During Hungary's Communist period (1947-1989), no functional marketplace existed for art and state censorship monitored all cultural production. Artists were grouped into three categories – banned, accepted, or supported. Those not supported by the state had to covertly display their art in private apartments and rely on a small circle of insider buyers. Many of them moonlighted at other jobs to get by. Centrally-approved artists, on the other hand, enjoyed a steady income but produced unoriginal or propagandistic works.
In the present day, international buyers, both private and institutional, are showing interest in contemporary Hungarian art. Especially sought-after are works that blend Western influences with local characteristics. Since the market is still small, most galleries don’t specialize in a single art movement or time period, instead carrying works across a range of styles.
Budapest's galleries host regular exhibits throughout the year – mainly between September and June, with free admission – and there are local art fairs that bring together the key players. By far most famous is Art Market Budapest, a fall event attended by hundreds of Hungarian and international galleries. Also keep an eye out for the museums and galleries of the charming city of Szentendre, just outside Budapest and easily reachable by public transport.
Many Budapest galleries are closed on Mondays and on the weekend. If unsure, give them a heads-up before you go (see contact details below). All galleries listed here are used to international visitors – usually there are English wall texts and the staff will speak English.
#1 - Várfok Galéria (location; Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.): Opened in 1990, soon after the fall of the Communist regime, Várfok is one of the oldest and most successful galleries in Budapest. Today, it represents a cross-generational set of more than twenty local and international artists, including photographer Péter Korniss, and painters Francoise Gilot (Picasso's partner for ten years) and Endre Rozsda. The more experimental works, often by younger artists, are found across the street in their "Project Room." Being located on the Castle Hill, you can conveniently stop by here after exploring Budapest's nearby medieval old town.
#2 - Q Contemporary (location; Wednesday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.): One of the most exciting projects in Budapest's art world, Q Contemporary is an ambitious exhibition space and gallery inside a 19th-century palazzo on Andrássy Avenue. The owner, Hong Kong-based Queenie Rosita Law, is committed to providing an international platform for leading artists in Central and Eastern Europe, who came of age behind the Iron Curtain. When in Budapest, be sure to keep an eye on their event calendar.
#3 - acb Galéria (location; Tuesday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.): Once you find the nondescript entrance, saunter through the atmospheric neo-Reniassance courtyard to get to acb, a leading Budapest gallery (fun fact: Eugene Wigner, Nobel-winning physicist, grew up in this building). Acb specializes in the Hungarian neo avant-garde (1960s and 1970s), having contributed to foreign shows on the topic, including Elizabeth Dee’s highly praised exhibit in New York City. Acb's artists include the well-known performance artist, Katalin Ladik, the abstract painter with works at the Tate, Imre Bak, and Gyula Várnai, who represented Hungary at the 2017 Venice Biennale.
#4 - Kisterem Galéria (location; Tuesday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.): Located on a charming downtown side street, Kisterem is one of the most international galleries in Budapest with regular appearances at art fairs like Art Rotterdam, LISTE, viennacontemporary, Art Cologne, Frieze London, and FIAC. Similar to acb, Kisterem represents established neo avant-garde artists, including painters István Nádler and Ilona Keserü, and the notably talented Katalin Káldi from the younger generation. The gallery dedicates floor space to recent art school graduates, too.
#5 - Vintage Galéria (location; Tuesday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.): Situated by an adorable park in downtown, Vintage focuses on paintings and photography from the 1960s and 1970s, representing prominent artists such as Dóra Maurer, who had a recent solo show at Tate Modern, and Hungary's pioneering pop-artist, György Kemény. Vintage also publishes excellent (bilingual) booklets and monographs.
#6 - Deák Erika Galéria (location; Wednesday to Friday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.): Hiding near Andrássy Avenue, Deák Erika works with artists within traditional disciplines like painting and sculpture. The gallery represents the radically abstract, Márton Nemes, the eye-catching biomorphic form-giver, Zsófia Barabás, and the op-artist, József Bullás. Notably, Deák Erika's roster also includes Péter Nádas, the writer of international fame who's also a trained photographer.
#7 - Godot Intézet & Galéria (location; Tuesday to Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.): Many art galleries line the increasingly chic Bartók Béla Boulevard on the Buda side; one of the early birds was Godot Galéria, best known for representing the bad boys of Hungarian contemporary art, including drMáriás, whose portrait series have featured the current prime minister, and Imre Bukta, known for thought-provoking paintings that depict the hopelessness of rural Hungary. Godot has two locations, Intézet and Galéria; Intézet is where young Hungarian artists also receive floor space as part of the Labor initiative.
#8 - FKSE Stúdió (location; Tuesday to Thursday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.): FKSE (Studio of Young Artists' Association) is an umbrella organization for the most talented recent art school graduates across Hungary. FKSE's legendary exhibition space in Rottenbiller utca has served as a spring board for generations of Hungarian up-and-comers.
#9 - Viltin Galéria (location; Tuesday to Friday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.): Viltin is proof that there's more to Budapest's party district than just restaurants and drinking dens. Founded in 2008, Viltin Gallery focuses on contemporary takes of traditional art forms like painting, sculpture, and drawing. Many of their artists come from the so-called middle generation, people currently in their 40s and 50s, such as György Gáspár, but especially talented younger artists, for example Kata Tranker, also also featured.
#10 - Inda Galéria (location; Tuesday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.): Another top gallery inside Budapest's lively old Jewish Quarter, Inda is tucked away on the second floor of a pre-war building, overlooking the historic Király Street. Inda is impossible to pigeonhole for good reason: the owners seek out artists who aren't shaped by contemporary trends. Their diverse roster, with both Hungarian and foreign members, is relatively young and cover an array of visual genres, including painting, photography, and installation.
#11 - Faur Zsófi Galéria (location; Monday to Friday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.): Lining the chic Bartók Béla Boulevard, Zsófi Faur specializes in contemporary photography but you can also run into excellent solo shows of painting and sculpture. Artists to watch include photographers Gábor Arion Kudász and György Gáti. Visit also the downstairs where the more experimental works are displayed.
#12 - Glassyard Gallery (location, 2nd floor; Tuesday to Friday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.): This high-ceilinged apartment gallery was launched in part by Barnabás Bencsik, the former Director of Budapest's Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art. Glassyard represents ten mainly young, recently graduated artists focused on works of installations.
#13 - Budapest Poster Gallery (location; by appointment only: [email protected] or +3630 662 7274): With more than 2,500 original Hungarian vintage posters, this gallery is a treasure for fans of graphic art. The collection spans Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and socialist-modern, and includes some unique pieces by seminal figures of Hungarian art, such as Róbert Berény. It's an appointment-only gallery, so try to peruse their online catalogue before you go, an experience in itself.
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