Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: Museum mashup

An exuberance of spirit from centuries past is reflected in a lack of inhibition in combining bright colors, different materials and multiple patterns in everything from jewelry to architecture. Ethnic clothing worn by Hungarians, such as the outfit on left above, easily could have served as inspiration for the current line of clothing featured in Gucci store windows, on the right above. And, in photos down below, I so would love to have a tile floor like those excavated in Buda Castle after World War II.

Taking license from this Hungarian spirit, here is a mashup of photos from four more of Budapest’s museums.

The Hungarian Diet established the Hungarian National Museum in 1808. The classic columned museum housing the collection of historical relics took a decade to construct, opening in 1846. The square in front of the museum became a gathering spot for rallies during the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence. Parliament convened there often until the present-day seat of government was completed on the banks of the Danube.

In 1872, the specialized Budapest Museum of Ethnography was spun off from the national museum. In celebration of the 1896 Millennial, 24 buildings characterizing residential styles of different ethnic groups were erected into a “village” in City Park. While the houses were removed, the furniture and clothing assembled to fill them became an important part of the collection. The collection grew, but its home wandered.

Today, its prominent home is across the plaza from Parliament. Topped by a chariot bearing the personification of the guiding spirit of enlightenment, the building originally served as the Ministry of Justice. Following extensive damage in World War II, the structure became home to the Institute of the Hungarian Labor Movement in 1950. The Hungarian National Gallery was moved in later, but its relocation to the Buda Palace freed the hall for the use of the Museum of Ethnography in 1975.

The Budapest History Museum, also known as the Castle Museum, was founded in 1887, moving into its home in the Royal Palace in 1967. In addition to the history of the capital, the museum focuses on artifacts found during excavation and rebuilding of the castle. To learn more about the castle’s turbulent history, please go back to an earlier post.

And then, make a leap to the contemporary. If Peter Ludwig went into the family business, cement might have weighed down his pursuit of art. Instead he married Irene Monheim and ended up in her family’s business, Monheim Schokolade. Collecting was the German couple’s passion.

Porcelain and Delft tiles were followed by rare editions, Pre-Columbian, medieval and then Classical art. But it was Ludwig’s acquisition of American Neo-Dada and Pop Art which first brought him to public attention and made him a celebrity.

At the height of his activities in the mid-Seventies Ludwig was buying on average a work of art every single day. His vast collection not only decorated the company offices and his home at Aachen but was loaned to museums in Germany and abroad. Often the loans became gifts and the museums changed their names in recognition of Ludwig’s great generosity.

Today there are no fewer than 30 Ludwig Museums in Germany and abroad….

Frank Whitford, “Obituary: Peter Ludwig,” Independent, July 26, 1996

In 1989, the Ludwig Foundation donated 70 works of art to Hungary to serve as the core of the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum specializes in post-1945 art to integrate the products of contemporary foreign and Hungarian art into Hungarian intellectual life. In 2005, the museum moved from space in Buda Palace into a portion of a striking new contemporary arts center on the Danube, Mupa Budapest.

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: A peak at treasures inside the Art Nouveau jewelbox

Transferring some antiques from the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian Parliament founded the Museum of Applied Arts in 1872 in recognition of the importance of decorative arts and design. Acquisitions increased with purchases at major world fairs, including those in Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1878 and 1889, and gifts from Herend Porcelain Manufactory, Zolsnay, which has been producing luxury hand-painted and gilded porcelain for close to 200 years.

With the growth of the museum’s collection, a new building (see prior post) was required. The grand opening of the Art Nouveau palace in 1896 was attended by Emperor Franz Josef.

War and political changes contributed to the treasures held by the museum from the 1940s to 1960s as items were “rescued” from large houses and palaces by the Ministerial Commission for Endangered Private Collections. The Soviet takeover in 1948 led to the nationalization of numerous independent collections.

Parts of the museum were closed off when we were there this spring, as the building is being both restored and expanded following an international design competition. Renderings of the new wing can be viewed by clicking here.

Postcards from Valencia, Spain: Wrapping up a few more museums

The façade of a Gothic palace disguised by numerous layers of ostentatious additions of Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassical and maybe even Oriental decorations through the centuries houses the National Museum of Ceramics and Decorative Arts in Valencia. A prominent location and the sheer audacity of its exterior ornamentation attract crowds to the museum. Aside from a set of china with fanciful animals that I loved, the museum overall resembles a beautifully iced flavorless cake. This sounds harsh, but, if time is limited, we would recommend a trip to the under-visited House Museum José Benlliure instead.

The palace of Saint Pius V above the Turia River provides huge galleries for displaying several centuries of Spanish art, beginning with a collection of huge Gothic retablos. El Museo de Bellas Artes includes works by Velazquez, Goya, Sorolla and Valencian hometown favorites, the Ribaltas.

Sixty days after Easter, the doors of the Corpus Christi Museum swing open so the rocas, massive wooden floats about 500 years old, can be rolled out for the annual parades celebrating the feast day. Horses haul the floats over the cobblestones, the faithful bear heavy statues atop their shoulders and gigantes, 16-foot figures representing Catholics from around the world, are part of the religious fanfare. As our timing was off for the event, we visited the carriage house, Casa de las Rocas, built in the 1400s specifically to house the floats. The parade-in-a-box leaves no spare space, but the jammed together festival props provide a sense of the ancient enduring traditions.

We also left three days before the opening of PhotOn Festival, the International Festival of Photojournalism spread mounted in several venues in Valencia. When we entered the cloisters of Centro Cultural La Nau, workers were installing large prints by Joseph Eid and Natalia Sancha for “Those Who Stay.”

While the original founding bank might have floundered when the real estate bubble burst, a palace of art remains. The spacious galleries of the Centro Cultural Bancaja are operated by a nonprofit foundation. Portraits by British artist Julian Opie were featured. We found them somewhat hypnotic despite their pared down, cartoonish lines and a peculiar flatness. Several of the large illuminated portraits of individuals featured subtle movements. The hands of a watch might move once a minute, or dot-like eyes might blink about as often as you do.

Opie’s video below made me feel as though I was relaxing at a café watching a parade of people passing by on their way to work – a kind of boulevardier spirit we cultivate while traveling.