Art Exhibitions Abroad as a Communication Strategy: The Case of Hungary between 1914 and 1918 (Summary)

Miklós Székely (PDF)

During the First World War, exhibitions of Hungary were held abroad. The methods and objectives of these exhibitions continued the efforts of the Hungarian political elite to create a consistent image of the country, which had been established after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The image of the country abroad was shaped by the political ambition of presenting Hungary as a new partner country of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The virtual restoration was externally based on a stylistic reconstruction. However, its goal was to revive the medieval majesty of the region within the framework of contemporary modernity.

Hungarian exhibitions abroad during the First World War highlighted the increased autonomy of Hungary and its national ambitions. The design of the pavilions demonstrated the peculiarity of national identity and autonomy. Art exhibitions have become a means of presenting the advanced culture of Hungary abroad and gaining recognition for it.

The participation of Hungary in the 1915 World Fair in San Francisco was particularly important. For the first time, Hungarian artists took part in the event on an international scale and presented their work, which was fully in line with the European art trends and artistic level of that time. In 1916, a military exhibition was held in Lviv, and the architect István Medgyaszay designed the Hungarian pavilion. Instead of historicism, Medgyaszay chose a more organic solution based on Transylvanian folk and East Asian architecture. The Hungarian Decorative Arts Exhibition, held in Sofia in June 1918, was dedicated to industry and trade and subordinated to the needs of the military economy. This exhibition was a preparation for peace and a search for new markets in one of the most important regional partners of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Unlike other wartime exhibitions, the 1918 Hungary Art Exhibition in Belgrade strongly emphasised independence aspirations and ethnic principles. The presentation of Hungarian art is no longer coordinated with the interests of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy; it is presented from the perspective of purely Hungarian interests. The need to demonstrate artistic and cultural autonomy was most evident in the Belgrade exhibition.

Keywords: pavilion, Austro-Hungarian Empire, vernacularism, aristocracy, artists