oh! objects from Hungary
An exhibition of the new generation of Hungarian designers
Itinerary of the traveling exhibition:
Berlin (10th - 24 th September 2003 .)
Budapest (11th - 19 th October 2003.)
Trenčin (9 th September - 31 st October 2004 .)
Vienna (15 th November - 11 th December 2004 .)
Images (Hungarian only)
This is the first exhibition to give us an overview of Hungarian design in the ten years and more since the fall of communism. The show is curated by talented young designer Balázs Tanító, whose choice of material concentrates on results: that is to say, on designs which can be said to have made it in the international world of design and innovation. Only those young designers whose work is untouched by the restraining hand of the old central planning mentality are represented here. The kind of everyday challenges guaranteed by a heavy-industry background are thus understandably absent. This collection reflects a generation seeking a vocation. Hungarian design has come along a long and tortuous path, taking plenty of detours along the way many of them leading nowhere. Now, at last, it seems to be getting back on track; returning to its native traditions and rediscovering its purpose. In some of the works, even in the emerging career paths of some of these designers, it is nevertheless possible to discern an international flavour, reflecting trends in world design and innovation, as the thinking patterns of designers from all corners of the globe come together in a sort of mutual metaculture.
As the fall of communism took its course, almost all of Hungary 's former state-owned companies fell into the hands of multinationals. Markets were no longer guaranteed. And companies which had formerly supplied those stable markets with goods of their own design suddenly found themselves supplanted by outsource plants: assembly lines, in other words, requiring no design or development expertise of any kind. The owners of these plants often let popular local brands go to the wall, without bothering to find out whether there was still demand for them. Sometimes these products actually had a huge service market behind them; sometimes they were even superb pieces of design. Take the Ikarus bus, for example. A few years ago that was a design masterpiece of its kind. There is a good deal of tension evident in the fact that design in Hungary is taught to a very high standard, despite the fact that the Hungarian Applied Arts University in Budapest and the design faculty of the University of Western Hungary in Sopron are involved in very few development projects. The economy is making very little use of domestic intellectual potential.
As Hungary is about to join the EU, wages are no longer as cheap as they were. This phenomenon is partly explained by Hungarian designers' failure to assert themselves. It is partly explained by the fact that the directors of most Hungarian-owned companies are not remotely design-conscious. But the main cause of the problem is the multinationals, who aren't interested in Hungarian design potential but see the region simply as an enormous new consumer market for brands designed elsewhere. And The multinationals are all relocating to China or to one or other of the ex-Soviet republics. From the factory ruins they leave behind them we hope to see something encouraging emerge. What made us attractive was the fact that we were competitive, which meant that wages were low. We must hope that we are still competitive - but not simply on price: on knowledge and expertise. On mature innovation and creative design. The kind of talents, in other words, which have long been part and parcel of Hungary 's distinguished design history.
The basis of this modern tradition goes back not only to Marcel Breuer, leader of the Bauhaus studio, but to László Moholy-Nagy, who took the Bauhaus spirit to America . Plenty of other Hungarian Bauhauslers were working alongside them. Their names are no longer well known, but they were all individual talents in their own right. I could go on to name any number of designers, either tightly or loosely bound to the traditions of Hungarian design, who had a profound influence on the design styles of their time, and thus necessarily on Hungary's culture of form. Ernô Rubik or Kálmán Tibor are just two more examples of designers whose ouvre influenced the ideas of entire generations worldwide.
This exhibition is a start; an encouraging sign that our blood is up and we are ready to storm the field. The numerous prizes won in international competitions are greatly to the designers' credit. The Hungarian Design Council, which was recently set up and which is now working with enormous energy and dedication in the cause of Hungarian design is another sign that things can only get better. This collection gives us an insight into the intellectual background upon which Hungary's new design generation can build. It also demonstrates that despite the less than ideal state of the economy and the industry-sector, clever, innovative ideas which make life easier and more beautiful still exist, rooted in tradition and in the talent of these young designers.
Iván András BOJÁR
Editor of Octogon magazine
Member of the Hungarian Design Council