André Kertész / György Lőrinczy: New York

Open to the public:
4 August 2021 – 12 September 2021
Tuesday - Sunday 12:00 – 19:00.
Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Curators: Imre Kiss and Flóra Judit Schuller

The exhibition is realized in collaboration with Vintage Gallery.

“Dear Mr. Lőrinczy, I hope these few lines will find you not at Pest, but rather at London, where your NY. book will get published! So be it. My exhibition will be held next May, but at the same time I would like to publish a little book, as you know. If there will be only one way, I will run home. Previously, I am invited to exhibit in Stockholm in the middle of April. It will be nice to spend some time in Europe after the garbage and the gangster atmosphere here. Although I have read that there are big changes too. I wish we would rather meet in London, and not in Pest, when I'm going home. After all, we can meet in London too. So be it!!! I wish you a happy New Year, and a merry Christmas!” – wrote André Kertész to György Lőrinczy in 1970 on a greeting card.

They became acquainted in New York a few years earlier, when György Lőrinczy travelled to America in 1968 following the invitation of his friends, Edit de Ak and Peter Grass. To get a passport and some foreign currency, Lőrinczy was planning to make a photo album about New York. As her wife, Kati Lőrinczy recalled, he even received a down payment of two hundred dollars from the Corvina Arts and Foreign Language Publishing Company. His album featuring the photographs taken in 1968, titled New York, New York got finally published by Magyar Helikon [Hungarian Helikon Publishing] in 1972. At that time, the atmosphere in New York was defined by the hippies, the Civil Rights struggles of African Americans, drugs and student movements, among others. This environment completely enraptured the Lőrinczys as they roamed the city day and night, attending parties and concerts, and getting to know other artists. At that point, André Kertész had been living in New York for more than thirty years. From the early 1950s he began to photograph with renewed vigour, thereupon his work received international attention, including a large-scale retrospective exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) in 1963, and a solo show in 1964 at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), curated by John Szarkowski.

Meanwhile in Hungary, the official cultural policy of the Kádár Era showed increased interest in Hungarian artists living abroad in the 1960s. Indicating this tendency, the works of Amerigo Tot and Victor Vasarely were presented at solo exhibitions held at the Műcsarnok [Kunsthalle Budapest] in 1969, and a group show curated by Krisztina Passuth titled XX. századi magyar származású művészek külföldön [XX. century Hungarian artists abroad] also took place in 1970. An exhibition titled A magyar fotóművészet 125 éve [125 Years of Hungarian Photography] was held at the Hungarian National Gallery in 1966, featuring a section dedicated to the works of Hungarian photographers living abroad, including several photographs by André Kertész. The Hungarian National Gallery then also organised a solo show for Kertész in 1971, and Corvina published his first Hungarian album in 1972 as part of the Fotóművészeti Kiskönyvtár [Small Library of Photography] series. Kertész referred to these events on the greeting card addressed to György Lőrinczy, quoted previously: “My exhibition will be held next May, but at the same time I would like to publish a little book, as you know.”

In the end, Kertész was not satisfied with the finished publication, as the publisher printed the pictures in a format not approved by him. “They cut off my pictures. The photographs were truncated, and that is not okay. The image must remain exactly as intended by the photographer.” –  he stated later during his visit to Hungary in 1984. The same year as Kertész’s “ruined” book, György Lőrinczy's album titled New York, New York was also finally published, of which he sent a dedicated copy to Kertész with the following inscription: “I think and I feel like that you unknowingly helped me a lot in compiling this book. I can still vividly remember our conversation in New York. And also your advice.”

However, like Kertész, Lőrinczy also had to make compromises when compiling the album. In the preface he wrote: “This book is not about New York, nor the city nor the New York State. I have photographed the people amongst whom I have lived in 1968 and those places that interested me for some reason. In the book there are no images of famous buildings, machinated American households, bank associates, billionaires, female shop assistants, light, shade and many other things. (...) I lived in the East Village amongst them: hippies, artists, students. The studio of Tom Wesselmann was in the neighbouring street, a few corners away Andy Warhol’s Factory, the greengrocery was opened at night as well and there was the smell of incense in the streets. I felt very well between them.” 

Lőrinczy ultimately made concessions – since the book was officially planned to be published as a city album, not as an artist’s book – and integrated a few photographs more on the traditional side into the final selection. But he also included two-page spreads, some without margins or gutters, and translucent, colourful prints on wax paper. Also a few of the photographs were solarised, what counted as unusual back then. All of these solutions were innovations at their time and had great impact on Hungary’s underground art scene, because of this the album is considered an important publication up to the present day. However, because of the uncommon execution, Lőrinczy had also been accused of formalism in more conservative circles: "The expressive power of some photographs has indeed been enhanced by these procedures, but the different techniques occasionally appear as self-serving modernist traits, if only because the adjacent images are disturbing each other." – stated Lőrinczy’s “F.L.” monogrammed critic in the February issue of Magyar Hírlap [Hungarian Newspaper] in 1973.

André Kertész and György Lőrinczy both worked in New York in the 1970s, their albums were published in the same year in Hungary, but these were not the only occasions when their work was presented at almost the same time and place. In the spring of 1984, “outstanding emigrants” were invited to the fourth Budapest Spring Festival. On that instance, Kertész travelled to Hungary as a guest of honour, and his solo exhibition was also organized at the Vigadó Gallery. Almost at the same time, György Lőrinczy's exhibition titled New York, New York, featuring the photographs of his album published in 1972, was opened at the Fotóművészeti Galéria [Gallery of Photography] – but unfortunately without the artist’s direct involvement due to his early death. The oeuvres of the two artists came to a close at nearly the same time: Kertész died at the age of 92 in 1985, while Lőrinczy died at the age of 46 in 1981. They belonged to different generations and went different ways, creating works of distinct characters with contrasting approaches, that’s why the meeting points of their oeuvres may seem surprising at first.

Zsófia Rátkai

Literature: F. L.: Lőrinczy György: New York, New York. Magyar Hírlap, 1973.02.24., 4.; Lőrinczy György (1935-1981) – „Szaros seggel angyallá válni”. Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum – Glória Kiadó, Budapest, 1995.; Tomsics Emőke: „Emberileg próbáltam gondolkodni” – André Kertész magyarországi fogadtatása. Fotóművészet, 2013/2; Sarah Morthland: Of André Kertész, György Lőrinczy, and New York. In: New York – André Kertész / Lőrinczy György. Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum – Vintage Galéria, Budapest, 2021.

In order to see the gallery please click or tap on one side of the image.
André Kertész: Glass Sculpture and World Trade Center, 1979, silver print, 252x202 mm
György Lőrinczy: New York, New York, 1968, silver print, 120x95 mm
György Lőrinczy: New York, New York (No15), 1968, silver print, 290x213 mm
György Lőrinczy: New York, New York (viva), 1968, silver print, 240x173 mm
André Kertész: New York, Woman Sunbathing on Roof with Cassette Player, 1978, silver print, 252x203 mm
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