Budapest has a lively cultural life and rich contemporary arts scene, giving home to various festivals almost every season. The biggest festival of the autumn season is undoubtedly the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival – formerly known as Budapest Autumn Festival – organized in the Hungarian capital for the 28th time. The seventeen days of the event series are a colorful gathering of well-known and aspiring artists as well as art loving audiences showcasing the most remarkable creative achievements of the local and international contemporary arts scene. The festival is held between 4 and 20 October, offering more than 150 cultural programs to choose from.
Similar to previous years, events of the autumn festival will be hosted by more than 40 venues practically turning the city into a huge artistic playground. Locations include Müpa Budapest, Liszt Music Academy, Budapest Music Centre, Akvárium Klub, A38 Boat, the Castle Garden Bazaar, Pesti Vigadó, Millenáris Park, Premier Cultcafé, Telep Galéria, Uránia National Film Theatre and Trafó House of Contemporary Arts.
Events: The Budapest festival offers a wide range of artistic performances in practically all genres of the contemporary arts scene. Programs include orchestral and chamber concerts, world music and popular music concerts, exhibitions, contemporary theatre, circus and dance performances, opera and jazz concerts as well as events in the genres of film, photography and architecture. Below, we highlight some of the attractions. For a full program, please visit the festival’s website.
Péter Eötvös: Angels in America
10th and 12th October, 2019
One of the most anticipated events of the autumn festival is the Budapest premiere of Péter Eötvös’s opera. Angels in America has been performed in many different cities including Paris, New York, London and Los Angeles, and it’s not only great because of its timely subject or its excellent soloists and director Matthias Oldag, but also because the world-famous work will be conducted by the Hungarian author, Péter Eötvös himself.
“… and Echo”: Puppet Opera Based on Fruzsina B. Török’s Work Titled Cross
9th October, 2019
This chamber opera is a modern interpretation of the mythological story of Echo and Narcissus, her hopeless yearning for the man who is in love with his own reflection. Echo is caught in a trap, where she can no longer say her own words, and is compelled to repeat what her lover says. The one-act puppet opera features Viktória Vizin, Krisztián Gergye and Adél, the life-size puppet in the leading roles.
The RIAS Kammerchor and the Amadinda Percussion Group: Klang der Stille
20th October, 2019
The Berlin RIAS Kammerchor is one of the world’s best choirs that has worked with some of the best conductors of the world. With the help of the Amadinda Percussion Group and outstanding soloists, they will perform Rothko Chapel, a cultic work of American avant-garde music and two relatively new compositions as well. The concert will start at 6.30 pm with a conversation entitled Prelude, where the audience will be invited to get to know the performing musicians more closely.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: Nomad
18th October, 2019
Dance enthusiasts can expect a real delight as Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui brings his latest production titled Nomad to the Budapest stage. The famous choreographer who works with the world’s leading ballet bands and is also the creative mind behind Beyoncé’s iconic Louvre music video presented the first version of Nomad in 2017. The concept was developed into a full-length performance this year. In his work, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui pieces together a mosaic drawn from the creatures of the desert, and the yearning for water, safety and above all togetherness, which is key to survival in an arid world.
13th October, 2019
American singer-songwriter and music producer William Fitzsimmons will be coming to the Aquarium Club with his latest album Mission Bell which he created in the period after his marriage fell apart. For the artist, this was the only way to cope with the sadness and despair accompanying his separation from his wife. His songs are easy to digest as they are brutally intimate.
4th Hungarian Music Video Contest
10th October, 2019
The idea to create a platform for Hungarian music videos started in 2015, the event is now being organized for the 4th time. Last year 665 Hungarian music videos entered the contest which has both a professional jury and also allows the audience to cast their votes while watching the best clips on a large screen. Many of the award winners of the former contests are now working as filmmakers, advertising and creative professionals. The event will be followed by an after-party where some of the former winners and shortlisted contestants will be performing acoustic formations.
Where Else to See Contemporary Arts in Budapest?
Did you miss this year’s CAFe Budapest contemporary arts festival? Don’t worry. Budapest is a cultural hotspot with bohemian, post-communist charme and plenty of artistic programs to offer all year long. The most important public institutions displaying modern arts are Ludwig Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Godot Institution of Contemporary Art, Kunsthalle Budapest and Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, which is a cornerstone of the international contemporary arts scene, showcasing various genres – theatre, dance, new circus, music and visual arts – in a unique and authentic manner.
Besides state-owned institutions, Budapest has a number of artist-run spaces, like Art Factory Budapest, Art Quarter Budapest, and FKSE, a gallery space run by the members of The Studio of Young Artists’ Association, while the most notable privately-owned art galleries include Knoll Galéria Budapest, 2B Galéria, INDA Galéria and LABOR.
If you are interested in photography, world-famous Hungarian photographer Robert Capa, who redefined press photography, has an institution named after him in Budapest. The Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center is an exhibition space for press and documentary photography.
Budapest is also becoming a European hub for filmmaking. Both the well-established production studios and the state’s favourable tax-return policy has attracted Hollywood’s biggest names to Hungary in the recent years, but award-winning films such as Son of Saul (2015) and On Body and Soul (2017) indicate that the country’s local film industry is also flourishing.