From its ornate Gothic Revival architecture to the lively streets lined with some very witty street art, Budapest is a superb destination for art connoisseurs. Better still, tucked behind its decorative façades and grand edifices are state-of-the-art galleries and inspiring hubs of creativity. From surveying Hungary’s most esteemed 19th-century artists to browsing new works from the darlings of the contemporary art world, here’s how to get acquainted with Budapest’s burgeoning art scene.
There’s a generous smattering of names in Hungarian modernist art that command international respect, and all are housed in the hallowed halls of the Hungarian National Gallery – the likes of Simon Hollósy, István Csók and Károly Ferenczy. It’s not only the country’s painterly pioneers that are found here, though. Ambitious temporary exhibitions include the likes of Lucian Freud, Frida Kahlo and Amedeo Modigliani, marking this as a world-class venue on the international art scene.
Elsewhere, the Museum of Applied Arts offers more than two centuries of exquisite artefacts. A strong focus on Art Nouveau-influenced pieces makes this a must-see. The museum is actually closed to the public for renovations until 2020, but guided tours can be arranged for small groups to visit the collections.
For beautifully curated shows exploring the work of new and established local artists, Műcsarnok is your primary port of call. This grand 19th-century gallery is home to the country’s most significant contemporary talent. It’s exciting rota of exhibitions lurches from sculpture and conceptual installations to skilled fine arts, offering a glimpse into the country’s challenging history.
If small and perfectly formed is more your taste, Várfok Galéria focuses a dedicated lens on provocative Hungarian talent and has established a name for itself as a champion of local artists. Exhibitions in this bright, airy space are large-scale, ranging from the vivid, naïve impressions of Péter Újházi to Károly Keserü’s abstract multi-media matrices.
Budapest’s Art Factory multitasks as hip gallery for events and exhibitions as well as a working studio for a group of local fine artists. A bustling hive of activity since 2006, this former turbine factory plays host to off-beat shows and lively panel discussions, with plenty of opportunity to meet the professional artists who work there. While the doors are open to visitors year-round, pop in between April and October for a well-considered programme of activities.
For a change of pace from paintings and sculpture, Müpa Budapest’s ultra-modern centre puts on an inspired programme of multi-genre music concerts, art-house films, theatre and workshops. Styled as a cultural hub and home to a concert hall, museum and theatre, it’s the heart of the Hungarian capital’s pulsing creative scene.
A strong hand of performance, film, music, photography and literature runs alongside a busy line-up of art exhibitions across the Hungarian capital with the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival. It’s an exciting few weeks in the city’s autumn calendar, with locals and visitors flocking to a varied range of shows, screenings and events.