Top Attractions in Budapest by Founding Director of Art Market Budapest | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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Top Attractions in Budapest by Founding Director of Art Market Budapest

Attila Ledényi, Founding Director, Art Market Budapest

Art Market Budapest 2017 will present thousands of artworks by more than 500 artists along with 100 exhibitors from about 25 countries, from October 12 through 15, 2017. “The fair provides the largest selection of artworks coming from the emerging Eastern European region which is currently getting increased attention globally with some now emerging stars of the future and representatives of the neo-Avant-Garde tendencies of the 1960’s and 70’s. This, combined with an inspiring new generation of artists from the West, helps bring some fresh blood to the global art scene,” says Attila Ledényi, Founding Director, Art Market Budapest.

This year, Israel has been selected as the guest of honor. “The professional partners include the energetic team and owner of the Serge Tiroche Collection and the international godfather of art James Snyder, who will represent the Israel Museum. From an amazing young generation of video and photo artists such as ILIT AZOULAY or Dana Levy to works and a site specific performance by the legendary Joseph Semah, the Israeli repertoire will include some 50 artists to choose from,” says Ledényi. He is also the founder and CEO of EDGE Communications, an art management agency with an expanding international portfolio. Also as a collector and promoter of art, he has been included among the 15 most influential personalities in Műértő’s Art Power 50 repeatedly since 2011.

Blouin ARTINFO spoke to Ledényi about his favorite places to visit, stay and dine in Budapest, the city of Magyars, hot springs and art nouveau architecture on the Danube.

What are your recommendations for must-visit places in Budapest and why?
This is a tough one, as most of your questions are! For a first time visitor, Andrássy út in Budapest is like the Champs-Élysées in Paris but much friendlier and cozier (see stops 2-9 here: Frommers/Budapest/Walkingtour1). At this time of the year when the fall leaves are turning into all kinds of amazing colors, it is my favorite walking route with its cafes, restaurants and bourgeois palaces including a visit to the nearby Capa Center and House of Photography. The far end of Andrássy út has the magnificent Heroes Square with the Fine Arts Museum (currently closed for renovation although the building itself is worth a look) and Mucsarnok-Kunsthalle on the two sides of the square. Further into the City Park from the square is where one of my favorite buildings are at the Vajdahunyad Castle. Some come to Budapest particularly looking for its spas, well, my favorite one is the Gellert Bath if you really want to pick one.

What restaurants, bars, and cafes would you recommend in Budapest and why?
The list is long. Over the past years Budapest has been going through what many consider a gastronomic revolution which is certainly great because I love eating out. Some of the Michelin star holders like the restaurants Onyx (one of the VIP partners of Art Market Budapest) or Borkonyha-Winekitchen offer a new age version of traditional Hungarian cuisine. Innio Restaurant & Bar in the city center is also our partner for a good reason where you’ll enjoy the contemporary approach to food and design and an excellent wine and champagne list. Just a few blocks away is Café Kör if you are looking for the type of food and extremely friendly atmosphere Hungarian grandmothers spoil their grandkids with. The same neighborhood includes the new location of one of my newer favorites Zeller Bistro that keeps reminding me of SoHo in New York which I love dearly. The main gastronomic reason for me to leave the city center is a relatively new fusion restaurant by the rockstar of Budapest’s top young chefs — Fáma Budapest, the interior of which was designed by a friend. A similarly contemporary approach to fine dining is offered at Bábel Budapest, where creativity and quality are very comfortably matched.
As for bars, High Note Sky Bar is hard to beat with its excellent service and breathtaking view, but my favorite hidden gem is The Bar that is so tiny and dark (in a soft and friendly way) that you can hardly realize it’s there.
I like my coffee the Italian style and I usually stay in my favorite neighborhood (earlier referred to as Andrássy út) where Opera Café in the actual building of the Opera House is a regular choice and a personal recommendation. Café culture, by the way, is an excellent tradition in Budapest, cafés have for long been the centers for — among others — artists to get together in a creative circle. A good example is the Gresham Palace, currently the building of the Four Seasons Hotel with a café where the ambiance and the art nouveau interior will blow your mind away. Farger is my contemporary choice with a lovely atmosphere and good looking people. 

Where would you go and what would you do if you had a free morning or afternoon in Budapest?
A free morning is pretty rare and unusual, however, I’m lucky to have one of the most scenic running routes in the world including the main square outside the Parliament building and a stretch on the bank of the River Danube with the Royal Castle on the other side of the river. This all makes running a much less terrifying exercise. But another type of free morning would be a breakfast at Kollázs Brasserie & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel and then a walk over the Chain Bridge and up the Castle district where I would either check out the National Gallery or go for another coffee at Café Pierrot. 

Where would you head to in Budapest for the best shopping and what would you buy?
It may sound kind of boring but for shopping I would again take Andrássy út. Unfortunately this is a much too expensive neighborhood for young Hungarian designers generally, however, NUBU, one of my favorites actually have two stores here, one for more upscale, and Nude by Nubu for a younger, maybe even more urban look. My favorite perfume shop Madison and cosmetics shop Omorovicza are also very near (actually, the founders of Omorovicza are art collectors themselves). I love wine shopping as well, the chain Bortársaság - Wine Society has my two favorite stores at the Chain Bridge and just outside the Parliament buildings.

Where would you recommend people stay (hotels etc.) when they visit Budapest?
Now we are back at the Four Seasons Hotel again that has been among the top hotels of the world and a premium partner of Art Market Budapest. I also love Aria Hotel for the already described Sky Bar, the perfect location and the fact that the founder is also an art connoisseur. Among my favorites since its establishment is Brody House, a boutique hotel designed and originally even partly used by contemporary visual artists, one of the most amazing hotel experiences you may have, where you are served your breakfast in what used to be a family home, although the setting now is truly contemporary.

What are the best places to see and buy art in Budapest?
Naturally, if you want to meet with Budapest’s best contemporary galleries, you will come to Art Market Budapest directly. Some of our top Hungarian exhibitors are located just around where my office is (surprised?), the galleries acb, Erika Deák, Horizont, Inda, Neon, Viltin are in the close vicinity. If you are lucky enough to stay at the Brody House hotel, Kisterem, Ani Molnár and Vintage are within easy walking distance, while if you are sipping your coffee at Farger café or do your wine shopping at the Parliament wine shop as I earlier recommended, Art+Text is just a block away. And a walk in and around the Castle district should definitely include Várfok with its two locations.

What are the best places to see live bands or musicians in Budapest and why?
MÜPA (also known as the Palace of Arts) is my number one choice for live music. With its world class acoustics, it is amazing for pretty much anything in classical and jazz, some (e.g. The New York Times) say it’s the number two destination for Wagner after Bayreuth, but I’ve already enjoyed shows here by Rufus Wainwright, Laurie Anderson or the Michael Nyman Band, just to name a few. It is also the same building as the Ludwig Museum and the central location for the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival, the main professional partner of Art Market Budapest and one of the most exciting contemporary art festivals in Europe. For things less classical and “serious”, we are back again in the city center where Akvárium Klub, a venue that was going to be an underground parking lot has a see-through water pond above and a pretty attractive line-up of music inside. I’m just getting my ticket for an upcoming Marcus Miller gig.

What are the best spots for experiencing Budapest's nightlife after spending the day at an art fair?
If I were you, I would do Kiosk Budapest. Actually, I WILL do Kiosk as this amazing restaurant-bar-dance spot will host the Official Opening After Party of Art Market Budapest this year. We like this place and its neighborhood so much that we picked the square outside Kiosk as the location of an amazing giant Bernar Venet composition from his amazing Arcs in Disorder series (check this out: Bernar Venet BP-NY).
Of the many other possible locations, Brody Studios is my best choice, although here you have to be a member if you want to enjoy the very unique setting, a top international DJ, or want to play pool with Matt Damon (literally, when he is in town). By the way, membership to Brody is a perk you may temporarily get as part of the VIP package at Art Market Budapest.

What projects are you currently working on/involved in?
While the fair is a project to keep us busy year around, we have some exhibition plans for 2018 in Milan, Paris, London and Tel Aviv which I’m not yet allowed to discuss now. Also, I was recently asked to join the jury of a US-based program called Hungary Emerging; as Head of the Board at the Pro Cultura Urbis foundation where we are working on public art projects. Shortly after Art Market Budapest 2017 we will publish the upcoming edition of our art collectors’ magazine, just to mention a few projects that I immediately remember.

What are some interesting artworks that we can look forward to at Art Market Budapest 2017?
A real crowd- and connoisseur-pleaser is our photo section titled Art Photo Budapest that fills an entire exhibition hall with works from all areas of photography. Hungary itself with its long history in photography highlighted by such masters as André Kertész, László Moholy-Nagy, Robert Capa and others is now home to a new generation of still lesser known artists with a quality you will be surprised to see. The wide international selection will include contemporary hits as a portrait collection of David Bowie by his personal photographer for 16 years, Tony McGee from London.

Click below to view a slideshow on Budapest.