The Vaszary Villa in Balatonfüred is a bit like Ludwig Museum in Budapest. It is currently drawing in art buffs with photographs by Károly Hemző and paintings by Ilona Keserü, but come fall and it will be all about World War I in there. In a bid to make contemporary art easier to take in, the Villa will soon open a café section called Vaszary Kávézó, encouraging guests to have a little lounge and picnic in the villa garden.
It is a particularly brave move to bring slightly more abstract contemporary art to the Balaton shore, but it luckily seems to be paying off. The spring exhibition of Béla Kondor was a memorable success, with the collection of photos by Károly Hemző and the paintings of Ilona Keserü, currently on display, likely to have a similar effect on visitors. Behind the scenes, preparations for new, not strictly contemporary, exhibitions are already being made.
The exhibition entitled Hungarian artists in Italy 1800-1850 will open on 9 August, including romantic landscapes by Hungarian artists painted during their study visits to the region. At another event organized for fall to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, visitors will have a chance to view paintings loaned by the Hungarian National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts. The aim of the curator trio, made up by Enikő Róka, György Szűcs and Eszter Balázs, is to show the influence of the war on society and the resulting changes in art through paintings of the era.
Apart from being an exhibition space, the villa also functions as a hosting venue with a five-member council of curators making the final decision regarding the concepts. In comparison with other art-displaying venues in Füred, such as the Jókai Emlékház, the Városi Múzeum and the Kisfaludy Galéria, the Vaszary Villa is without a doubt closest to the vein of contemporary art. With an approach that is almost, but not completely contemporary, they put particular emphasis on featuring canonized, well-known names. Even if Füred is a relatively progressive town, embracing contemporary art in its entirety would be too much of a risk at this point, a staff member at the Villa told us.
Taking a cue from the popular thematic walks of Budapest, the Vaszary Villa is also trying to move its audience outside, for example with a Reform Era-themed route, where you can hear stories about historic buildings and even the Füred adventures of Lujza Blaha and Mór Jókai.
The plans for the Vaszary Kávézó, which is to be reopened soon, also fit into the concept of an interactive museum offering versatile entertainment options. Hosting art film screenings and temporary photo exhibitions by local artists, the café has taken over part of the garden and it invites guests to do so as well.
“We want this place to have an informal vibe, something a bit like in a ruin pub, where no one gets told off for sitting around in the garden for hours with bread and dripping and a glass of fröccs,” says the manager of the café. The Vaszary Picnic Basket, containing a bottle of wine, scones, glasses and a blanket, is already in the making, designed to be the perfect accompaniment to sitting around on the lawn and chatting with friends late into the night. The good news is that the café will be open way past the closing time of the museum, allowing guests to enjoy the garden with its fairy lamps and hundred-year-old trees a little bit longer.