It was in 1916 that Aladár Székely published his illustrious album Writers and Artists – the first of its kind – with a foreword by the poet Endre Ady. A few lines from Ady’s introduction: “Here each literary and artistic type has their own aggrieved and sad little congregation of mafia and their own little minefield. My friend Aladár Székely is fortunate, therefore, to have stood in for literature with good thoughts and no threats of significant harm. The public needs to see most of today’s literary and artistic celebrities, of whom they cannot receive an honest written picture; but behold, they receive instead a faithful, powerful photo-picture, or (with an apt wordplay) picture-typewriting. I am glad that this album is being published, and I am happy that it is Aladár Székely who is now telling us – even through our arbitrary and pointless poses – who we are.” It is from these lines that we have borrowed the title of the exhibition. Today’s art scene, albeit differently, still has its ‘gloomy congregations’ of cliques and its ‘minefields’. But today, if a good photographer – or collector and publisher of photographs – casts their eyes to the noble artistic community as respectfully and sensitively as the master Székely, they will forget the poses and landmines and return the artist’s gaze. Yes, photographs are still taken this way, by the best, those who take pictures of the picture makers.
Artists photographed. In the photographer’s studio, in their own studios, among their families, at art events, at exhibition openings. The exhibition’s venue is Kunsthalle Budapest, which for 125 years has borne on its facade the inscription: ‘For Hungarian Art’; and the occasion is its 125th anniversary. A fitting jubilee theme, yet one that is hindered by the lack of basic research. We are aware that certain photographers took many pictures of this kind, but only fragments of their oeuvres can be found in public collections, if at all. Where others are concerned, we may know that their oeuvres included a substantial portrait collection but there is no chance of their works ending up in a public collection. The list of photographed artists is also random. This exhibition does not set out to show an exhaustive and complete or canonical selection of important Hungarian artists; because the photographer’s choice of theme is subjective: It depends on the assignment, personal contacts, opportunities.
The backbone of the Who We Are exhibition consists of the portfolios of a few important photographers, ranging chronologically from the early beginnings; that is, Aladár Székely, to the present day. We are also showing some self-portraits and studio interiors, revealing how the artists see themselves and their working environment, so the paintings and graphics seem to engage in a dialogue with the photographers’ portraits. We have also turned up a selection of documents relating to photograph collecting, the relationship with storytelling, artistic events recorded only in photographs, friendships and shared memories, including some from Kunsthalle’s own archives that preserve mementos of the distant and recent past.
Lajos Erdélyi, Károly Escher, Károly Gink, Károly Koffán, Olga Máté, Dénes Rónai, Aladár Székely, IstvánTóth, Elemér Vattay, Lajos Csontó, Gyula Czimbal, Miklós Déri, Évi Fábián, Péter Janesch, Kálmán Kecskeméti , LászlóLugosi Lugo, Attila Pácser, Illés Sarkantyu, Miklós Sulyok, Lenke Szilágyi
curator: András Bán
assistant curator: Marianna Mayer