What Is Hungarian?

Contemporary Answers

Curator: Gábor Gulyás National identity has been one of the most prominent topics of Hungarian public discussions for more than two centuries now. Its questions appear in numerous works of art, particularly after the birth of historicism, the last great consistent stylistic trend of Romanticism. In the first part of the 19th century, in the so-called Reform Era, in the wake of German treatises on the character of nations, Hungarian national character also became the subject of various academic discussions. The time of the Millennium (1896) and the decades following the loss of Hungarian territories in the First World War witnessed the resurgence of these debates. The subject was more influential than ever: hundreds of articles were published on the questions concerned. The different approaches quickly separated: whereas the 1937 special issue of Szép Szó entitled Mi a Magyar most? (What is Hungarian now?) attempted to conceptualise the question of national identity mainly from the perspective of the political left, in 1939 the volume edited by Gyula Szekfű entitled Mi a Magyar? (What is Hungarian?) took account of the possible answers from a conservative point of view. The first book included articles by such prominent Hungarian intellectuals as Attila József, Pál Ignotus and Ferenc Fejtő, while the second featured writings by equally influential figures such as Mihály Babits, Zoltán Kodály and László Ravasz. The present exhibition at Kunsthalle regards both traditions to be essential points of origin. The displayed works do not serve as illustrations of the fundamental questions of national identity or national fate, but rather create a general picture of the different ways art may represent various possible approaches to these issues. What is Hungarian now? The restoration of Hungarian democracy in 1990 after decades of communist dictatorship, the country’s joining the European Union, and the recent economic crisis have made these questions timely once again. The present exhibition does not intend to give definite answers: our aim is to give a comprehensive survey of contemporary artistic reflections on this topic for the first time in its history.

Supporters: National Cultural Fund of Hungary, Ministry of Human Resources, Perla Harghitei

Media supporters: MTVA, Tv2, Heti Válasz, HVG, InfoRádió, Index
2012. August 2. - October 14.

Kunsthalle, Budapest

2012. May 2. - July 1.
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2012. August 16. - November 25.
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AI WEIWEI New York 1983-1993