Perspectives: art and ethnography
Hungarian National Gallery (22 April 2016 - 02 October 2016)
When Pablo Picasso and his fellow artists first encountered sculptures from Africa and Oceania, treasures of tribal art, at the beginning of the twentieth century, they obviously considered them as artworks. Although such exotic pieces were not unknown to Europeans, such sculptures, masks and carvings were not regarded as art for a long time.

The modelling of these objects as well as the harmony between their geometric decorations and subtle forms exerted a vast influence on modern art of the twentieth century, in painting, sculpture and graphic art exploring new paths at the time. Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, painted in 1907, traditionally considered as the first work of Cubism, unambiguously bears traces of the newly discovered art of distant cultures. Since Picasso, tribal art has formed part of European art history, and became an inspiration in terms of form and spirit. Do ethnographers and researchers, who understand the functions that these objects have in tribal culture, see all them as artworks? Do today's viewers see them as objects of art or interesting ethnographic artefacts from a barely known, remote world? These are the essential questions explored by the exhibition titled Perspectives – Art and Ethnography.  

The explorations starting from Western Europe, the colonisations, and the encounters with exotic cultures gradually redrew the worldview of European people from the 15th century onward. During this process, the artefacts of distant peoples were regarded by collectors, scholars and museums and the public as symbols of diverse cultures. These encounters with the foreign considerably reshaped Western man's view of humanity, society and culture. The exotic needed to be accommodated in the world. 

Current approaches of anthropology and art history are positioned between two basic standpoints. One is stating that the products of tribal art can and should be interpreted within the cultural concepts of the people itself. According to the other approach, an intercultural framework for art is needed, in which western and tribal art can be considered together. 

Tribal culture and its objects now form an autonomous part of the artistic discourse. The black bodies among white walls, the anonymity of the artists, the political and poetic dimensions of collection and presentation, provide a widening spectrum of interpretations. Such interpretations are attempted in the space of this exhibition. 

2016.06.22