Free Worlds: Metaphors and Realities in Contemporary Hungarian Art


150 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895235-00-6
DDC 709'.439'07471




Reviewed by Denise C. Jakal

Denise Jakal is an architecture writer in Edmonton.


Free Worlds is the catalogue that accompanied an exhibition mounted by
the Art Gallery of Ontario (October 1991 to January 1992), curated by
Nasgaard (art historian and critic, as well as deputy director and chief
curator of the AGO) and Clara Hargittay (co-ordinator of the Hungarian
Festival of Arts). Free Worlds stands as an honest attempt to provide an
introduction to contemporary artistic production in Hungary. It opens
with five essays: one by each curator, and three others by prominent
Hungarian scholars.

The curators chose to focus on the work of seven artists, believing
that this approach would best show the diversity of contemporary art in
Hungary, thus inviting further subsequent investigations. Surveying the
development of Hungarian art in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the
exhibition focused on art produced during and just after the fall of the
Communist regime. The artistic scene in Hungary in recent decades has
been characterized by the seemingly liberal character of “official”
art and the veiled but potent political content of the true avant-garde.
These circumstances, combined with the lack of a gallery network and
free-market system (despite Hungary’s unique relationships with the
West), meant that the curators had their work cut out for them. They
argue that a uniquely Hungarian art resulted, albeit with connections
and parallels to postmodernism in Western Europe and North America.

The second part of the catalogue consists of “Artist Statements”
and plates. Although the reproductions are good (in both black-and-white
and color), many of the works exhibited were installations and it is
difficult to get a sense of the originals from photographs. This section
is followed by “Artist Chronologies and Selected Bibliographies,”
and finally by the catalogue of exhibited works. Thus, the “raw
data” are provided following the more critical presentation of the
first part of the catalogue. Given the lack of material available in
English, this excellent introduction to contemporary Hungarian art will
be welcomed by general readers and scholars alike.


Nasgaard, Roald., “Free Worlds: Metaphors and Realities in Contemporary Hungarian Art,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 22, 2024,