The fifth National Salon, titled Hand-Craft-Art, opened this past Saturday in Budapest’s Kunsthalle. The exhibit, which runs until August 20th, showcases nearly 3500 artifacts by more than 500 artisans and artists, who draw inspiration from the traditions of folk art.
Since its inception in 2014, the National Salon has examined applied arts and design, photography, fine arts, and architecture. This year, the Salon focuses on the traditions of folk art, peasant craftsmanship and artisan techniques. The exhibition showcases more than 3500 artifacts, including traditional clothes, instruments, tools and creations of traditional handcraft masters from the last fifteen years which have been inspired by traditions and the dance and folk art movement. As folklorist and musician Ferenc Sebő famously put it:
Tradition is not a prisoner to be kept, nor a sick man to tend to – tradition is to be experienced.
In the 12 rooms of this year’s National Salon, curators offer insights into the beginnings of the Hungarian dance movement and then, from room to room, show the ways in which contemporary craftsmanship from traditional peasant culture can make contemporary art richer and more beautiful, while also introducing the richness and diversity of Hungarian folk art to visitors.
The majority of the exhibitors are the recipients of a number of various titles and awards, including Master of Folk Art, Young Master of Folk Art and Folk Artisan; they regularly have their works juried, participate in competitions, teach their own trades, run workshops and schools, and write books on their specialized fields. Among the exhibitors are masters who preserve the local traditions of the ethnographic regions of the Carpathian Basin, who learnt their handicrafts in their ‘home’ regions.
Many of them are members of famous dynasties of master craftsmen, and some are able to sell their wares at local markest, in places where traditional material culture and the symbolic use of some of its elements have resumed importance in society thanks to the revival of local or regional identity. A special category is formed by representatives of a broader group of fine artists, restorer-conservators, and applied artists whose object reconstructions in the genres of ecclesiastical art and modern design are inspired by folk art.
The chief source of such inspiration is the Hungarian and ethnic peasant craftsmanship of the Carpathian Basin and its historical artisan tradition. The object types, use of materials, techniques and ornaments exhibited here all draw on their creators’ extensive knowledge of authentic handicraft and artisanal trades. Some of the exhibits are reconstructions; some are ensembles of objects introducing creative variations while remaining within the traditions of folk art, striving for ‘authenticity’ and made in the spirit of peasant craftsmanship; some are contemporary applied arts objects crossing the boundaries of traditional genres.
The National Salon’s main exhibition will be supplemented by special events where visitors can see and try their hands at traditional crafts, play special instruments, and participate in folk dancing or singing. These events will be held on Pentecost Monday (21 May), Saint John’s Eve (Bonfire Night, 23 June), and the day of the Assumption of Mary (11 August)