The political system of the ’80s in Hungary bent before the words of the West spreading through the new parabolic antennas. Total state control became looser and the private sector took control over small-scale industries. More and more plastic moulders, dressmakers, leather-goods manufacturers etc. started working in the ground floors of suburban buildings. Their new products, made after western models, sought a new setting, instead of the brownish-greyish, derelict shop portals that were ubiquitous in Budapest. Thus they recreated in their own image not only the interior decoration of the shops, but the shop windows and the facades of the buildings as well.
According to the main trends of the time the visual appearance of a boutique had to be topical, fresh, fashionable, inviting – that is: Western(ised). Freshness was offered mainly by pastel colours, playful arches, columns, balls, tympanum-like lintels appearing in the shops’ interior and exterior decoration, following the dominant architectural style of the day, Postmodernism. In the mid ’80s, with a little delay, the so-called Memphis Design (which featured most essentially all the above-mentioned elements) infiltrated the decorator school in Budapest and, as a consequence, the shop windows and portals fitted to this style started to proliferate in the city centre, becoming landmarks of the cityscape. The new, progressively classicising shapes of these shops somewhat matched the eclectic facades of Budapest, even if on the Bauhaus or Art Deco buildings they felt rather like a decoration bazaar … but, as we know, the free market is no picnic.
At the end of the ’90s, the curses hurled on the “toy building block” facade elements and their eccentric colours by cityscape protectors began to take effect. The boutiques selling jeans and pullovers shut down and the ones selling computer technology and mobile phones that opened in their place quickly got rid of the pastel tones and the typical design.
The city at once rejected the ’80s and slowly all its products became targets of public disgust. As a result of new, “more minimalist” trends, the tympanum portals disappeared from the frequented areas of Budapest. The very few ones that survived can be found outside the Ring Street – they are sad reminders of the era of the regime change and its pastel-turquoise manager suits.
Despite the abrupt end, from today’s perspective it seems clear that the ’80s were the last decade that introduced a complex and rather homogeneous style that covered all branches of visual culture and was NEW in every way. The attempts that followed this short-lived boom were mainly remixing or repackaging well-tried 10-20-30 year-old trends. (G.T.)
GRUPPO TÖKMAG (András Tábori and Tamás Budha), visual artists. tokmag.org
The artistic activities of both these artists are focused on the public space as an exhibition area, and they utilise its diversity for their presentations.
Fotó: © Gruppo Tökmag