Dada and surrealism – Magritte, Duchamp, Man Ray, Miró, Dalí

- 9 July 2014 - 19 October 2014



Dada and Surrealism – Magritte, Duchamp, Man Ray, Miró, Dalí is the most complete exhibition ever seen in Hungary covering these defining twentieth-century avant-garde art movements. The exhibition, featuring works by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miró, Kurt Schwitters, René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, selected from the collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, offers a comprehensive overview of the greatest figures, events, documents and influences in Dada and Surrealism from the late 1910s to the mid-1970s.

Dada and Surrealism – two leading art movements in the first decades of the last century – radically revolutionized the way we think about art. Both opened up new opportunities for creative processes: Dadaism by reinterpreting everyday objects, focusing on the role of chance and questioning conventional aesthetic norms; Surrealism by proposing new ways of understanding reality and broadening the very concept of reality. New genres sprouted from Dada and Surrealism, such as the object (an everyday object given new meaning by the artist), photomontage, collage and assemblage (which both rearranged photos, images and other objects according to some unique new order), and ready-mades, which were simply “ready-made” items put to artistic use.

Our selection focuses on the versatility of Dada and Surrealism, which engendered so many diverse genres, techniques and media, and on the various technical experiments that typified these movements. The biomorphic shapes in the works of André Masson, Max Ernst, Jean Arp and Joan Miró, and the automatic processes which relied so much on chance, reflect Surrealists’ interest in the subconscious, while the dreams and desires that dominated works by René Magritte, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dalí and Paul Delvaux celebrate the liberation of the imagination. The bizarre assemblages, collages and photograms of Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Höch, Man Ray and the Dadaists stretched the boundaries of art and life, as did the provocative ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp, which had a huge impact on later developments in twentieth-century art. The exhibition, with over a hundred paintings, objects, photomontages, collages, assemblages and ready-mades, leads us through the history of Dada and Surrealism via the key concepts and themes of the two movements.

Strictly speaking, there was no such thing as Hungarian Dada and Surrealism, but the Dada and Surrealism exhibition is an ideal opportunity to present Hungary’s own ways of approaching the two movements. A selection of works, titled Rearranged Reality, compiled from Hungarian public and private collections, provides scope for a conceptual dialogue that may be tied, sometimes closely, sometimes more loosely, to the works on loan from the Israel Museum.

Organized in chronological order and according to keywords, the exhibition presents some unique creative strategies, which made use of and (re-)interpreted the lessons of Dada and Surrealism in the midst of some volatile social and political realities in central European, especially Hungary. The title of the Hungarian selection, “rearranged reality”, is a reference to this state of affairs, and comes from Miklós Erdély’s essay on an exhibition of collages by Endre Bálint.

Efforts to connect with international Dadaism in the 1920s are reflected in the works and documents of closer or more distant members of the groups surrounding the MA periodical (among them, Lajos Kassák, László Moholy-Nagy and Sándor Bortnyik). In the 1940s, Ernő Kállai, the theorist who turned towards the “hidden face of nature”, the “abstract artists” (Tihamér Gyarmathy, Tamás Lossonczy and Ferenc Martyn) and members of the European School (including Dezső Korniss, Endre Bálint and Margit Anna) each represented possible directions of Surrealism, as did Lili Ország and Ilka Gedő in the 1950s, who combined special techniques with their own Surrealistic worlds of imagery.

The free, associative handling of genres and motifs and the use of objects and materials, both typical of both movements, continued to function as sources of inspiration long into the future. Works born in such a way are often emphatically personal, or reflect ironically on central European historical and existential issues. The Dadaist way of seeing can be most keenly felt in Hungary in the neo-avant-garde trends of the seventies and eighties.

Being held to coincide with Dada and Surrealism is another exhibition, titled (Film) Experiments Brought to Life. The First Cinema of the Avant-Garde. This selection provides an overview of classic avant-garde works of film art that were inspired by Dadaism and Surrealism, as well as other cinematography-like depictions, which experimented with the media-specific opportunities of moving pictures, but were not recorded on celluloid.

Alongside a wealth of iconic films by the likes of Man Ray, Fernand Léger, Viking Eggeling, Hans Richter, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dalí, this will be the first time that experiments of the central and Eastern European “absolute film” are screened in Hungary. Three ground-breaking films that have never been seen before will be premiered here. In addition to the work by the Dadaist writer György Gerő, believed to be the first Hungarian avant-garde film and recently restored by Bruce Checefsky, the exhibition will screen a work by Sándor Bortnyik that may be regarded as a Surrealist montage (considered to be the earliest known Hungarian animation), and a film of photograms by Tihamér Gyarmathy that lay hidden in the depths of a drawer for sixty years.

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