Like so many of our buildings of unmatched beauty, the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest was also built in the Golden Age of Budapest. The Hungarian Parliament decreed its construction in 1896, in the Millennium Act, and a decade later the public was already able to explore the fascinating spaces of the building designed by Albert Schickedanz – the first permanent museum of fine arts in Hungary.
The director of the museum at the time, Ernő Kammerer, summed up the objectives of the museum thus: “We envision an institution where art treasures – achievements of humankind’s spiritual aspirations – can be viewed, and where the development of all the branches of art encompassing various periods and trends is showcased through representative artworks.”
Our fundamental goals have not changed since then. Our ambitions and the objectives of our permanent and temporary exhibitions – e.g. the recently opened Leonardo da Vinci dossier exhibition – are aptly reflected by the thoughts expressed three quarters of a century ago by the museum’s legendary director: “The most effective way of illustrating the different epochs is through drawing attention to masterpieces that encapsulate the aspirations of the given period, having served as a source of inspiration for many and which, viewed from the distance of the past, tower over their contemporaries like the peaks of a mountain range.”
In the spirit of this, after decades of forced absence, Hungarian art has returned home to the renovated Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest: visitors are now given an overview of universal and Hungarian art through hundreds of remarkable masterpieces spanning from ancient Egyptian and Graeco-Roman art to the end of the 18th century.
The lovers of fine art had to do without our museum for more than three years, but I am certain that when they walk around the renewed spaces they will agree that all the work and the waiting were worth their while. During the largest-scale reconstruction in the history of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, nearly 15,000 square metres were renovated according to the technical requirements of the 21st century, combining the most advanced technological solutions with the restoration of the building’s magnificent historic spaces completed to the highest standards. Within the framework of this, the Romanesque Hall – our museum’s most ornate interior, modelled on a medieval basilica – is restored to its original beauty and available to visitors after seven decades of being closed to the public and used as a storage area.
Considering that the period when the museum was built represents one of the most flourishing epochs in the culture-creation of the Hungarian nation, it is of symbolic significance that its reconstruction forms part of the Liget Budapest Project, within the framework of which Europe’s currently largest-scale cultural urban development is being implemented in the City Park, reviving its most valuable traditions of more than 100 years.
I invite all of you to come and visit the now renewed, century-old home of Hungarian and universal fine art as often as you can, and experience again and again the eternal truth conveyed by the closing lines of Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
László Baán, General Director