Living Folk Art 2010

29/Oct/2010 - 25/Apr/2011
There are probably still a great many people whose pulses quicken at the mention of "folk art", as even today, the collection and use of such objects - whether actual antiques, or contemporary pieces produced to preserve traditional culture - is remarkably widespread. Though certainly folk art in the conventional sense of the expression can no longer be said to exist, during the second half of the 20th century, the visual language manifested in traditional objects and preserved within certain branches of the applied and fine arts gave way to a peculiar new branch of the arts - one with ties to tradition, but with a view to the expectations of the modern age, as well - known in Hungarian as folk applied art.


Handicrafts involving the production of traditional objects have enjoyed the above definition for more than half a century, and though in retrospect it may seem a more appropriate label might have been devised, over time, the name, too, has become part of the tradition. To change it, in fact, would be extremely impractical, involving the modification of innumerable laws and ordinances, as well as the names of a variety of institutions concerned with the preservation and display of folk art collections. With all its shortcomings, however, the expression folk applied art does describe the phenomenon in question with reasonable accuracy: the handicrafts it encompasses all derive inspiration from traditional creative pursuits, and all employ the language of form represented by authentic folk art, along with its techniques, modes of artistic expression, and intrinsic values.

Today, Hungarian folk art - along with the traditional cultures of other European peoples - is regarded as part of Europe's shared cultural heritage as recognised by UNESCO. Of its numerous manifestations, some have already earned a listing in the National Registry of Intangible Cultural Heritage, while others still await (re)discovery. For its part, the fundamental objective of the UNESCO convention is to preserve and develop the living culture of modern communities - in other words, to preserve local traditions and cultural diversity, including, of course, the extraordinarily rich traditions of Hungarian folk art.

The primary goal of the present exhibition and public competition was to inspire the creation of objects that are acclimated (both aesthetically and functionally) to modern living circumstances, as it is in this way alone that our folk handicrafts culture, with its vast repertoire of traditional ornamental motifs and manual techniques, may survive, and that the visual culture that makes up our material mother tongue may find its way (once again) into our everyday lives. A person who listens to the music of Béla Bartók may discover the general cast of thought represented by Hungarian folk music even where individual songs do not resemble each other. The same must be achieved with material culture, so that artist, viewer, and user may all find joy in it, giving continued life to an entire range of elements, thoughts, and feelings from the past.


We trust that the works presented here will appeal to everyone, and that audiences will find many they could imagine in their own homes. We hope that what we have shown will inspire Hungary's craftspeople to continue their creative work, and that visitors will be seeing many such works in their own environments in the years to come.

Curators: Katalin Beszprémy and István Csupor