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Visitors Surpass 200,000 at the Museum of Fine Arts’ Renoir Exhibition, But Don't Forget Gulácsy and Csontváry

The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest has announced an overwhelming public response to its Renoir exhibition, with visitor numbers already exceeding 200,000. The show, which will remain open until January 21st, could have likely sustained its popularity even with a two-month extension.
For the first time, Hungarian audiences have the opportunity to experience a comprehensive exhibition of Renoir's work at the Museum of Fine Arts. Approximately seventy artworks are on display, showcasing the French master’s creations spanning six decades. This exhibition is not merely about Renoir's role as a master of Impressionism but reflects his capacity to beautify reality and modernity, infusing optimism into his canvases despite his personal struggles with happiness. These insights come from co-curator Paul Perrin, director of collections at the Musée D’Orsay, who described the exhibition as one of the most beautiful Renoir shows he has ever seen in his life.

Prior to Renoir’s arrival, Hungarian museums already enjoyed a vibrant year. The House of Hungarian Music, for instance, opened its doors with an exhibition titled "They Wrote the Song for Us!", marking the heyday of Hungarian pop music from 1957 until the change of the political system, featuring works by artists such as El Kazovszkij, Wahorn András, Gyémánt László, and Sarkadi Péter as well as costumes from Tamás Király. The atmosphere at the opening contrasted with the inauguration a year before, which was overshadowed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's politically charged speech.

Another Hungarian artist not to be overlooked is Lajos Gulácsy, known as Luigi Gulaxy or the Prince of Na’Conxypan, whose retrospective opened in the Hungarian National Gallery in April. This exhibit showcased around 200 pieces, including 84 paintings, highlighting Gulácsy's dual dreamlike perception of the world. His unique perspective coincided with the Museum of Fine Arts’ tribute to Tivadar Kosztka Csontváry, a significant painter born 170 years ago. Although not a vast retrospective, this exhibition presented Csontváry's major paintings, such as the 30-square-meter “Baalbek” and other works not publicly seen since a 1994 exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery. Later in August, this showcase moved to Janus Pannonius Museum in Pécs, emphasizing the extended loan agreement for Csontváry's works in the National Gallery's collection in Pécs, hinting that previous plans for a dedicated Csontváry museum in Budapest would not materialize.

The Museum of Fine Arts also celebrated the 150th anniversary of its Prints and Drawings Collection with a donation of 30 large-scale prints from Georg Baselitz. A selection of these works was displayed alongside 16th-century mannerist painter and engraver Andrea Schiavone’s works, demonstrating a bridge between artistic eras and emphasizing the importance of enriching the collection with both historical and contemporary works.

Photographer and hydrologist professor András Szöllősi-Nagy and artist Judit Nemes began their collection in the early 1970s, which found a home at the MOdern MŰtár (MoMű) in Balatonfüred. The MoMű’s exhibitions, such as “Encounters” and the posthumous display of digital art pioneer Vera Molnar, who recently passed away on December 7th, emphasized the transformative power of small visual changes.

The Vaszary Gallery in Balatonfüred also enriched its program last year with exhibitions such as Imre Bak's retrospective, György Galántai's Boglár. Here and Now, and more recently showcased the thematic structuring in the works of Dóra Maurer across six decades of the artist’s career.

In September, businessmen András Szabó and Magdolna Költő bolstered the importance of private art collecting by opening ResoArt Villa to the public near Budapest’s City Park, revealing the city's most extensive Zsolnay porcelain collection and showcasing paintings by masters such as József Rippl-Rónai and Vilmos Perlrott-Csaba, among others.

The year concluded without any significant missteps from museums in terms of exhibitions. The focus remained on showing the good, the beautiful, and the culturally valuable, in contrast to the personal follies confined within private walls, as artist József Egry once referenced regarding art collectors an ethos clearly visible in last year's curatorial choices.
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