The birth of Op Art
Victor Vasarely’s Works in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid
The birth of Op Art, to open on 7 June in the Spanish capital, will provide a comprehensive presentation of the oeuvre of Victor Vasarely, an artist of Hungarian origin. The exhibition mounted by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid will run for three months and display close to one hundred works, the overwhelming majority of which have been selected from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest’s Vasarely Museum, but there will also be works on loan from the Vasarely Museum in Pécs and the collection of the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en- Provence. This exhibition marks the second ‘visit’ of the Museum of Fine Arts in one of Europe’s prominent museums in the last two years: a large-scale exhibition, Masterpieces from Budapest, with works selected from the collection travelled to the Madrid museum in 2016.
Victor Vasarely, a foremost figure of abstract geometric art, was born in Pécs, Hungary, as Győző Vásárhelyi but was already living in France at the height of his artistic career. His works took the art scene by storm in the mid-1960s, launching a short-lived but extremely popular art trend known as Op Art, based on the grid-like compositions exploiting the contrast between black and white that were made by Vasarely, referred to as the “father” or “pope” of Op Art. These works create a confounding optical illusion of swelling or warping by the simple shifting or bending of lines.
The nine sections of the Madrid exhibition present a cross-section of Victor Vasarely’s oeuvre from his Vega series to Multiples, and also explore the developments that had led up to Op Art and those that emerged in its wake. The birth of Op Art covers all the main periods of Vasarely’s career and the principle works linked to these, showcasing the artist’s evolution in a chronological order. Visitors can learn about Vasarely’s outstanding role in the emergence of abstract art, which followed geometric art, and become familiar with Vasarely’s experiments and ideas in art theory.
There are several reasons why Vasarely’s collection was taken again to Madrid. It is no exaggeration to say that the art of Vasarely, who reached the peak of his career in the middle of the 1960s aroused the keenest interest in the Spanish-speaking world. Indeed, most of the followers of Vasarely’s kinetic art were of Latin American origin. The Denise René Gallery in Paris – of which Vasarely was a co-founder – grew into one of the most important meeting places for artists with a common vision who came to Europe from South America. Vasarely’s ideas basically exerted their influence on this part of the world via Paris, or more exactly the next, young generation of artists that gathered around him. Thanks to this cultural transfer, Vasarely had many collectors in Spain and South America.
It is the Vasarely Museum (opened in 1987 in the Zichy palace in Óbuda) that treasures the most representative selection of Vasarely’s works among all the public collections. As a responsible guardian of the close to 500 Vasarely pieces, it provides a wide-ranging picture of the artist’s oeuvre, in which a prominent place is occupied by the special and rare sheets Vasarely produced in his first, so-called graphic period.
In recent years, the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest has organised exhibitions presenting its artefacts and remarkable works of Hungarian fine art in several important museums and venues of Western Europe. Hundreds of thousands of visitors were thus able to admire Hungarian masterpieces in the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Kunstforum in Vienna, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris and the Palazzo Reale in Milan.
The birth of Op Art was realised by the Vasarely Museum in Budapest and Pécs in conjunction with the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence.
The exhibition’s curator is Márton Orosz, art historian at the Museum of Fine Arts and Director of the Vasarely Museum in Budapest.
Victor Vasarely. The birth of Op Art
From 7 June to 9 September 2018
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza