The Central Bank of Hungary’s art collection and the Fajó Foundation are preparing a major series of institutional exhibitions in China
The touring exhibition titled The Journey – János Fajó and the Pesti Workshop will be launched in several Chinese venues in cooperation with MNB Arts and Culture, the cultural branch of the Central Bank of Hungary (Magyar Nemzeti Bank, MNB) and the Fajó Foundation. The first exhibition will open in Shanghai’s Liu Haisu Art Museum on 19 August 2023.
The Central Bank of Hungary began building its contemporary art collection in 2020, focusing primarily on Hungarian artists of the school of geometric abstraction and neo-avant-garde who were at the forefront of the most progressive movements in the world in the 1960s and 1970s, and whose lasting oeuvre is an important milestone in the history of Hungarian art as well. Since then, the collection has been expanded to include works by the middle and the youngest generations, but the mission remains the same: to make the collection visible abroad as well as to the audiences at home. A series of exhibitions now being launched will be on show in several major cities in China during the second half of the year.
„We believe that the international profile and visibility of Hungarian artists should match the high quality of their work. Therefore, one of our main goals is to provide a regional and global platform for the artists of the collection. However, our aim is not simply to provide visibility, but to contribute to the ever-expanding international dialogue on art and culture. Shanghai is one of Asia’s most important and well-established contemporary art hubs, and the silkscreen printing technique originally started in China.”– emphasised Kinga Hamvai, head of the division responsible for the management of the collection.
The exhibition focuses on the founding members of the Pesti Workshop, who were active in screen printing between 1971 and 1988 and formed the dominant artistic community of the period. Several important works by all members of the Pesti Workshop (Imre Bak, János Fajó, Tamás Hencze, Ilona Keserü, András Mengyán and István Nádler) are included in the collection of the Central Bank of Hungary selected by Zita Sárvári, curator, and completed by the Fajó Foundation’s own material and some borrowed works of art.
The Fajó Foundation was established in 2019 by the artist’s wife, Ágnes Fajóné Hajós, with the aim of carrying on the artist’s legacy and managing his estate.
„It is a great pleasure and a huge success that the story of János Fajó and the Pesti Workshop can finally be presented to the public. Although our foundation only represents Fajó, we believe it is very important to present the creative community of the Pesti Workshop together, because the significance of these artists is now being established in our country and I am confident that they will achieve similar success with the Chinese audience. The exhibition series contributes greatly to our goal of further embedding Fajó in the international art scene and we look forward to showcasing the material in Europe in the future.”
– said Mátyás Váradi, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Fajó Foundation.
„The title of the exhibition is based on layered symbols. The journey references the one that the members of the Pesti Workshop have traveled in their careers, and also what the works of art are now going to take. The technique of screen printing arrived in Europe on the silk road The road, the journey, a common metaphor for life in general, reminds us that the destination is not the most important thing. The journey is the progress itself.” – said Zita Sárvári, curator of the exhibition and artistic advisor of the Fajó Foundation.
About the Pesti Workshop:
The activities of the Pesti Workshop started in 1971, when Imre Bak, János Fajó, and István Nádler developed a community programme of visual artists, whose aim was to improve the visual environment, and their activities ranged from graphic design to clothing and urban planning. They stressed the importance of reproduction. They set the goal of democratising art and distributing reproductions of artworks. In 1973, they set up a screen-printing workshop in a coal cellar on Benczúr Street, and from then on, they operated not only as a creative group but also as a publishing house.
The screen-printing machine they used was designed and assembled by András Mengyán, originally an engineer, who joined them, and for screen-printing silk they bought fabrics, shawls and silks from women at the market. They experimented with colours and forms. They often used silkscreens to try out the composition of colour and form that they later recreated in paintings, and sometimes they screen-printed variations of their paintings. In addition to their own artistic works, they have made prints from the works of the great masters of the European
School and the Russian avant-garde. They wanted to keep alive and carry on the progressive traditions of the first half of the 20th century.
The Pesti Workshop also had an informative, educational function in the field of contemporary art, because with the help of Imre Bak, who worked at the Institute of Cultural Education, they created a small network of galleries. The Józsefváros Gallery was the flagship establishment, where they had an extensive exhibition program, and this was where they were able to show their own works for the first time.
Since the screen prints were easy to transport, they were regularly submitted to international graphic design biennials which helped spread the word from a Central and Eastern European country on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
About the venue:
Shanghai, Liu Haisu Art Museum:
Opened on 16 March 1995, the Liu Haisu Art Museum houses exhibitions, supports academic research, performs educational functions, and promotes cross-cultural exchange. It is not the first time that the Chinese public has seen Hungarian art here, the KOGART collection has already been exhibited within its walls. The Shanghai-based national institution is named after Liu Haisu, a pioneer of modern art education in China. As a renowned artist, he dedicated his life to art, education and innovation and, in his old age, donated all his valuable artworks and collections of painting and calligraphy works from various Chinese dynasties to the country. From this donation, the permanent collection of the Liu Haisu Art Museum was created.
The Journey – János Fajó and the Pesti Workshop
organiser: Liu Haisu Art Museum, MNB Arts and Culture and the Fajó Foundation
supporter: Consulate General of Hungary in Shanghai
curator: Zita Sárvári
duration of the exhibition: 19. 08. 2023 – 17. 09. 2023
location: Shanghai, Liu Haisu Art Museum
↖János Fajó: Triangles, 1969-1989