The title of the exhibition, Allegro barbaro, is a tribute to the piano score written by the young Béla Bartók in 1911. It aims to revive, one hundred years on, the rich dialogue that existed between the arts in Hungary on the eve of the 20th century. Music and painting resonated with the same spirit of renewal at that time. Hungary was committed to embracing European modernity while still expressing its attachment to a culture and an idiom that conveyed its unique character within the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Just at the moment when Béla Bartók’s first symphony, Kossuth, had its debut in Budapest in 1904, young Hungarian painters appeared on the national scene. These artists were as “lively and barbarous” as the composer.
Having embraced Fauvism for a while, (Béla Czóbel, Géza Bornemisza, Sándor Ziffer, among others), they would not have objected to this description any more than those who would later form the group called Nyolcak [The Eight] (Ödön Márffy, Róbert Berény, Károly Kernstok in particular), or the Activists led by Lajos Kassák (Sándor Bortnyik, Béla Uitz, László Moholy-Nagy...), or the musicians, poets and art critics of the Hungarian avant-garde in the years leading up to the First World War.
Accompanied by Bartók’s music, this exhibition takes the visitor on a moving and historical tour among artworks that share the rhythms of Bartók’s vehement, percussive scores.