books.
The French book show in Budapest and the display of Hungarian books at the Sorbonne can be considered the first episode in the subsequently intensifying French-Hungarian cultural relations. However, the vernissage in Paris was overshadowed by the retaliations entailing the 1956 revolution: French youth were handing out pamphlets amongst the visitors demanding the release of the Hungarian author Tibor Déry, who was spending his nine-year sentence in prison.
The book shows were engendered in the context of the Cold War. They were more than mere episodes of cultural diplomacy: they were the tools of “soft” power in a context defined by the rivalry and conflict of world powers. The exhibition exemplifies another way in which books were used for cultural warfare in the period: through various cover organisations, the CIA was organising and funding a programme in the course of which ten million volumes were smuggled behind the Iron Curtain, including Hungary, between 1956 and 1991.
Interviewees: Eszter Gábor, László Gyémánt, György Jovánovics, Károly Klimó, Márta Kovalovszky & Péter Kovács, László Lakner, Ernő Marosi, Krisztina Passuth, Géza Perneczky, Endre Tót.
Download the exhibition’s flyer and e-invitation from HERE and HERE.
© photo: György Sándor’s photograph, 1958, FSZEK Budapest Collection, Fortepan, image no. 116811


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

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.