Traditions revisited: The aesthetics of contemporary Hungarian handicrafts

The exhibition is a review of the most outstanding masterpieces of Hungarian craftspeople. It provides an ample representation of the genres and riches of technical, conceptual and creative diversity that characterise the Hungarian handicraft movement.
Respect for tradition, authenticity and renewal: these key words precisely convey the essence of the current Hungarian handicraft movement, of which the Association of Hungarian Folk Artists (Népművészeti Egyesületek Szövetsége, NESZ) is the umbrella organisation. For the past 33 years it has been the main organiser of the biggest review of Hungarian arts and crafts, the Festival of Folk Arts. The Festival of Folk Arts is held annually in the Buda castle during the week of St. Stephen’s Day national holiday on August 20.

The material of the present exhibition has been selected from the work of the most acclaimed master craftspeople belonging to the association, which has a membership of over 5,000. Besides conveying authentic knowledge, rooted in folk tradition, an important criterion in the selection was to filter out over-commercialised “tat”, while also trying to avoid over-decorative items that merely demonstrate technical virtuosity for its own sake.
The exhibited objects were all created in the last 10 to 15 years and have been produced with an impressive range of professional skills and profound ethnographic and historical knowledge. The creators “speak the language” of traditional regional styles, techniques, forms and motifs, but experiment and strive to find their individual “voice”, thus creating unique works of artistic merit.
The beauty, quality and harmony of the exhibited pieces draw attention to the timeless aesthetic quality of the world of traditional objects. Each work reflects the time devoted to its creation, the touch of the craftsman’s hand and the flavour of tradition polished by the knowledge and aesthetic sense of past masters, while acquiring new forms through the artist’s imagination.

These objects can be unique and highly individualised wardrobe accessories, find their place naturally in our everyday lives, or create a more intimate warmth in our immediate environment. Today, amidst a sea of cheap, throwaway products, quality hand-crafted objects that serve and connect generations have the potential to strengthen relations and reinforce stable values, beyond monetary considerations. The principle of “less is more” means quality and environment conscious choices and an orientation towards real value. The recent handicraft renaissance is part of an awakening throughout the world. The Hungarian arts and crafts movement can contribute to this revival through its respect for tradition and its profound knowledge.

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