Hungarian abstract art makes Korean debut during Frieze Seoul

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Hungarian abstract art makes Korean debut during Frieze Seoul
Simon Hantai (1922–2008), Aquarelle, 1971. Aquarelle, paper, 65,5 x 56, 5 cm. Courtesy of MNB Arts & Culture.

SEOUL.- The first major exhibition of Hungarian abstract art in Korea will open at Sungkok Art Museum from Aug. 27–Oct. 15, 2022. Folded – Unfolded introduces the work of 15 influential Hungarian artists who defiantly created abstract paintings and films from behind the Iron Curtain during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. The exhibition aims to raise awareness about post-war art in Hungary, which has long been overlooked due to the politics of the time. The show draws upon works from the nascent, but richly curated collection of the Central Bank of Hungary (Magyar Nemzeti Bank, MNB); the collection is overseen and managed by the bank’s cultural branch, MNB Arts & Culture.

“Folded – Unfolded brings to light the incredible work of both widely known and newly discovered Hungarian artists, and illustrates the broader historical, political contexts within which these artworks were made,” says Zsolt Petrányi, co-curator of the exhibition and head of the Contemporary Collection at the Hungarian National Gallery. “The exhibition is grounded in an artistic tradition that is at once quite different from that of Korea, yet viewers can find resonances with the local abstract movement.”

“The exhibition title, Folded – Unfolded, gestures toward a process of discovering the unknown,” says co-curator Sungah Serena Choo. “We invite people to uncover the storied history of abstract art in Hungary and also think more deeply about the role and possibilities of abstraction during these decades.”

Folded – Unfolded features artists who were active in Hungary as well as those who sought political asylum in France, Germany, and other European countries during the post-war period. A broad range of techniques and materials are represented, from tempera to fire enamel on metal, from paper to oil on canvas. The exhibition highlights the experimental approach of the artworks on display, illustrating the depth of character and bold use of color employed by artists of this time period.

Highlights include: three works by Simon Hantaď, best known for his technique of pliage, in which folded and knotted canvases are used as a base to create sculptural depth in his paintings.

There will be two paintings by János Fajó, a key figure in the Hungarian constructive geometric art scene. Fajó was also a founding member of the neo-avant-garde group the Pest Workshop, which created prints in an effort to democratize art.

Influential artist and winner of the prestigious Kossuth Prize Ilona Keserü Ilona will be represented with two paintings. She is known for her joyful explorations of color research.

Four paintings by Judit Reigl will be shown, including one from her Unfolding series, in which she explores the spatial and temporal dimensions of gesture. The painter escaped the Iron Curtain after several failed attempts, and resided in Paris.

Dóra Maurer’s avant garde approach to movement has earned her acclaim, and two of her films will be screened in the exhibition.

Full artist list: János Fajó (1937–2018), Ferenc Ficzek (1947–1987), Tibor Gáyor (1929–), István Gellér B. (1946–2018), Simon Hantaď (1922–2008), Tamás Hencze (1938–2018), Ilona Keserü Ilona (1933–), Tamás Konok (1930–2020), Dezső Korniss (1908–1985), Ferenc Lantos (1929–2014), Kamill Major (1948–), Dóra Maurer (1937–), Vera Molnár (1924–), Judit Reigl (1923–2020), and Margit Szilvitzky (1931–2018).

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