Our exhibition not only presents some delightful works of art, but also offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the museum’s work: our aim is to initiate visitors into one of the more hidden aspects of the museum’s activities – collection-building.
Originating from Timi?oara, the Viennese art-lover Julius Paul (1867, Temesvár (now Timi?oara, RO) – 1938, Vienna) built up an international collection of thousands of pieces, which included six hundred Hungarian posters. Paul joined the Berlin-founded Society for Friends of the Poster (Verein der Plakatfreunde): members of this international group, made up of poster enthusiasts, bought, sold and swapped works of art, and exchanged opinions on poster art both in person and in writing. They even published their own magazine, Das Plakat, between 1911-1912. Paul was also in contact with the Hungarian members of the society, among them Rudolf Bedő.
After Paul’s death, his heirs sold off the collection, which ended up in the Albertina in Vienna. In 2008, as part of a process of restitution, the works were handed over to Paul’s descendants, who entrusted the sale of the posters to a New York gallery. A representative from this gallery, perusing the website of the Hungarian National Gallery, noticed a poster design by Mihály Biró, the printed version of which was among the Hungarian works in Paul’s collection. In January 2011, around five hundred Hungarian posters were offered for sale to the Hungarian National Gallery. After some failed attempts, ten posters were eventually purchased, thanks to the Ithaca programme launched by the National Cultural Fund in 2012.
Mihály Biró’s poster design, which was displayed in 2011 as part of the temporary exhibition – Collection in the Collection – showing draft adverts and book designs held by the Collection of Prints and Drawings, can now be seen together with the printed, full-size poster. Julius Paul’s Hungarian posters are shown next to items from the Bedő Collection, which formed the basis of the Hungarian National Gallery’s poster collection when they were acquired in 1957. It is quite rare for a collection of posters to be held by a museum of fine arts, and not in a museum of history or applied arts, or in a library collection. Consequently, pictures and sketches by great painters can be studied alongside their posters and advert designs, while the works of outstanding poster-makers can be compared with their drawings, reproduced works, caricatures and illustrations. After all, posters always changed in step with the latest advances in the visual arts and with the innovations taking place in the culture of objects, which also encompasses book art.