Art Nouveau – a Hungarian Perspective, Art Nouveau Museum, Clément Massier, Emil Vidor, Jugendstil, Lajos Mack, Magyar Szecesszió Háza, Museum of Applied Arts, Oszkár Tarján, Villa György Ráth, Zsolnay
Last week, I made a short trip to Budapest. And I had not one, but two Art Nouveau museums on my ‘to do list’. Of course there is a lot more to do in Budapest, but I was on my way to Szeged in the South of Hungary, and the hours I had in Budapest did not allow for more. I will have to go back to see the rest of the city some other time…
Two Art Nouveau Museums in Budapest!?!
Yes, there are indeed two Art Nouveau museums in Budapest. The first one is called The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, or the Magyar Szecesszió Háza. The museum is housed in a building that was designed by architect Emil Vidor (27 March 1867 – 8 July 1952) in 1903, for the Bedő family. The website of the museum is very informative, and I had been looking forward to visit this museum for quite a long time.
The entrance ticket (2000 HUF) gave access to all 3 floors of the museum. So I left my bag with the lady at the front desk and at her advice headed down to the basement to start my tour. There was no one else in the basement. And for a moment I wasn’t sure I had understood her correctly. Was I actually allowed to roam the basement? It looked rather like a storage facility than a museum… The place was literally jam-packed with furniture.
I was completely puzzled. Did I end up in the museum’s storage? As there was no-one to ask, I decided to continue and take it as it was. I took some pictures of the objects I liked and then continued upstairs. Only to find out the ground floor and the first floor were almost as packed as the basement. And it disturbed me tremendously that there was nó information at all. No names of artists, no year of creation, no country of origin… nothing.
As informative and ordered the website had been, so un-informative and un-ordered was the actual museum. I had been looking forward to visit this museum for a few years. But honestly, when I walked around in it, I was in a bit of a shock. It reminded me of auction-viewings where everything is positioned in a random order. Where exceptional pieces are surrounded by things no one will ever buy as they are way beyond repair…. This appeared to be nothing other than the result of someone’s compulsive hoarding. It was almost impossible to take pictures of individual items.
Don’t take me wrong. I love Art Nouveau. And I saw some exquisite objects. But this ‘exhibit’ did not do them any justice. They were crammed between objects that were heavily damaged, broken, cracked, chipped etc. And again, there was no information at all. If this were my museum, well… let me put it this way: less is more.
Address: Magyar Szecesszió Háza, Honvéd u. 3, 1054 Budapest, Hungary
Villa György Ráth
Budapest has a monumental Museum of Applied Arts. And normally I would have gone there to see Hungarian Art Nouveau. But the thing is, the Museum of Applied Arts is closed for at least five years due to extensive restoration works. Fortunately though, their Art Nouveau collection has been relocated to form a permanent exhibition titled Art Nouveau – a Hungarian Perspective at Villa György Ráth. The villa opened its doors this September (2018), so the exhibit is fairly new.
The entrance fee was the same (2000 HUF) as at the Magyar Szecesszió Háza. But this time I received a comprehensive catalogue of the collection. The lady at the front desk told me that I could give back the catalogue after my visit. Or buy it for 1000 HUF.
The Art Nouveau interiors of Villa Ráth provide an authentic environment for the exhibition. The former picture gallery and the reconstruction of the historic dining room remind us of the original owner of the villa, the first director of the Museum of Applied Arts and bourgeois art collector, György Ráth (1828–1905).
Three distinctive schools of Art Nouveau, the British, the Austrian and the French, are presented in separate interiors. The Art Nouveau dining room and sitting room allow the visitors a glimpse of Hungarian homes at the turn of the century. In the display cases Zsolnay ceramics, glass works by Tiffany and Gallé, and jewellery by Lalique and his contemporaries can be admired. Bugatti’s exclusive pieces of furniture reveal the influence of Oriental art whereas the inspiring role of the Transylvanian roots and of the national past can be seen in the gallery with Hungarian art of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
A completely different approach than at the previous museum. And definitely one that I prefer. I like to know what I am looking at. The exhibition was well curated and included some excellent pieces. And just so you can get a good impression, I have photographed the objects I personally liked the most. If you hover over the pictures with your mouse, you can read the information I copied from the catalogue.
Address: Villa György Ráth, Városligeti fasor 12, 1068 Budapest, Hungary
If you have ever visited either one of these museums, will you let me know how you experienced it. Did you also feel that need to know what you were looking at?
Digitised Collection of the Budapest Museum of Applied Arts
The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau – The Magyar Szecesszió Háza
Villa György Ráth: Art Nouveau, the Hungarian Perspective
Budapest Museum of Applied Arts – Wikipedia