The Pavilon
History of the Hungarian Pavilion
Hungary has participated in the Venice International Art Exhibition ever since it started in 1895, even though the country did not own an exhibition space, a pavilion, until 1909. In appreciation of the Hungarian success in the first years of the exhibition, the city of Venice offered a free plot of land to Hungary in the Giardini Pubblici, on the territory of the Biennale, to build an independent art gallery. Géza Maróti, one of the most important and versatile artists of the Hungarian secessionist movement, was commissioned to plan the building. Maróti (1875-1941), whose work was by that time well-known in Italy, too, was a sculptor, architect, graphical artist and interior designer in one; in his works he tried to represent in his own special way the era's attempts to synthesise various art forms.

Completed in 1909, the building was the third pavilion to be erected after the Italian and the Holland pavilions, it was highly praised in the Italian press, especially the innovative individual motives and the special national character of the architecture and the ornamental details. The Hungarian reception was less enthusiastic. Some critics found the building ostentatious, its layout unsatisfactory, but in general professional circles tended to appreciate, and, according to contemporary taste, accept it.

In the years of the First World War, the building became strongly dilapidated. From 1913 to 1922 it could not be used according to its function. From 1922 the building was again used for art purposes, but in the following ten years its condition continued to deteriorate, the damaging of the wide span of the high roof projected the need for a complete reconstruction. In the middle of the 1930s plans had been drawn up to rebuild the pavilion, and in 1938 the management of the Biennale even proposed the relocation of the building. In 1938 and 1939 only small reparations were actually realized from the rebuilding plans, and the breaking out of the Second World War had only delayed the renovation. In 1948 a tempest damaged the building to such an extent that the parquet floor had to be removed, then an endless wrangling started about the pavilion's future in which the Italian authorities also participated. The mayor of Venice shut down the building and threatened to demolish it while those who were responsible for the pavilion in Hungary did not take any significant measures to renovate it. Plans were drawn up in the 50s for a rebuilding of the pavilion, these, however, were rejected by the Italian authorities. Finally, in 1957 the rebuilding of the pavilion started according to the plans of Ágoston Benkhard, the work was finished in 1958. The old secessionist characteristics of the building, the symbolic motives of a bourgeois past disappeared, and more up to date, colder spaces and moods were formed conforming to the spirit of the age.

By the late 1980s the renovation of the gradually dilapidating building became necessary again. In 1991 György Csete architect was commissioned to plan the exhibition space's reconstruction: this work has been underway ever since. In 1993 the cellar of the building was structurally reinforced, and in 1995 the reconstruction of the main front was completed together with the restoration of the two large mosaics designed by Aladár Korösfoi Kriesch. In 2000 the renewal of the roof structure was finished, the building by that time became a "property of special importance". With the further restoration of the artificial stone surfaces and the original mosaics the building may soon be considered completely renovated.

None the less, the building's characteristic architectural layout, its dominant character do not fulfil the requirements of a modern exhibition and presentation hall, that is why its appearance and its exhibition space have undergone several modifications recently on the basis of different artistic conceptions.