Hopp Ferenc Ázsiai Művészeti Múzeum

Current exhibition

Yurts and Monasteries. Mongolian Treasures at the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

25 March 2022 – 15 January 2023

In recognition of the outstanding Hungarian researchers of Mongolian material culture, the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts has curated the first comprehensive exhibition in its history introducing Mongolian art and culture. This exhibition also allows us to acknowledge the work carried out by two outstanding scholars and to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Lajos Ligeti (1902−1987) and the 50th anniversary of the death of the former museum director Tibor Horváth(1910−1972).

Ligeti is one of the most outstanding researchers of Orientalism in Hungary. His work has laid the foundation for later Orientalist research, especially in the field of Mongolian studies. The amount of work he has carried out as a promoter of science and professor is truly compelling: he founded the Department of Mongolian and Inner Asian Studies of Eötvös Loránd University, as well as the Oriental Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Besides, he launched several scholarly journals that quickly gained international significance.

The exhibition encompasses the period from the beginning in the early nineteenth century, i.e., Gábor Bálint of Szentkatolna’s works on Mongolian linguistics, through Lajos Ligeti’s collecting of Buddhist materials from Inner Mongolia as well as materials gathered by archaeologists researching Mongolian material culture (Miklós Gábori, Tibor Horváth, László Ferenczy, István Erdélyi), to the collecting work undertaken by outstanding ethnographers and art historians (Vilmos Diószegi, Zoltán Felvinczi Takács, Judit Vinkovics) and the presentation of visual and audio materials from scientific expeditions.

To convey a sense of traditional Mongolian material culture, alongside the objects typically associated with everyday activities of men and women – dishware, costumes, pieces of jewellery, toys, musical instruments –, the exhibition features a yurt containing a household altar and the respective ritual accessories.

Shamanism, the vernacular religious belief of nomadic Mongolians, is presented byobjects collected by Vilmos Diószegi – the interior of a Shaman hut, a Mongolian Shaman costume, objects that serve as accessories of shamanistic rituals –, while figures and accessories of the chamdance, applied thangkas, and rolling prayer wheels evoke Buddhism, the predominant religion in Mongolia for long centuries as well as festive ceremonies of the Buddhist monasteries. In the exhibition, our aim was to give an idea of the structure of the monasteries by setting up an altar and presenting the Mongolian Buddhist pantheon.

In the last thematic section of the exhibition, besides a presentation of the work of scholars and researchers, special emphasis is given to the lifework of Lajos Ligeti and the archaeological collecting work carried out by museum director Zoltán Felvinczi Takács, during which he excavated the bronze objects of the nomadic peoples living in China’s northern borderlands, and to the participation of Hungarian archaeologists in Mongolian excavations, which continues to this day.



Trance | Dance | Bali

In the photos of Gill Marais

28 October 2021 – 30 January 2022

The photo exhibition at the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts presents to the public a little-known side of the island of Bali from the perspective of two travellers – both of them women. One of them arrived at Bali in the mid-1930s, the other in the turning of the 20th and 21st centuries. They did not know each other, but, with nearly a hundred years difference, both were receptive to the same phenomena in Bali.

Gill Marais got to Bali as a photojournalist in 1988, and spent much of her life there. She created captivating photo series about ritual trance dances of the island – a selection is presented in our exhibition. These dances are important means of communication with the world beyond our visible world, and include elements that sometimes might seem uncanny to the uninvolved viewer. The Hungarian public already had the opportunity in the 1930s to learn about traditional dances that represent the eternal struggle of good and evil. These dances are also important means of fighting against malefic powers and keeping them away.

Ilona Zboray came to the archipelago in the mid-1930s to visit her elder brother, who was working and living there for a decade and a half. She also aimed at exploring the mysterious tropics. In the present exhibition visitors can read her contemporary accounts on, among others, the very same trance dances that Gill Marais captured in her photographs in the early 21st century.

Exhibited texts and photos presenting trance dances come to life in an abridged version of the documentary titled Sacred & Secret, directed by contemporary Basil Gelpke.


20 June 2019 – 19 September 2021
The Centenary of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

Curators: Dr Györgyi Fajcsák, Virág Hársvölgyi
Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

Our current exhibition titled Made in Asia. The Centenary of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts displays the best pieces in the collection of the hundred-year-old Hopp Museum. The show portrays the great periods in the museum’s history, spanning from the interwar period linked to the institution’s first director, art historian Zoltán Felvinczi Takács, to the period of Buddhist exhibitions, linked to Mária Ferenczy, a renowned sinologist, who passed away in 2017.
The more than 500 artefacts – including temporarily displayed pieces – are arranged according to the most important periods in the museum’s history. The display allows an insight into how – based on what opportunities and collecting criteria – the most representative items and groups of objects entered the collection. In order to protect the condition of the artefacts selected for the exhibition, in some cases we introduced quarterly replacements of certain items or groups of items. The exhibition also gives tribute to the prominent figures in the museum’s history: directors and staff members who played a key role in maintaining the operation of the museum and in shaping its collecting activity in those periods in the twentieth century that were fraught with tragedies in Hungary (and across the world). Visitors are given an opportunity to get acquainted with the often adventurous stories of the highest quality pieces, allowing a unique opportunity to ponder twentieth-century history in the context of the Asian artefacts of a Hungarian museum.

Besides the centennial exhibition, there are more surprises to come. The publication of a gap-filling reference book about the history of the Hopp Museum’s collections and the descriptions of its most prominent artefacts is closely linked to the jubilee year (the volume will be available both in English and in Hungarian). The near future will also see the publication of the special jubilee edition of our Portable Museum Education Library, which will be devoted to the life and work of Ferenc Hopp, while a bilingual volume presenting the history of the Hopp Villa and its garden and illustrated with archival photographs will come out in the autumn.
We always try to bring the museum’s seasonal exhibitions close to the public by organising a diverse range of events. This year in addition to the usual guided tours and museum education workshops, we will even open an open-air cinema in the garden for the summer. Prime importance will be attached to some outstanding anniversaries of Asiatic cultures such as the hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Japanese–Hungarian diplomatic relations, the hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and the thirtieth anniversary of Korean–Hungarian diplomatic relations.

Celebrate the centenary of the Hopp Museum with us.


Kapuőrző istenség udvari viseletben
Thaiföld, 19. század első fele
Gate guardian deity in court attire.Thailand, first half of 19th century
Sin Yun-bok (1758-19. század eleje) követője. Női szépség szájorgonával.
Korea, 19. század eleje
Follower of Sin Yun-bok (1758-early-19th century). Portrait of a Woman with a Mouth Organ. Korea, early 19th century
Bódhiszattva vagy Visnu isten feje
India, Bengál vagy Bihár, Pála-kor, 12. század
Head of a Bodhisattva or God Vishnu. Bengal or Bihar, India, Pala-period, 12th century







10 April 2019 – 31 May 2019
Our exhibiton at Kolta Gallery (1052 Budapest, Semmelweis u. 4.):
Sojourn in the Kingdom of Heaven
Photography in China by Dezső Bozóky




6 February – 14 April 2019
On the Other Side of the Intermediate State: The Art of Tibor Hajas and the Tibetan Mysteries​.

Curator: Béla Kelényi, Tibetologist
Assistant curator: József Végh, Tibetologist

On the Other Side of the Intermediate State is one of a series of exhibitions at the Hopp Museum exploring the influence of Asian cultures on Hungarian artists and intellectuals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This exhibition presents works by Tibor Hajas (1946–1980), a poet and artist whose life was tragically cut short, focusing on the last period of his career, which was influenced by the book by Béla Hamvas, entitled the Tibetan Mysteries, and defined by aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.
The main figures in our exhibition, separated sometimes by thousands of kilometres and hundreds of years, are connected by two Tibetan “mysteries”: tummo – the practice of generating “inner heat”, associated with the name of Milarepa, a Tibetan poet and yogi from the eleventh and twelfth centuries; and chö – the practice of “severing” one’s attachment to one’s own body and ego.

The exhibition is not recommended for people under 18 years of age. Certain sections feature sound and visual effects that some visitors may find disturbing.




11 May 2018 – 6 January 2019

Devi Cults and Traditional Female Roles in India
Curator: Róbert Válóczi

On the Indian subcontinent, the different regional cults of the Goddess, or Devi, as she is known in India, are rooted deep in the past. From the age of the Indus Valley Civilisation until the arrival of the globalised world of the twenty-first century, the people of India have long worshipped Devi, and continue to do so. The Goddess – like Hinduism itself – has many faces, and every different face and embodiment of Devi is accompanied by a wealth of different traditions. She is the youthful Beauty, who enchants mortals and gods alike. She is the faithful Wife, seated tenderly in her husband’s lap. She is the Mother, the birth-giver and creator of all humankind. But she is also the belligerent Warrior Goddess, who destroys evil and saves the world from catastrophe.
There are, of course, many other types of beauties, wives, mothers and warriors in India. These are the earthly women: daughters, lovers and mothers. Even though they too are enchanting, caring, blessed with the creative force and fierce as a warrior, they have no temples dedicated to them, nor are sacrifices offered to them. Yet without woman, there would be no life in India, no society, religion or art. Is it not true that the Goddess is a woman? Is it not true that a woman plays the same roles as a goddess? If so, then why are women and goddesses viewed so differently in people’s eyes?

The primary aim of the latest exhibition at the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts is to present the different faces of Hindu Goddesses through the traditional female roles they fulfil. Where the Goddess appears as a beauty, a wife, a mother and a warrior, the exhibition seeks to answer the question of how these idealised female roles are manifested in earthly society. The objects on show range from classical Indian sculptures to contemporary graphic novels, underlining the continuity of subject and form between ancient and modern Hindu art.
The majority of the exhibits are part of the Indian collection at the Hopp Museum, and they are joined by works reflecting the unique visual world of the living artist Abhishek Singh, which are centred on the identity of Devi. This is the first exhibition at the Hopp Museum for several decades to concentrate on Hindu art, and it encompasses the religious cults of the earliest days of Indian history, as well as the social roles and image of women today.

Besides the exhibits themselves, many of which are now visible to the public for the first time ever, QR codes and Augmented Reality help visitors to deepen their knowledge and understanding of a range of topics.
Younger visitors have their own personal “guide” to show them around – Radhika will present interesting highlights from the exhibition, and give information about India and the world of Hindu gods and goddesses. Placed around the exhibition space are “cultural discovery” boxes and packages, providing visitors of all ages with a true “hands-on” experience.

Further points of interest:

Accompanying the exhibition, and coinciding with events on the Hindu calendar, family days, film clubs, open-air cinema shows and exclusive guided tours will immerse visitors even deeper in Indian art and culture. This year, on the Night of Museums, all our programmes are connected to Indian culture. Among them we have already planned dance performances and puppet shows, and – to our immense delight – we will be visited in person by the Indian artist Abhishek Singh, who has played such an important role in defining the visual image of the exhibition.

As is customary at the Hopp Museum, the exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated volume of essays, available both in Hungarian and in English, as well as its own museum education publication in Hungarian, which tells some of the fantastic stories about Hindu gods and goddesses through images recalling the world of the graphic novel. Our new blog, at hoppmuseumblog.com, provides interesting information about India that goes beyond the exhibition concept. As part of the museum education programme, special lessons and creative workshops will be held, available in Hungarian or Russian.

Visnu és Laksmí Nyugat India, 18–19. század Akvarell, papír 13,2 x 12,4 cm
Vishnu and Lakshmi. West India, 18–19th century

Déví vagy apsarasz torzó Észak-India, Csandéla-kor, 10–11. század Homokkő 21x22,7x14,8 cm
Torso of devi or apsaras. North India, Chandela period, 10–11th century

Female figure, Jaina architectural ornament. Gujarat, India, 17–18th century
Female figure, Jaina architectural ornament. Gujarat, India, 17–18th century
Laksmí Nyugat-India, 18–19. század Festett fehér márvány 80,5 x 23 x 17 cm
Lakshmi. West India, 18–19th century

A Bivalydémont megölő Durgá Nyugat-India, 19. század Festett fekete márvány 85×47×25 cm
Durga slaying the Buffalo Damon. West India, 19th century
Kálí Madhubani festmény Mithilá, 20. század vége Vízfesték, papír 76 x 56 cm
Kali. Madhubani painting,
Mithilá, end of the 20. century

Durgá Templomi szekér (ratha) díszítése, részlet Dél-India, 18–19. század Tíkfa, ébenberakással 30x15x15 cm
Durga, Ornamental fragment of a temple chariot (ratha).South India, 18–19th century
Abhisék Szingh Bhadrakálí (A békés Kálí) 2014 Akrilfesték, gouache, tinta, vászon (Digitális reprodukció) 180×120 cm
Abhishek Singh (1982): Bhadakali (Kali in Peaceful Form). 2014




22 September 2017 – 8 April 2018
Sanghay – Shanghai. Parallel Diversities between East and West

Curators: Dr Györgyi Fajcsák and Dr Béla Kelényi

Opening 21 September 2017, the new exhibition at the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts, titled Sanghay – Shanghai. Parallel Diversities between East and West, links the emblematic oriental metropolis of Shanghai with the Sanghay Bar in Budapest, a perfect encapsulation of the contradictory image of the East that prevailed in Hungary between the wars. The aim of the exhibition is twofold: firstly to allow a glimpse inside the world of Hungarians who lived and worked in Shanghai in that period, as seen through their own personal items (many of which now form part of the collection of the Hopp Museum); and secondly to present the findings of recent research into previously unexplored areas of Hungarian art that came under the influence of the East.
The latest research has uncovered a complex web of interconnections and mutual influences, not only in the different branches of the arts, but also in the most diverse areas of everyday life. The exhibition offers insight into the way people lived in Shanghai’s “Hungarian colony” in the interwar period, in streets that pulsated with workers and merchants from every corner of the globe! The sights of the city are brought to life in archive photographs and through the objects people used on a daily basis. In the photos taken by Imre Farkas, Western faces look out at us, posing in front of Eastern backgrounds, while in the postcards collected by György Román (artist, boxer, failed chocolate manufacturer and impresario) we can see oriental ladies dressed in fashionable Western clothes and accessories.
Among the Hungarians who tried their luck in the bustling Chinese city were members of the Komor family, who opened the Komor and Kuhn art dealership here and who, in the hard times at the end of the First World War, provided financial support to Hungarian soldiers and refugees trying to make their way home. The escaped prisoner-of-war László Hudec, a qualified architect, also settled here, eventually designing Shanghai’s first skyscraper. A selection of the buildings designed by Hudec that are still standing today are shown in a special photo installation. In addition to the permanent residents in the “Hungarian colony”, numbering some eighty families, many others paid briefer visits: tourists, secret agents (Trebitsch-Lincoln), and performing artistes, touring the entertainment hotspots of Asia.
The 1930s saw a profusion of new nightclubs in Shanghai, elite ballrooms that even welcomed female guests! More than one of these venues played host to a dancer named Flóra Dessewffy, completely forgotten by history until quite recently, whose varied performances also featured a few Hungarian dances; the scintillating costumes she wore, handmade in China, constitute one of the revelations of this exhibition. (Another widely travelled Hungarian performer, Klári Csorba, was often invited to sing live on Shanghai radio, and she may have been responsible for turning the world-renowned Gloomy Sunday into a hit in China.)
The modern cosmopolis of Shanghai contrasted sharply with the rest of China at the time; in 1937 a modest reflection of its magnificence was recreated in Hungary, when the Sanghay Bar opened its doors in Buda, not far from the Gellért Hotel. The nightclub was decorated in “marvellous eastern splendour”, and its name – together with countless little details, like the tiny, kimono-clad figure shown on the cover of the programme, alongside a champagne glass – was part of a concept designed to satisfy the growing local demands for a taste of the exotic. Now completely forgotten, it was once one of the most notorious night spots in town, famous for the varied entertainment provided by the dancers and musicians who performed there, on a stage dominated by an enormous statue of the Buddha.
As the paintings and photographs in the exhibition show, it was quite common during this period for dancing and erotica to be mixed together with elements from Asian religions, and such motifs were also found in cinema, the most popular and exciting art form of the day. In the early 1940s, two Hungarian film productions reworked the story of Mata Hari, the infamous oriental dancer and spy; the sets for both movies – Siamese Cat and Machita – included interiors decorated with items borrowed from the Hopp Museum, mostly Chinese and Japanese artworks. Excerpts from the films, in which the two stars – Zita Szeleczky and Katalin Karády – perform oriental dances, can be seen at the exhibition, as can some of the actual objects visible in the backgrounds of the movies.
The strange combination of erotica and Buddhism is evident in a number of works by some noted Hungarian artists, including Nirvana by István Csók and the famous series by János Vaszary titled Buddha with Nude. Pride of place in the exhibition is taken by a tapestry of the Buddha, a unique creation designed by Tibor Boromisza, a devoted student of Buddhism.

In addition to 88 digital photos, 3 film excerpts and over 200 artworks, there are also several interactive “do and learn” features at the exhibition. The richly illustrated catalogue, published in English and in Hungarian, contains studies written by twenty different authors on subjects as diverse as film history, dance history, architecture and the history of fashion.

In addition to the exhibits themselves, on display until 8 April 2018, a varied programme of related events is also planned, including a series of presentations on cultural history, an architecture day, themed workshops, a monthly Shanghai film club, and a range of museum education activities.



30 September 2016 – 20 Agust 2017
Nagas, Birds and Elephant

Traditional Dress from Mainland Southeast Asia

The new temporary exhibition at the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts, Budapest, the Nagas, Birds and Elephants, presents Southeast Asian textiles from a variety of viewpoints – geographical, chronological and anthropological. Through explanations of the ritual functions of textiles and the symbology in their patterns, and examples of the different types of textiles and traditional costumes worn in the region, the exhibition aims to inform visitors about the religious beliefs, customs and celebrations of the diverse peoples of mainland Southeast Asia.

The distinctively Southeast Asian form of artistic expression can be traced through the region’s textiles. This is the “mother tongue” of art, and one of its most important embodiments. By taking a closer look at Southeast Asian textiles, and finding out more about the different varieties, how they are used, and what the symbols mean, visitors can unlock part of the mystery of how people in this distant part of the world live and think.
The show consists of over 200 exhibits: in addition to some extremely valuable and rarely seen items from Hungary’s public collections (the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts and the Museum of Ethnography), the exhibition also features objects brought directly from the regions in question by private collectors and explorer-researchers.


Paying homage to the twenthy-eight Buddhas, 1850-1870
Paying homage to the twenthy-eight Buddhas, 1850-1870



Hmong skirt, Laos
Hmong skirt, Laos



Seated Buddha with the right in the gesture of touching the earth. Myanmar.
Seated Buddha with the right in the gesture of touching the earth. Myanmar.





Date: 6th May – 28th August 2016
IMAGING KOREA - Beyond the people land and time

Budapest Welcomes Korean Photographers’ Touring Exhibition
Venue: Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts

„Photography captures the present but it will soon be the past.
[…] Photos contribute to things changed, to a vanishing world.” KANG Woongu

The first Eastern European country to establish diplomatic relations with Korea, Hungary shares so much with Korean that it’s called ‘The East Asia of Europe’. The most impressive thing is that, as in Korea, they hang and dry chili peppers and garlic, essential ingredients in Korean cooking. Although the chili pepper is called paprika in Hungary, the sight of if surely reminds me of an autumn day typical of Korea. Hungary located in the east of Europe and Korea located in the east of Asia. It’s not a mere coincidence but a fortuitous meeting that these two countries, which light up the east end of their respective continents, are now taking the first steps together in the exhibit entitled which will tour six countries starting from the ‘Pearl of Danube’ Budapest, Hungary and continuing to Germany, Poland, Belgium, Kazakhstan, and Spain.

There is a saying that goes ‘Meeting one good person in a good place is like catching a star in the sky’. The meeting between KIM Jaehwan, Director of Korean Cultural Center in Budapest, Hungary and KWON Taegyun, a self-proclaimed nomad and photographer of very Korean sensibility was just such a meeting. They had the idea to present Korea to Europe using the attractive medium of documentary photography. In 2014, KWON Taegyun suggested earnestly that I bring to concept such an exhibition. However, at 60 years of age he passed from acute heart failure and the plans lay in a drawer quietly. Nevertheless, the idea wasn’t meant to be forgotten that easily. Director KIM Jaewhan, meeting with Korea’s eminent photographer KANG Woongu, again brought up the idea of a documentary photography exhibit and plans were drawn up by mid-2015. The exhibit plan was revitalized with the ambition to share with the people of Europe the works of KWON Taegyun, high-quality Korean photography, and images imbued with Korean sensibility. It all started with the seven representative Korean photographers KANG Woongu, KWON Taegyun, KIM Jungman, PARK Jongwoo, LEE Gapchul, CHO Daeyeon, and SEO Heunkang telling the story of Korea in .

Documentary photography is the aesthetic way of recording a moment for all time. presents works at the pinnacle of this ‘aesthetic of recording’ which has never been and may never again be shown to the world. This exhibit, presenting in one place 125 photographs of beautiful strength in documentation and artistry by seven photographers of distinct perspectives, readily expresses their lives lived within Korean tradition, culture, nature, and time. The time when Korean culture and tradition, based in agriculture, was at its height. The times when such culture gradually retreated. The people who had lived and are living in such times. In palaces, in temples, in historic sites, in the demilitarized zone and its reality of national division, and in everyday places, photographers represent powerful Beyond the People, Land and Time> is the lyrical language of images spanning Korea’s past, its roots, and its present which are both memories we would long for and which the world can relate to. The works of this exhibition were selected from the most representative works of seven photographers who have labored extensively to complete this project. Though only excerpts from assorted exhibitions, these images collectively form a broad spectrum and represent a polished exhibition showing a different side to Korea.

The works of KANG Woogu are the selection from ‘Luck or Destiny’. When the winds of industrialization started to blow in Korea in 1970, KANG Woongu captured the day-to-day life in Korea’s countryside. Photos taken of the present which have since become the past, KANG’s photos capturing even the shining aura of daily life share with the world the Korean sensibilities of a bygone era. A self-proclaimed nomad, KWON Taegyun wandered the corners of Korea in the 1980s and encapsulated within his neat frame the lives and spirit of our parents, siblings, and friends in the spaces of their lives. LEE Gapchul takes the sources of the inner lives of Korean and depicts them in grainy textures, tilted frames, and scattered focus with a spontaneous unconscious apart from rationality. KIM Jungman rediscovers the beauty of Korea, a mysterious land flowing continuously with rich tradition and the colors of four seasons over its 5,000 years of history. PARK Jongwoo gives a reportage, even in the world’s only divided country of Korea, of the reality and landscape faced at the demilitarized zone cleaving the waist of the Korean peninsula. CHO Daeyeon looks at the prolonged breathing of the monks who reside in the temples in the southern regions where Buddhism first spread into Korea and expresses his accumulated impressions on Buddhism. SEO Heunkang finds his photographic subjects in the palaces, royal tombs, and historic sites, things most imbued with the traces of Korean history. He expresses as his own the visual elements under the best times and lighting which best reveal the shapes of graceful yet powerful color.

This exhibit is all the more precious and valuable for containing images of Korea that European observers are seeing for the first time, armed with the vestiges, deep lyricism, and intensity of the people, land, and time of Korea as permeated over the ages and captured from the 1970s to the present by these seven photographers of different artistic bent. Embedded with history, embedded with culture, embedded with people, this exhibit contemplates Korean traditions, culture, and change over time and presents the images of Korea, sometimes powerfully, sometimes warmly. Hungary, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Spain, and Korea, seven countries with varying cultures through will witness the images and sensibilities of Korea in a cultural exchange and thus form a special connection as if ‘catching a star from the sky’.





16 December, 2016 – 12 March, 2017
Geishas by the Danube

The influence of Japanese culture on Hungarian art
Castle Garden Bazaar, Palace of Guards (1013 Budapest, 2 Ybl Miklós tér)

The Kovács Gábor Art Foundation and the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts present the first exhibition in Hungary that looks at the influence of Japanese culture on Hungarian art, with a selection of artworks from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Museum of Applied Arts – Hungarian National Gallery and the Museum of Applied Arts are cooperating partners of the exhibition.

Japan’s self-chosen isolation, which had lasted for two centuries, ended in 1853 with the arrival of Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s squadron. With several of the island country’s ports opened for international trade, from the early 1850s Japanese artworks started to be exported to Europe on a large scale, and the first Western collections of Japanese art came into being.
The keen interest in Japan that marked the Western countries and Hungary from the middle of the 19th century, was called, along with the works of art that were inspired by Japanese art, “Japonism.” The period’s fashionable ceramics were decorated with Japanese figures and motifs, the stages featured Madame Butterflies, and no gentlewoman’s wardrobe would have been complete without a kimono. “Geisha” was one of the first Japanese words to enter the Hungarian language, which is why it appears in the title of this exhibition of Japonism in Hungary.
Japonism is one of the most exciting examples of intercultural influences. It was a case of embracing a foreign culture, rejuvenating thereby traditional or outdated forms and outlooks.
Oszkár Tarján (Huber): Oendant with wave motif, ca. 1910, Museum of Applied Arts
Oszkár Tarján (Huber): Oendant with wave motif, ca. 1910, Museum of Applied Arts
Utagawa Kunisada: Woman with mirror, 1843-1847
Utagawa Kunisada: Woman with mirror, 1843-1847
Bertalan Székely: Japanese woman, 1871, Hungarian National Gallery
Bertalan Székely: Japanese woman, 1871, Hungarian National Gallery






26 November 2015 – 17 April 2016
"In Search of Prince Genji - Japan in Words and Images”

In Search of Prince Genji - Japan in Words and Images is the next show in a series of exhibitions presenting traditional Asian art from the collection of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts alongside Hungarian contemporary artworks. Its focal point is the aesthetic ideal of traditional Japanese art and its reception in Europe.

Referred to as the world’s first novel, Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji) is considered as one of the most important literary works of the world. Written in the early eleventh century by Murasaki, a lady-in-waiting at the Japanese royal court in the Heian period, the book recounts the adventures of a fictional character, the shining Prince Genji, in 54 chapters. The attribute ‘shining’ or ‘radiant’ (in Japanese: “Hikaru”) is an allusion to the refined intellect, taste and demeanour of prince Genji as well as to his other-worldly beauty. Despite being a fictional piece, it records in detail the customs of the Japanese royal court as well as the culture and etiquette of the Heian period. Although Genji monogatari was written for the entertainment of the court circle of Lady Murasaki, the author’s sophisticated ability of observation and meticulous description made the novel one of the main chronicles of medieval Japan. Thanks to the repeated modernisation of the Japanese text, the tale of the shining prince remained alive in contemporary Japanese culture, in a way that can only be matched to the Bible or ancient Greek myths in Europe.

The perfect beauty of Prince Genji and that of his world represents traditional Japanese aesthetic ideals. Ever since the novel’s appearance, its various scenes have been widely depicted in paintings, woodcuts, lacquer works, ceramics,, and other art forms (photography, theatre) have also used it as a precious source. The collection of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts preserves many artefacts, ranging from the late seventeenth century until today, that retell the story of Genji in either a narrative or symbolical way. Creating a balance between image and text, the current exhibition aims to show the novel’s uninterrupted presence in Japanese culture, while also displaying Hungarian artworks in order to illustrate its inspirational role in world literature and fine arts.

Our exhibition wishes to present The Tale of Genji on several levels. It provides information about Lady Murasaki, the novel’s author, as well as about the structure of the text, the main events and the characters of the story. The importance of Genji pictures in Japanese visual arts are illustrated by narrative (yamato-e), symbolic, and parodistic (mitate) depictions. Games linked to the Genji monogatari (and how they were payed) in early modern Japan are shown through various artefacts. By walking through the halls visitors will learn about the artist of the highly valuable Genji album in the museum’s collection, about the structure of Japanese poems, or waka, and an entire set of Genji karuta (a 108 piece card deck) from the early nineteenth-century can also be seen.

The closing section of the exhibition is a double homage: the atmosphere of the old imperial capital, Kyoto, will be conjured up in words by László Krasznahorkai and in photographic images by Zoltán Gaál. Image and text are linked as closely in the presentation of the Hungarian works as they were in the earliest Genji manuscripts.

The exhibition is accompanied by a Hungarian and English catalogue including essays by several authors and rich in reproductions. Besides the studies on literary, photographic and art history, the volume contains a summary of the monumental novel (some 1,500 pages) about prince Genji. Each chapter of the story is illustrated by the corresponding picture of the Genji album of the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts, thus publishing the work in its completeness.

You can download Incense Album, A Visitor’s Guide to the Exhibition here.

Feltételezhetően Szumijosi Gukei vagy köre: A budapesti Gendzsi-album 9. lapja. Papír, arany, tus, festék 1670 körül


Feltételezhetően Szumijosi Gukei vagy köre: A budapesti Gendzsi-album 9. lapja. Papír, arany, tus, festék 1670 körül

A Ranrjó-ó nevű bugaku figura. Textil, gobelintechnika (cuzure-nisiki) 1900 körül
A Ranrjó-ó nevű bugaku figura. Textil, gobelintechnika (cuzure-nisiki) 1900 körül

Gaál Zoltán: Cím nélkül. Lyukkamerával készült analóg fénykép 2013, Kiotó
Gaál Zoltán: Cím nélkül. Lyukkamerával készült analóg fénykép 2013, Kiotó

Háromrekeszes inró kai-avasze kagylómotívummal. Fa, lakk (urusi, maki-e), textil, rozmáragyar, agancs 18. század vége – 19. század eleje
Háromrekeszes inró kai-avasze kagylómotívummal. Fa, lakk (urusi, maki-e), textil, rozmáragyar, agancs 18. század vége – 19. század eleje