Out of the frying pan and into the fire is one way to describe the story of Hungarian artists who flooded into liberal Berlin and began shaping its avant-garde scene after the failure of the 1919 communist revolution. Their impact was soon ruined by the Nazis’ rise to power.
Who knew Hungarian architects had such a significant influence in shaping Neues Bauen in Berlin in the 1920s?
If that sounds academic and historical, it’s not – the show has been masterfully put together with a fine selection of paintings, photographs and films. Bela Czóbel’s curious combination of fauvist and cubist influences creates a pulsating still-life of pink and blue flowers. Lajos Tihanyi’s dandyish self-portrait somehow comes across as both self-effacing and heroic. And who knew Hungarian architects had such a significant influence in shaping Neues Bauen (New Building) in Berlin in the 1920s? Fréd Forbát’s workers’ homes in Siemensstadt and Oskar Kaufmann’s Volksbühne are two examples.
As the exhibition progresses, experimentation gives way to political satire as swastikas and brown shirts start peppering the works. Photographer Martin Munkácsi captures National Labour Day in Tempelhof in 1933; amongst the throng hang a couple of flaccid Nazi flags. Bauhaus alumnus László Moholy-Nagy’s geometric constructivist experiments are a highlight. Left with no choice but to emigrate once more, he, like so many other Jewish artists, disappeared into second exile.
- ‘Hungarian Art in Berlin 1910-1933’ is on show until 06.02.23 at Berlinische Galerie, Alte Jakobstr. 124-128, Kreuzberg, visit their website here.