Vasarely x Fajó – Conquering the Planet
2024.05.09. - 2024.09.18.

HAB’s latest exhibition tells the story of an extraordinary artistic cooperation across the Iron Curtain. One of the main protagonists is the op-art superstar, Hungarian-born Victor Vasarely (1906-1997), who emigrated to France, and the other is János Fajó (1937-2018), who was faithful to the modernist tradition of geometric abstraction but active in socialist Hungary. Not only did they share the recognition of the world-conquering power of modern aesthetic forms, but they also actively contributed to it: their joint work resulted in works of art (screen prints and multiples) which, although made within the borders of the Hungarian People’s Republic, are part of Vasarely’s oeuvre. Their collaboration fitted into the op-art master’s long-term, Cold War strategy of using his own – popular – art to break the Soviet establishment’s entrenched anti-abstractionism. Vasarely was thinking in planetary terms, as Fajó said of him: „he wanted to expand, to conquer the world”. And Fajó helped, taking advantage of the 1980s revival of the happiest barracks’ private art market. The exhibition tells this untold story, through works by Vasarely and Fajó that have never been shown together.

Vasarely advocated the proliferation, multiplication and democratisation of artworks. He envisages that the painters who used to make individual panel paintings, will in the future work more on modern visual object culture, creating a kind of new folk art. Some part of his works he called “planetary folklore”, extending the scope of his work to the whole planet. To this end, he has been involved in all types of reproduction, be it tapestry woven from his motifs, monumental relief, mass-produced tiles, patterned porcelain vessels, table-top Plexiglas objects, offset reproductions or screen prints. The exhibition traces the path of this pattern reproduction through the most popular Vasarely motif in Hungary, the Zebras (Zebres), borrowed from private collections and museums, which was made into an exceptional heraldic animal by the Kádár-era cultural policy of fear of abstraction. 

For János Fajó, who represented forbidden geometric abstraction, Vasarely, a generation older, was an important role model. In many cases, such as the Cross series in the exhibition, the contemporary abstract language of his paintings is akin to Vasarely’s. In the 1980s, Fajó reproduced many of his works by screen printing, promoting his art from inside the Iron Curtain. In the upstairs spaces of the exhibition, an art ensemble – four silk-screen folders and seven multiplicas – can be seen born from the collaboration between Vasarely and Fajó. Although the op-art master has worked with many workshops and artists around the world, he has always insisted on high quality. The best Hungarian interpreter of his motifs was János Fajó and the Pest Workshop he led.

The curator of the exhibition is art historian Gábor Rieder, who has been researching the artistic cooperation between Victor Vasarely and János Fajó for several years with the support of the Fajó Foundation. The exhibition and the accompanying book (Vasarely and Fajó. A novelistic history of an artistic collaboration across the Iron Curtain from the Cold War to capitalism) is an art and cultural history process of the collaboration between Vasarely and Fajó across the Iron Curtain.

Curator: Gábor Rieder

Opening date: 9 May – 18 September 2024

Sponsor: MBH Bank

Collaborating partner: Fajó Foundation

Victor Vasarely - Bellatrix
Fajó János - Kereszt II.
Victor Vasarely - Uzok
Victor Vasarely - Zebrák
Victor Vasarely - Zett
Victor Vasarely - Olbio

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Across the ages. A selection from the MBH Bank Collection and works by contemporary artists

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