National Museum of Photography to Become a Member Institution of the Museum of Fine Arts
24 • 02 • 02Punkt
With some 700,000 works, the collection of the Hungarian Museum of Photography is the most significant treasury of Hungarian photography, which now finds its new, permanent home near City Park, in what was the villa and studio of György Klösz, one of the most eminent Hungarian photographers. Currently maintained by a foundation but soon to become a public collection and a new member institution of the Museum of Fine Arts, the collection will welcome visitors as the National Museum of Photography from 2025, after the renovation of the building. Located at 49 Városliget Alley, Klösz’s former villa has been used as an office building, with an extended floor space of 3000 square metres. Recently purchased by Városliget Plc, it will be refurbished so that is can provide a fitting home for this matchless collection of Hungarian photography, and be a member of the family of cultural institutions that have been created or revived as part of the Liget Budapest Project, a system of outstanding significance even by international standards.
Opening in 2025 as a public collection, the institution will comprise over a 1,000 square metres of exhibition space, a specialist library, museum learning facilities, and a lecture hall that can host professional events, while the artworks of the collection will be stored in the National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre (OMRRK), a world-class institution opened in 2019 as part of the Liget Budapest Project.
With the establishment of the National Museum of Photography, one of the art forms that Hungary is best known and respected for internationally will finds the home it deserves near the revitalized City Park, as an important part of the latter’s expansive network of cultural institutions. The new museum fulfils a need first voiced by the photography profession 143 years ago, when Ferenc Veress, an internationally renowned photographer and founder of the first professional journal in the country, published an open letter in Budapesti Hírlap in 1881, calling for the creation of a ‘national and permanent exhibition of all kinds of photographic works’ in Budapest.
Since then, there have been numerous propositions for a location of the photography museum in the capital, but these efforts have all failed—up to now. There have also been attempts to have it incorporated in a public collection: in 1957, the then newly formed Association of Hungarian Photographers made efforts to have the Hungarian National Gallery take ownership of what was already a significant collection, but the response was a firm refusal, on the grounds that photography did not ‘belong among the visual arts.’ Following decades of precarious existence, in the early 1990s the museum found a home in Kecskemét, in an abandoned Orthodox synagogue, where it has been run by a foundation, under conditions that poorly reflected the significance of Hungarian photography.
The Hungarian Museum of Photography is a specialist museum with a national scope of collection, exclusively dedicated to the preservation, collection and exhibition of photographs. Since 1991, it has been maintained by the Hungarian Foundation of Photography, whose founding rights were taken over by the Museum of Fine Arts in 2023. The foundations of the collection were donated by the Association of Hungarian Photographers: built since 1957, this collection of unmatched richness offers the most complete picture in the country of the history of Hungarian photography and its contemporary developments. With over 700,000 items in its holdings, the Museum provides a comprehensive overview of the different periods of Hungarian photographic history as well as an insight into the achievements of international photography.
One of the most important parts of the collection consists of the works of photographers who emigrated from Hungary, such as André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy, Brassaï, Martin Munkácsi and Robert Capa. However, the main focus of the Hungarian Museum of Photography are such photographers that worked and work in Hungary: it is their works it preserves, their oeuvres it studies and presents. The artistically most distinctive sub-collection of the museum is related to the Hungarian photographers of the interwar period. Featuring thousands of photographers, the collection seeks to be exhaustive whether an artist worked in the 19th or 20th century, or is our contemporary.
Over 140 years after Ferenc Veress wrote an open letter to call for the creation of a photography museum in Budapest, and 67 years after the National Gallery declared having no interest in photography, the issue of the collection comes to rest. The future National Museum of Photography, a part of the Liget Budapest Project, will belong where Hungarian photographers have always thought it should: to the Museum of Fine Arts, the largest and most important public collection of art—as do the Hungarian National Gallery, the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Art and the Vasarely Museum.