Memory of Hand and Body – Péter Gémes’ Photo-painting

Péter Gémes (11.04.1951.– 22.10.1996) is one of those artists whose person and artistic career earned the unanimously positive opinion of art historians and the public in equal measure. He created his oeuvre during a tragically short period of barely two decades.

After attending the Secondary School of Visual Arts and the Vocational School for Window Dressing and Decoration in Budapest, he graduated in graphic art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 1976, where he was later a scholarship student. He returned to Budapest in 1980, from which time he turned his interest from lithographs and airbrush graphics to photography: he composed some of his works directly from photographs, while in others he drew photographed figures onto large canvases using a spray-gun. He himself is featured in most of his pictures, assuming numerous characters and in some cases several in the same composition – he is a philosopher, vagrant, angel and warrior –, while in others he involved the members of his immediate family, lending intimacy to the scenes. In his last years he only took photos of himself, and then only of his limbs. Using the often scarcely recognisable forms of his photographed hands and legs, he assembled mosaic-like columns, an hourglass and a pyramid, documenting time and everyday life like in a diary.

The Műcsarnok first displayed Péter Games’ photo-canvases titled Years of Wandering in 1986 in its Dorottya Street Exhibition Hall, and showcased his masterpieces in 2000, posthumously. It also organised the artist’s participation in the Sao Paolo Biennial of 1987 and it presented a significant collection of his works in 1995 at the opening exhibition after the institution’s reconstruction.

This exhibition seeks to augment the artist’s masterpieces with his early pieces, previously regarded as marginal, which contain many segments that appear in his later cardinal works, thus providing continuity. It will follow the changes, including the often-minuscule ones that convey his way of thinking and various events of his life, providing a closure to his oeuvre. The previously erroneously made dating of some of Gémes’ works is easier to correct now, from the distance of 27 years, this being lent especial importance by the artist’s short career. The corrected dating will also contribute to better illustrate the development of pictorial expression in the oeuvre.

From the outset Gémes drew thought-provoking inspiration from his readings: the Bible, literary and philosophical treatises by authors both ancient and modern, from Plato and Boethius to Béla Hamvas and Károly Kerényi, and others. The exhibition will demonstrate how the form of expression used by Gémes changed over the years in parallel with the events of his life. 

Visitors will be able to see the debut of a large canvas that has not yet been displayed at major exhibitions devoted to Péter Gémes’ art, only at a small show in Miskolc. They can also follow the artist’s inner journey from the formative years through his photo-based works inspired by his philosophical readings to the last period of seeking hope filled with faith. Even the young audience can marvel at the timeless works distinguished by a conceptual and visual bravura, and discover an artist whose entire oeuvre proclaims: “Ecce homo!”


Marianna Mayer
curator of the exhibition


Virtual tour

Memory of Hand and Body – Péter Gémes’ Photo-painting

A kéz és a test emlékezete | Gémes Péter fotófestészete
2023. October 20. - 2024. January 28.
2023. October 6. - November 12.
Previous exhibition

Creation | A selection from József Jakovits’ works painted in New York

2023. November 10. - 2024. January 28.
Next exhibition

Poll | Exhibition of Áron Gábor