Like many areas of the Hungarian economy, the art market is just beginning to find its feet after 40 years of turmoil. For the last decade and a half, dealers and connoisseurs have been hard at work trawling through the nation's attics and cellars discovering and cataloguing the work of long-forgotten artists. Hungarian art has consistently followed European trends, the majority of well-known artists, including József Rippl-Rónai and Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka, spent a great deal of time outside Hungary honing their skills, while staying true to their roots. There is a large number of artists, such as Victor Vasarely and Mihály Munkácsy, who established themselves outside Hungary. In fact, as result of the political restrictions of the last century, some of these are all but unknown in their home country.
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Fine arts in Hungary
While in some places in the world, folk art is confined to a museum, in the Hungarian countryside it is a living tradition. The spontaneous desire to delight and entertain, passed on from one generation to the next, is reflected in the diverse music, dance, crafts and costumes that can still be found all over the country today. What's more, folk art is influenced by Serbian, Slovakian and Romanian traditions from the waves of settlers that arrived in the region over the centuries.
Lace and embroidery are typical of Hungary, although techniques and designs vary from village to village. Halas lace
, for example, from the Southern Puszta is unique in its intricacy, and Kalocsa embroidered folk costumes bear an ancient motif commonly incorporated into wall paintings. Matyó folk embroidery, originating in Mezökövesd, is also popular both within Hungary and abroad. When it comes to Hungarian pottery, decoration is as important as function - colourful plates often take the place of paintings on walls.
All of these traditional forms of folk art can be found in local markets and cottage workshops throughout Hungary. In addition, the Skanzen open-air village museum just outside Szentendre
is a good place to start discovering traditional architecture, and there are several more dotted around the country. The Kovács Margit Museum, also located in Szentendre, is a tiny jewel-box. Its charming ceramic figures are visions of goodness, beauty and humanity. Souvenir hunters or antiques enthusiasts in Budapest should head for the Ecseri market, one of several market halls and the row of shops on Falk Miksa Street.