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How the history of contemporary art in Middle Europe developed …


The Forties / Fifties

October 13, European School (Európai Iskola) was founded by Pál Gegesi Kiss professor of medicine, Lajos Kassák artist, poet and editor, Ernő Kállai art historian and critique, Árpád Mezei art historian, editor and psychologist, Imre Pán writer, collector, editor and lecturer. The group intended to represent the progressive (mainly rooted in fauvism, expressionism, constructivism and surrealism) artistic and intellectual tendencies in the name of European values and humanism. Besides organizing exhibitions, the group aimed to synchronize their activity with the contemporary Western tendencies (like their close relationship with Belgian artist Corneille thus influencing the future CoBrA group), released theoretical publications and organized lectures (among the lecturers we might find the philosopher Béla Hamvas and the writer Miklós Szentkuthy). They cultivated the memory of their chosen predecessors, like Gyula Derkovits (1894-1934), Imre Ámos (1907-1944, killed in the Holocaust), Lajos Vajda (1908-1941). In 1946 the representatives of non-figurative tendencies seceded from the group and founded the Group of Abstract Artists under the leadership of Ernő Kállai, acquiring an exhibition space named Gallery of the Four Quarters of the Globe (Galéria a Négy Világtájhoz). Due to the growing political pressure, the group suspended their activities in 1948 but the spirit of European School remained and provided inspiration for generations of artists throughout the decades of the totalitarian system.
Foundation of the Association of Hungarian Fine and Applied Artists. It was rearranged in 1959. It functioned as the official body of cultural policy, the only social and professional organization in visual arts.
October 26, Unguarded money action, Budapest. Upon the proposal by Miklós Erdély, the Hungarian Writers’ Union placed six boxes in the streets of Budapest with the call: “The purity of our revolution allows us to collect money for the families of our martyrs in this way.”
April 20–June 16, Spring Exhibition, Műcsarnok. The first exhibition since 1949 that also featured abstract paintings. The exhibited material also included works by artists from the European School.
Foundation of the Balázs Béla Studio, a studio of experimental film.
Salons at Pál Petrigalla’s apartment in Budapest, a meeting place at Petrigalla’s apartment for underground culture (lectures, exhibitions, music), centered around Petrigalla’s music collection.
Meetings at dr. László Végh’s apartment, concentrating on contemporary experimental / avant-garde music. Végh also reported on these events as an agent of the Unit III/III until 1962.

The Sixties

Foundation of the Club of Young Artists (existed until 1998) by the Hungarian Young Communist League and maintained by the Budapest Municipal Council.
Exhibition series Hungarian Art of the 20th Century (A huszadik század magyar művészete), curated/organized by Márta Kovalovszky and Péter Kovács at King St. Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár (16 editions). The museum in Székesfehérvár became crucial for (re)presenting and processing peripheral art phenomena and/or progressive art tendencies.
• April 16-May 8, Studio’66, an exhibition of the Young Artists’ Studio, organized at Ernst Museum without external jury (i.e. censorship), accompanied with serious debates. ’Progressive tendencies’ were exhibited in a separate room.

• June 25, first happening in Hungary titled The Lunch (In Memoriam Batu Khan), a collaboration between Gábor Altorjai, Miklós Erdély and Tamás Szentjóby at István Szenes’ cellar at Hegyalja u. 20/b. Budapest.

• December 27, second happening in Hungary, Sunday Before Christmas 1969 (Prae-Antimovite Happening), concept by Gábor Altorjai, Miklós Erdély’s cellar at 6/b Virágárok Street, Budapest.

• July 20-August 10, Workshop ’67 (Műhely ’67) in Debrecen. The first large-scale exhibition dedicated to neo-avantgarde photography.

• First edition of the Stone Sculpture Symposium in Villány (from 1970 as an international event).

• Sculpture Symposium at the Székesfehérvár Light Iron Works.

• January 18, Tamás Szentjóby’s Action Concert, University Theatre, Budapest.

• May 1, UFO happening at Szentendre. Participants: Roger Bentichou, István Dárday, Antal Dull, Miklós Erdély, Katalin Ladik, Györgyi Szalai, Tamás Szentjóby, Miklós Urbán.

• Bonyhád Enamel Art Camp was founded.

• December 12–20, Opening of the Iparterv I exhibition, banned within a few days (informally it could still be visited afterwards). Organized by Péter Sinkovits, avoiding the Lectorate and the jury, at Iparterv (Hall of Iparterv State Architectural Office) in Budapest. The Iparterv I-II exhibitions became paradigmatic events that defined a generation. Instead of presenting single tendencies in neo-avant-garde art, Iparterv exhibitions consisted of various movements from informel / abstract expressionism, pop art, hard edge. Iparterv I was preceded by the exhibition organised at the Pál Vásárhelyi College of the Budapest Technical University in February 12-25, 1968 (The older and younger generations of painters: Imre Bak, Tibor Csiky, Tamás Hencze, Endre Tót, Tihamér Gyarmathy, Dezső Korniss, Béla Veszelszky, organized by Dezső Korniss).

• First edition of the Siklós International Experimental Ceramics Symposium.

• October, Péter Halász and Anna Koós organised the Kassák Studio theatre group at Kassák Cultural House. Following the period between 1973 and 1976 working as an Apartment Theatre in a flat at Dohány Street in Budapest. They were forced to flee Hungary in 1977. The group moved to New York taking the name Squat Theatre and soon became one of the most progressive collectives in the international world of theater.

• October 2-20, Szürenon exhibition, Kassák Cultural Centre, Budapest. The title is a variation of „sur et non” by Attila Csáji. It refers to art that merges surrealism and non-figurative painting. Szürenon was a major exhibition of the era that complements the achievements of Iparterv I-II. Organizer: Attila Csáji.

• October 24, opening of Iparterv II organized by Péter Sinkovits at the Hall of Iparterv State Architectural Office, this time involving the Lectorate. Iparterv II presented conceptual tendencies as well.


The Seventies

• June 28, opening of the balatonboglár Chapel Studio. György Galántai rented the unused and secularized Baroque chapel building as a studio in 1968 that became an informal center and meeting place for Avant-garde art (exhibitions, lectures, concerts) during the summers. Eventually it got closed in August 1973 due to the pressure by the authorities, initiated and strengthened by the press. The events of the Chapel Studio serve as references that define the first and second generation of neo-avantgarde including theater, literature, music. Some international/transregional events, among many others: August 6-13, 1972 exhibition of Bosch+Bosch group from Yugoslavia; August 26-27, 1972 Meeting of Czech, Slovak and Hungarian artists and an exhibition with the participation of 23 artists, organized by László Beke; March 23-May 15, 1973 Tükör/Mirror/Spiegel/miroir exhibition, pieces by 35 artists. Organized by László Beke. Reconstructed for the opening of Artpool Art Research Centre in 1992.

• October 3-5, Gyula Pauer’s Pseudo demonstration and Pseudo film (by János Gulyás) at József Attila Cultural Centre.

• April, Pécs Workshop (Pécsi Műhely) was formed in Pécs from the Pécs Artists Studio, a group of young artists/former students of Ferenc Lantos. Members: Ferenc Ficzek, Károly Halász (Károly Hopp-Halász), Károly Kismányoky, Sándor Pinczehelyi, Sándor Szíjártó.

• August 4, László Beke’s call Work = The Documentation of the Imagination / Idea. In response to this call 31 Hungarian artists sent their works to Beke. The project significantly contributed to the spread of Hungarian conceptual and mail art.

Vajda Lajos Studio was founded, one of the most important self-taught, alternative art groups of the seventies and eighties. After the first Open-Air Exhibitions organized in Szentendre (1968-1969) and the scandalous Nalaja happening in Szentendre in 1970 that ended up with police intervention and temporary imprisonment of István efZámbó, the group’s dadaist spirit merged with the intellectual heritage of the Szentendre Art Colony’s avant-garde artists, especially Lajos Vajda. Founding members: László feLugossy, István efZámbó, Gábor Matyófalvi, György Holdas, János Aknay. It was granted a Cellar Gallery in 1973 that has been serving as an important venue of progressive tendencies ever since. The Studio lived its heyday in the eighties when the new wave band, A.E. Bizottság (Albert Einstein Committee), formed in Szentendre by several members and friends of the Studio. The Studio, already incorporating several generations, presented a radically open approach and covered different tendencies, from neo-dada, Fluxus-like and semi-conceptual (performance and action, painting, installation and assemblage) approaches to surrealist and non-figurative/abstract forms and new media art.
January/February, László Najmányi and Kovács Studio happenings at Derkovits Culture House in Budapest. They organized various actions and happenings in the following years.
• April, Festival de la Vanguardia Hungara exhibition, CAYC, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Then, in December, Hungria ’74 exhibition of conceptual and mail art works was organized there, curated by Jorge Glusberg, with catalog (folder) by László Beke and Gábor Attalai.

• First edition of the Dunaújváros Steel Sculptor Workshop and Symposium.

• First edition of the Nagyatád Wood Sculpture Symposium.

• Re-organisation of the Makó Graphic Art Colony to become the main venue for experimental graphics in the years to come.

• March, Cafe Rózsa/Rose (Rózsa Presszó) Circle’s first events at Cafe Rose, Budapest. The name Rose Circle refers to a generation of artists who studied at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Art in the first half of the seventies and young and even older artists who joined them (among others: Dénes Bogdány, Orsolya Drozdik, György Fazekas, György Galántai, András Halász, Zsigmond Károlyi, Károly Kelemen, Mariann Kiss, András Koncz, László Nagyvári, Péter Sarkadi, Ernő Tolvaly). They participated in events (actions, happenings) organized at the Cafe Rose and other spaces such as the International Student Club, MOM Cultural Centre, Bercsényi Dormitory Club, Ganz Mávag Cultural Centre, and Jókai Culture House in Budaörs. The events took place in 1975-76, influenced by the Fluxus.

• September 1975-1977, Creativity Exercises (Movement design and implementation actions), Ganz-Mávag Cultural Centre, Józsefváros Artists’ Circle, Budapest, led by Miklós Erdély and Dóra Maurer. A series of events started in October on various representatives of different tendencies of contemporary art. In December 1977 the Creativity Exercises were finished by the Cultural House’s director. Erdély continued this activities at Víziváros Gallery as FAFEJ until June 1978.

• First edition of the Győr Art Colony – Rába Works.

• October 24, 1976-January 31, 1977, Exposition ̶ Photo/Art (Expozíció ̶ Fotó/Művészet), Hatvany Lajos Múzeum, Hatvan. Historical avant-garde photography and avant-garde photography of the seventies. Organized by László Beke and Dóra Maurer. It was followed by a series of solo exhibitions dedicated to progressive artists’ work.

• Symposium at Tisza Chemical Plant

• February 4-11, Orsolya Drozdik: The Nude – the Model (Az akt – a modell), with the opening actions of Károly Halász, Zsigmond Károlyi, Károly Kelemen, Miklós Erdély, László Beke, Young Artists’ Club Budapest.

• April 2–May 28, Textile After Textil (Textil textil után), Gallery 40, Eger. The same gallery presented experimental textile as well as a show of Imre Bak’s and Dóra Maurer’s mail art collection, August of this year.

• June 2–July 5, 10 Years of Our Symposia Movement (10 éves a szimpozion mozgalmunk), Józsefvárosi Gallery.

• November, Miklós Erdély founded INDIGÓ (Interdiszciplináris Gondolkodás / Interdisciplinary Thinking) curse, a new forum of creative exercises at Marczibányi Youth House, Budapest. INDIGO organized numerous exhibitions, events, actions, and created films in the following years.

• March 25, Artpool was founded by György Galántai, Júlia Klaniczay. Artpool originally functioned exclusively through using postal services, then organized various programmes, projects at different venues. As a result of the projects and intense exchange with international collections, artists, art professionals, publishers etc. Artpool Archives and collections were formed. Today Artpool is part of the Central European Research Institute for Art History, Museum of Fine Arts Budapest.

• May, Documentum (Dokumentum) initiated by Antal Jokesz, involved also János Szerencsés, Gábor Kerekes, János Vető. Series of exhibitions and publications 1979-1983 to provide a platform for contemporary photography.

• October, György Galántai’s call for participation in the assembling, titled Textile – Without Textile (with support of András Bán and Péter Fitz as theoreticians), relating to the exhibition under the same title in the Young Artists’ Club, organized by András Bán. 52 artists send works to the folder circulated in 300 copies.


The Eighties

• January 17, Szolnok-based, radical and politically engaged oppositional Inconnu group’s (comprised of young artists Péter Bokros, Tamás Molnár, Róbert Pálinkás) action at Young Artists’ Club titled Examining the EGO in a Confined Space (Az EGO vizsgálata zárt térben). It was followed by many other events by Inconnu. Inconnu’s name derives from a postal expression ’addressee unknown.’ In radical mail art practice, the method was used to avoid censorship. The sender put a fake address in the place of the addressee on the envelope, and put the name and address of the actual addressee as the sender, thus the letter was eventually mailed to the right person after the fake address was considered ’unknown’ by postal services.

• February 29, Ákos Birkás, György Galántai, Károly Kelemen, Zsuzsa Simon suggested the concept of a gallery working on collective basis to the director of the Art Fund. The gallery’s concept was preceded by Zsuzsa Simon’s experiments to establish a Zsuzsa Simon Office/gallery and work as a Western-type art manager. Although not according to the original idea, the gallery was formed at Kelemen’s apartment named Rabinec Common Atelier (Rabinec Közös Műterem, 1982), later changed to Rabinext Stúdió (1983). The venue is of crucial importance for the Hungarian Post-avantgarde tendencies, such as New wave, New Painting. Exhibitions: Zuzu (Lóránt Méhes)-Vető (Vető János) exhibition 1982; Ákos Birkás’ New Works 1983; Zsigmond Károlyi: Tangram exhibition 1983; Károly Kelemen’s Actual Works 1983; Rabinext Studio at Vajda Lajos Studio in Szentendre 1983)

• June 6, Tendencies 1-6 (Tendenciák 1-6), first of the exhibition series consisting of 6 shows organized at the Óbuda Gallery in Budapest (series continued in 1981). These exhibitions of crucial importance provided a survey on the different aspects of seventies art, each of them was organized by a different curator. 1. New Art in 1970 2. Secondary Realism 3. Geometric and Structural Tendencies 4. Fiction and Objectivity 5. Individual Ways 6. Hard and Soft. Postconceptual Trends.

• Gábor Bódy, a filmmaker, and his wife, historian Veronika Baksa-Soós (Vera/Veruschka Bódy), conceived an idea of the INFERMENTAL project, the first international magazine distributed on videocassette. A declaration of cooperation with Polish filmmakers was signed by Gábor Bódy, Dóra Maurer, and Józef Robakowski, Ryszard Waśko, Paweł Kwiek and Małgorzata Potocka on March 19, 1981. Each INFERMENTAL issue was compiled and edited in a different location, the first in Berlin in 1982 and the last in Skopje in 1991. Following the death of Gábor Bódy (1985), Vera Baksa-Soós/Bódy carried on coordinating the project. The complete magazine archive consists of 10 issues + 1 special issue (altogether about 70 hours, and more than 1500 artists from 36 countries).

• July 21 ̶ August 20, ART+POST (Art and Post), Artpool’s first Hungarian mail art exhibition, Újpesti Mini Galéria in Budapest, run by artist and XERTOX group member Róbert Šwienkiewicz between 1980-1982.

• December 1-16, First New Sensibility (Új Szenzibilitás I.) exhibition, Fészek Club Gallery, Budapest. The exhibition was followed by six further New Sensibility shows until 1987 as well as various related events in Hungary and at international locations. The exhibitions were curated by Lóránd Hegyi, and reflected Hegyi’s concept on different forms of Postmodernism in Hungary, mostly New Painting (covering both figurative and geometrical tendencies) but also installation art.

• April 6-25, World Art Post international artist stamp exhibition, Fészek Gallery, with a catalog. A film (Stamp Film) was created in 1983.

• May 9-30, Human Experiments (Emberkísérletek), Pesterzsébeti Múzeum, Budapest. It was planned as an international mail art exhibition and as Xertox’s Third Meditation Exercise. The exhibition was banned despite the jury’s permission but eventually it was presented at Bercsényi 28-30 between October 19 and November 1. Xertox group consisted of Jenő Lévay, Imre Regős, Róbert Šwierkiewicz, and was active between 1982 and 1992. Their ’meditation exercises’ were built on meditation acts between simple actions.

• January, 1983–1985, AL (Actual/Alternative/Artpool/Letter), issues 1-11, photocopy, in 3-400 copies, editioned samizdat art magazine with supplements published about the ongoing Hungarian and foreign underground culture.

• February 3-27, New Sensibility II (Új Szenzibilitás II.), Óbuda Cellar Gallery, Budapest.

• May 1, Liget Gallery was opened in Budapest. Liget became a prominent platform of underground, alternative tendencies and international cooperations, especially related to experimental photography and installation art. Gallery director: Tibor Várnagy, from 2022: Veronika Molnár.

• January 27, Hungary Can Be Yours / International Hungary (Magyarország a tiéd lehet/Nemzetközi Mahgyarország), Young Artists’ Club, Budapest. The exhibition was banned (it was reconstructed December 9-21, 1989). The issue 52 of the international mail art magazine Commonpress, titled Hungary, printed in 1989, was the exhibition catalog.

• August 24–September 30, Wet Paint: New Wave in Hungarian Painting (Frissen festve: a magyar festészet új hulláma), Ernst Museum, Budapest.

• November 9-14, Plánum 84 art festival at Almássy Center Budapest.

• Establishment of The Soros Foundation Fine Arts Documentation Center at Mûcsarnok Budapest, as a cooperation between the Mûcsarnok and The Soros Foundation Hungary (since 2018 based in Berlin). It participated in the realization of exhibitions and publishing catalogs as well as purchasing counter culture art during the last years of Kádár era, and functioned as a resource center offering information on twentieth century Hungarian artists to students, scholars, collectors and dealers from Hungary and abroad.

• February 26–March 1, Substitute Thirsters’ (Hejettes Szomlyazók) first exhibition in Budapest (after their exhibition in Kisörspuszta in 1984). The group was founded in 1984 by István Elek (Kada), Balázs Fekete, Attila Nagy, Péter Kardos (until 1985), Tibor Várnagy (later joined by Balázs Beöthy, Attila Danka, Rolland Pereszlényi) and was functioning until 1992. The group became the internationally most significant underground art group of the second half of the eighties.

• March 4, performance art enters Műcsarnok, the most prominent official venue: Echo (Visszhang), performance by János Szirtes, contributors: Wolfgang Ernst, Tibor Szemző, six violin players from the Rajkó Ensemble, Műcsarnok, Budapest; November 27, 1986, Peter and the Wolf (Péter és a farkas), performance by András Böröcz-László László Révész with László Garaczi’s introduction, and the participation of Endre Kukorelly, Gábor Roskó.

• September 13–November 3, New Sensibility III (Új Szenzibilitás III.), Budapest Gallery in Lajos Street.

• October 18–November 10, Drei Generationen Ungarischer Künstler exhibition, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz (exhibited also in Budapest at Műcsarnok, December 12, 1985–January 12, 1986).

• February 27–May 31, Eclecticism’ 85 (Eklektika ’85), Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest. Organised by Lóránd Hegyi.

• May 3, 1986–April 1, 1987, Plato’s Cave (Platón barlangja), joint project by Substitute Thirsters (Hejettes Szomlyazók) and Exchange Series International Philological Art Forward School (Cseresorozat Nemzetközi Filozofikussági Művészetelőreiskola). 10-11 October: Invisible Art festival (Láthatatlan művészet fesztivál). Organised by Talán Sebeő.

• June 29, Opening of Vajda Lajos Studio’s NEW MIXED Exhibition (A Vajda Lajos Stúdió ÚJ VEGYES kiállítása), Szentendre Gallery, Szentendre. Participants: János Aknay, Vilmos István Balogh, Péter Bereznai, Mihály Gubis, Sándor Győrffy, Viktor Lois, László feLugossy, Károly István Selényi, István Tóth, István efZámbó, Tibor Imreh.

• September 5-October 4, Building/Sculpture/Object (Épület/plasztika/tárgy). Exhibition of Gábor Bachman, Attila Kovács, Tibor Szalai, László Rajk Jr. Dorottya Street Gallery, Budapest.

• September 21–May 31, In Quotation Marks – A New Tendency in Contemporary Hungarian Art (Idézőjelben – A kortárs magyar képzőművészet egy újabb vonulata), Csók István Gallery, Székesfehérvár.

• November 28–December 28, Digitart – Computer Art Exhibition (Digitart – Számítógépművészeti kiállítás), Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

• March 13-April 5, New Sensibility IV (Új Szenzibilitás IV.), Pécs Gallery, Pécs, with an extensive bilingual catalogue. Organised and concept by Lóránd Hegyi, Sándor Pinczehelyi.

• May 29 ̶ September 25, Stamp Images exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, as part of the Contemporary art in Private Collections series, curated by Judit Geskó, catalog by Géza Perneczky.

• June 2 ̶July 1, Magical Works (Mágikus Művek), with almost 100 artists, Budapest Gallery in Lajos Street, Budapest. Organised by Katalin Keserü. performance at the opening by János Szirtes / New Modern Acrobatics.

• August 20–23, DAWN – Hungarian performances at documenta 8, Kassel, at La Fête Permanente performance section curated by Elisabeth Jappe at Bistro New York (originally János Szirtes and the era’s prominent performance/painter duo, András Böröcz-László Révész were invited. Szirtes performed with his group New Modern Acrobatics with László feLugossy, István efZámbó, Tibor Szemző. Böröcz-Révész took Gábor Bora and Gábor Roskó as narrator and as musical contributor, while Áron Gábor and János Sugár performed before the official program.

• November 1–17, First Exhibition by Zsuzsi Ujj at Liget Gallery. Contributors: Gasner Ufo, Vető Kina, István (Digó) Nagy, Liget Gallery.

• February 19-March 13, SZAFT – Joint exhibition of Vajda Lajos Studio and friends (SZAFT – a Vajda Lajos Stűdió és meghívott barátaik közös kiállítása), Ernst Museum, Budapest.

• June 10–11, Aid Festival for Transylvania, Young Artists’ Club, Budapest, concert and action, show: efZámbó Happy Dead Band, Gábor Tóth (performance).

• June 17–19, Studio ERTÉ (founded in 1987 in Czechoslovakia, founding members: József R. Juhász, Ottó Mészáros, Ilona Németh, Attila Simon) Festival, Nové Zámky/Érsekújvár. Experimental art festival, concept by József R. Juhász. In 1990-1991 it was organized as the International Festival of Alternative Art, from 1992 it was organised as Transart Communication.

• July 28–September 11, Living Textile 1968-1978-1988. A Selection from Contemporary Hungarian Works of Textile Art (Eleven Textil 1968-1978-1988. Válogatás a modern Magyar textilművészeti alkotásokból), Műcsarnok, Budapest.

• 1 June, Újlak group exhibition, Hungaria Bath, Budapest. Újlak group became the most defining group of the nineties.

• June 5–6, Inconnu erects 301 wooden headstones (typical and traditional grave-markers from Transylvania) at the Rákoskeresztúr Cemetery in memory of the anonymous victims of the repressions after the 1956 revolution, laying in the cemetery’s parcel 301.

• September 25–October 15, Different View. Experiments in the Photography of the Last Twenty Years in Hungary (Más-kép. Experimentális fotográfia az elmúlt két évtizedben Magyarországon), Ernst Museum, Budapest. Organized by Ágnes Gyetvai.

• September 30, opening of Knoll Gallery in Budapest (second location after Vienna) with the exhibition of works by Joseph Kosuth.


For more details see:
Artpool Archive:
An Attempt at Chronology of Hungarian Avant-garde Art between 1966-1980 (Dóra Maurer: Künstler aus Ungarn, Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven, 1980):
Parallel Chronologies:

(compiled by Kata Balazs, approved by Zsóka Leposa, Róna Kopeczky, László Százados)

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