Where to See Art in Budapest

November 20, 2017

Budapest is a great place to be, if you are into modern or contemporary art. Just find some time in-between writing assignments and reading in the CEU Library, and the city will provide you with a broad spectrum of quality art-experiences with its state-run institutions, rich museums’ collections, private galleries and the vibrant independent scene. 

Major public institutions displaying modern and contemporary art are Ludwig Museum and the National Museum of Fine Arts. Both offer rich collections as well as temporary exhibitions. The former, founded in 1989, presents Hungarian avant-garde art from the ‘60s to recent days in an international context. It has also a particular focus on American pop art and displays pieces of Warhol, Oldenburg and Rauschenberg. Another reason to visit is the architecture: the museum, as well as the national theatre and ziggurat (yes, you’ve read it right) located next to it, are the peculiar examples of flamboyant postmodern architecture. Ludwig Museum regularly hosts exhibitions by internationally-exclaimed artist, and you can also use their profiled library with books, exhibition catalogs and magazines about Hungarian and international art after 1945.

Currently closed, the Museum of Fine Arts is located in Heroes’ Square and holds a number of collections from antiquity to 21st century. It displays works by the representatives of the major schools and directions of the 20th century. Kokoschka, Chagall, Albers, Anthony Caro and Abakanowicz are just a few of the many exhibited artists.  Vasarely Muzeum is one of the departments of the Museum of Fine Arts, located outside the main building, devoted to the oeuvre of the iconic master of op-art, Hungarian painter Victor Vasarely. Located in the picturesque Obuda district, within the refined and freshly renovated Zichy Palace building complex, the museum is worth paying a visit. It hosts a permanent display of Vasarely exhibitions of historic and contemporary abstract art. Also, world-famous Hungarian photographer Robert Capa, who redefined press photography, has an institution named after him. The Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center is an exhibition space for presenting press and documentary photography. Besides state-run institutions, Budapest is characterized by a number of NGOs and artist-run spaces. Like Art Factory Budapest, which hosts exhibitions and residencies, Art Quarter Budapest, and FKSE - gallery space run by the members of The Studio of Young Artists’ Association.

Budapest hosts a number of private galleries. Among the most important ones are Knoll and acb Gallery. The latter consists of three exhibition spaces and research labs and represents some of the most important contemporary Hungarian artists from the neo-avant-garde, conducts research and publishes books. Other galleries worth noting are Inda, Vintage, and Deak Erika Galeria. Fresh, innovative proposition is Everybody needs art. Not a typical white cube gallery space, ENA is an exhibition venue located on the rooftop, devoted mostly to site-specific projects. Recently, promising Glassyard Gallery opened its doors in the old-school apartment on Paulay Ede Street. If you want to have a glimpse into the city’s gallery scene, Budapest Gallery Weekend is a great opportunity for it. Happening annually in September, the event is a chance to see smaller, often hidden exhibition spaces and to meet local artist and curators who will personally introduce you to their art.

Autumn is surely the busiest time of the year for art lovers in the capital of Hungary. Shortly after Budapest Gallery Weekend, galleries from the region come to the city for ArtMarket Budapest. Although the event is market-oriented, you can just have a look and enjoy it without buying anything. Every two years, Budapest hosts OFF-Biennale, one of the most interesting events of its kind in central Europe. Based on self-organization and local and transnational collaboration, the biennale presents a number of thought-provoking, often politically charged exhibitions and works of Hungarian and international artists without public funding and outside state-run art institutions.

In Budapest, there is plenty to choose from when it comes to art: small and big institutions, state-run and grassroots projects. Whether you are a huge fan of abstract or conceptual art, or you just need to relax after a long day, to look at something other than your daily readings or just need inspiration, you can enjoy art in one of many ways in a number of venues.

 By  Jakub Gawkowski, student in the Department of History