Sándor Radnóti, aesthetician

A museum today is the central metaphor of intellectual life

MúzeumCafé 18.

It could have been the Museum of Fine Arts I first visited – I know the Old Masters collection inside out. When we set off on Sundays we would often visit museums. Thus I became well familiar with the Christian Museum in Esztergom. I perhaps first saw Goya’s The Clothed Maja and The Nude Maja or Cézanne’s The Card Players on stamps, which I used to collect. Visiting museums became something natural for me. I’ve been to Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum at least fifty times and have never missed Antonello da Messina’s Pietà with its fascinating sfumato golden brown. Once, when I saw it in an unpleasantly cold silver light I asked a museum attendant about it. „It’s been restored!” The Louvre is good because it’s the Louvre. But to avoid beating around the bush, let me speak about the increasingly heated debate conducted between the management of the Museum of Fine Arts and many art historians. I regard the permanent collection – involving research, conservation and exhibition – as a museum’s intellectual core and therefore I sullenly observe the splendid collection of Netherlandish painting being moved to the third floor. I consider the temporary exhibition of parts of a museum’s own collections as a very important activity; therefore it is regrettable that, for example, the exhibition From Mantegna to Hogarth, curated by Teréz Gerszi and Szilvia Bodnár, did not receive as much promotion and publicity as it really deserved. It annoys me that the organisation of highly successful temporary exhibitions, attracting long queues of people, seems to detract energy from the permanent collection of sculpture. On the other is the fact that none of the museum’s exhibitions drawing a huge number of visitors in recent years has been trash.