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The exhibition Destiny and Symbol – Hungarian Art in Transylvania 1920-1990 presents the art from this region and period on an unprecedented scale. Instead of an approach based on existing stereotypes, the show introduces the lesser-known, hidden or completely unknown aspects of Transylvanian art. This comprehensive exhibition greatly relies on works loaned from public and private collections in Transylvania and Romania. Its nine sections demonstrate various features of the seven decades of Transylvanian Hungarian art.
The first section, Man in the Land, introduces the legacy of the Nagybánya (Baia Mare) school of painting and the landscape tradition of the region. In stone as in wood. deals with the continuous impact of archaic stone and wood carving in modern Transylvanian art. The third part, Those who preceded me, includes the portraits of great Transylvanian predecessors in the form of historic pantheons or sculpture series representing contemporaries. Following World War I, utopias of a new world incarnated both in the abstraction of the avantgarde and in the objectivity of neoclassicism. These tendencies are demonstrated respectively in the sections Avantgarde radiation and In the wake of classical values.
The issue of realistic representation was ever-present also in Transylvanian Hungarian art. Works investigating the relations between art and society, and the critical content of surrealism or photorealism derived from different approaches of reality. The sections Art and society and Realism and beyond explore the questions considering realism. From the 1960s, for the lack of significant commissions and also for the politically sensitive Romanian censorship, the most progressive works were made in the less conspicuous and more free genre of graphical art – this is the theme of Tradition and graphic innovation. Transylvanian graphical art had an outstanding quality even on an international level, both as regards typography and artistic expression. Similarly significant is Transylvanian neo- avantgarde art, with its frequently ironic or ambiguous approach that was capable, during the period of dictatorship, to formulate complex critical content. Official art policy, however, was intolerant with such works. The section titled Here and else! includes works of the Transylvanian neo-avantarde.
The exhibition features some 430 works – paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, posters and other illustrations – kindly loaned to the Hungarian National Gallery by more than eighty public and private collections in Hungary and abroad. In addition to the artworks, portrait films, etudes and brief reports about individual artists, groups, and related institutions of Transylvania may be watched in the projection room.
The catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes a wealth of documentation on the exhibited works and examines the art history of the period, the ouvre of the major masters, the role of the institutions, and the history of art groups. Excellent Hungarian and Romanian experts, historians of culture and literature contributed their studies of a broad, theoretical approach and a reflective overview of the issues concerned. Curator of the exhibition is György Szücs, scientific director of the Museum of Fine Arts – Hungarian National Gallery.