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Global art history and the Peripheries Challenge.

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference -Mixed Audience

  • Derek Sayer - Keynote/plenary speaker


Conference is at École Normale Supérieure and Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art. I am delivering a paper '"All the Beauties of the World": Art History and the Disappearance of the Prague Avant-Garde,' and a panelist in the closing roundtable. Abstract Despite being at the forefront of European modernism during the first half of the twentieth century, Czech avant-gardes largely disappeared from the Anglophone art-historical record after 1945. That erasure has been partially redressed through a series of major exhibitions, key translations, and monograph publications on both sides of the Atlantic since the fall of communism in 1989. The problem today is no longer what we have forgotten, but how we remember. Focusing on Devětsil and the Czechoslovak Surrealist Group, I suggest that not only do we need to replace historically anachronistic East/West divides with an appreciation of the richness and density of the connections and interchanges between avant-gardes across the continent during the earlier part of the twentieth century. To do so requires us to rethink what defines modernism per se. I argue that Prague offers a different model of the relation between avant-gardes, the applied arts, and popular culture than that acknowledged in postwar Anglophone art history, and provides an alternative vantage point from which to question (and historically situate) the formalism of that tradition.

Event (Conference)

TitleGlobal art history and the Peripheries Challenge.