Vasarely Go Home

“Vasarely Go Home” is a documentary film by Andreas Fogarasi produced for his exhibition La ciudad de color / Vasarely Go Home at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (September 13th, 2011 – January 9th, 2012)

The video investigates a double event that took place in Budapest on Saturday, October 18th, 1969. Opening that day, Victor Vasarely, an internationally renowned artist of Hungarian origin, had a large retrospective exhibition at the Mücsarnok gallery in Budapest. This was his largest exhibition yet and the first exhibition of abstract art of its size in Hungary. It was a time of slow political “normalization”, and there was a cultural policy of actively re-establishing contacts with artists living abroad. While the show was an “import” of international art, it was at the same time a reclamation of Vasarely as a Hungarian, so that one can also speak of a cultural “export”. While Hungarian avant-garde art (comprising abstract art) of that time was at best tolerated, Vasarely’s exhibition was an immense public event attracting almost 90,000 visitors. The show was met with a good deal of expectation and criticism alike from the local artistic scene.

The second event taking place that evening during the exhibition opening at Mücsarnok was a one-person protest by artist János Major, who had a small sign in his pocket reading “Vasarely Go Home”. This he showed only to friends when no one else was watching.

The process in the opposite direction, the “mission” of the West, is not always successful in its outcome in the East either. When Vasarely’s 1969 life-work exhibition opened, filling all the rooms of the Budapest Mücsarnok, and ministers and cultural politicians welcomed the pope of non-figurative art, János Major, one of the most talented (and most humble) members of the new avant-garde, appeared with a small “pocket-size portable sign“. Whenever he saw an acquaintance in the crowd, he took it out, cast a glance about to be sure the uninitiated were not watching, and held it up: “Vasarely go home!” Could a western artist understand how little this gesture had to do with envy, aggression or a thirst for professional success, that it was dictated rather by loyalty and self-irony?

The video Vasarely Go Home consists of interviews with artists and other participants of the cultural scene active at that time in Budapest. They talk about the importance of the exhibition and the work of Victor Vasarely for their practice and the Hungarian art scene, as well as about János Major and his action. Some of them were witnesses to that very evening, but they also talk in more general terms about this import/export of a former avant-garde practice and its political background and relevance in 1969.