Cultural Diplomacy and Informal Artistic Relations in East Central Europe in the 20th Century: A Global Perspective

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 July 2024 | Viewed by 7941

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Faculty of Fine Arts, Nicolaus Copernicus University, 87-100 Toruń, Poland
Interests: 19th and 20th century Polish, European and American art; modern art in East Central Europe; 19th and 20th century art theory and criticism; 19th and 20th century printmaking and drawing

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Being invited to edit an Arts Special Issue, I intend to bring into debate a range of questions at play in discourses on the history and socio-political anchorage of international traveling and exchange art exhibitions. My aim is to share thoughts with colleagues interested in the dynamically growing field of studies focused on staging art exhibitions and curatorial practices, as perceived in a historical and political context. Although the history of exhibitions has gained the status of a sub-discipline in global art history, the subject of exhibition policies implemented in East Central Europe (hereafter ECE) over the course of the 20th century still remains an under-researched domain (the exception being a few polyphonic narratives, such as Art Beyond Borders. Artistic Exchange in Communist Europe 1945–1989, edited by Bazin et al., 2016). Therefore, this collection of essays is intended to address the topic of cultural diplomacy conducted in the ECE region, both in the interwar decades and during the Cold War bipolar division of the world, as well as in the post-1989 period until the end of the millennium.

The emphasis is on inter/transnational expositions organized on the basis of bilateral or multilateral agreements between state agencies that, apart from cultural promotion, served multifarious purposes: political, economic, and commercial. The thematic scope of this Special Issue covers the strategies of state-sponsored institutions that were applied to exhibitions traveling across the region and beyond its borders to the West and the East, as well as unofficial international, transregional, and intercontinental artistic contacts and institutional interactions that resonated in the cultural and social discourses in the host countries.

The interwar decades were distinguished by a persistent search for the roots of national identity and the idiosyncratic features of culture in the ECE countries that were striving to establish or strengthen their position on the geopolitical map of the newly reconfigured European continent. The trend that became significant in the 1920s and 1930s was the perfectly functioning circulation of art exhibitions that exemplified the strategies of the cultural self-presentation of particular nations. International dissemination of these expositions depended, to a considerable extent, on political factors and cultural policies that transcended national borders.

Political underpinnings and economic interests hidden behind the spectacles of touring exhibitions during the Cold War period led the shows’ trajectories far beyond the European continent to North America (USA, Canada), Latin America (Argentina, Cuba, Mexico), Asia (China, Vietnam), and Africa. Thus, the Arts Issue in preparation may contribute to the demythologization of the total cultural isolationism of Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain by historicizing and problematizing the cultural contacts of the Soviet communist bloc with not only ideologically fraternal countries, but also with the capitalist West. The governing forces in individual member states of the Eastern bloc treated cultural networking as an ideologically effective propagandist instrument in service of political and economic goals. However, many official exhibition projects emphasized the national cultural specificity and tradition of the organizing country, regardless of the Soviet doctrine of socialist realism and/or the aesthetic norms of socialist modernism. The national agenda devised for Western audiences was implemented in the format of historicizing survey presentations of national artistic accomplishments and cultural treasures. Contrary to that, exhibitions crafted for perception in communist countries emphasized the common ideological core and a homogenized aesthetic conformed to the socialist realist doctrine.

The last decade of the 20th century, which was a strenuous and challenging period of political and economic transformations in ECE, heralded post-dependence proliferation of exhibitions, featuring art produced in the region, differently problematizing the material regarding identity politics, gender perspective, political engagement, etc. Most of the export presentations held in the 1990s manifested idiosyncratic features of the region-specific art and pointed to historical determinants responsible for the absence of Eastern art on the international market. A significant number of these exhibitions were politically neutral, while many were politically loaded.

The addressed lines of enquiry may include but are not limited to the following topics:

  • International, transregional, and/or intercontinental dimension of cultural policies deployed in the ECE nation states in the interwar period and under the communist rule
  • Diplomatic function of survey presentations of national art traveling within ECE and to the West as well as beyond the Transatlantic axis
  • Traveling shows of “national treasures” and “highlights of a collection” as a tool for self-promotion of the state
  • Political, economic, and commercial underpinnings of cultural agendas implemented in the ECE countries in conjunction with the ideological expansion of the Eastern bloc to the West and to the “Third World”
  • Curatorial practices in the staging of state-funded export exhibitions in the context of various interplaying forces: cultural, political, and economic powers, and institutional policies
  • Reception of exhibitions coming from ECE by art-viewing public, art critics, and institutional players in the West and the East
  • Spectatorship and criticism of import exhibitions in individual ECE nation states
  • Changing function of national pavilions of individual ECE states at art biennials, triennials, and other large-scale transnational exhibitions over the course of the 20th century
  • Changes in the intercultural dialogue and artistic geography of ECE during the first post-Wall decade
  • Referential frame of the “national treasures” exhibitions in post-1989 Europe: political, institutional, and curatorial
  • Cultural diplomacy considered as a component of cultural industry, tourism, and the art market

Please note that there is a two-stage submission procedure. Kindly submit a title, an abstract (up to 500 words), and a short bio (up to 300 words), by February 28, 2023, via email to Prof. Irena Kossowska ([email protected]). Selected abstracts will be invited to submit 5000–9000-word papers for blind peer review by September 30, 2023.
Guest Editor: Prof. Irena Kossowska, Department of the History of 20th Century Art in Central Europe and in Exile, Faculty of Fine Arts, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. For more information about Prof. Kossowska: ORCID: 0000-0001-5679-4653

Prof. Dr. Irena Kossowska
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • East Central Europe
  • 20th century cultural diplomacy
  • artistic networking
  • traveling art exhibitions
  • Transatlantic contacts
  • Global South
  • Eurasia

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

14 pages, 278 KiB  
Article
MoMA Goes beyond the Iron Curtain: The Eastern European Tour of The Prints of Andy Warhol
by Elena Sidorova
Arts 2024, 13(2), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts13020042 - 21 Feb 2024
Viewed by 939
Abstract
In 1990, three years after Andy Warhol’s death and one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) organized the first one-man show of this pop artist in Eastern Europe. The Prints of Andy Warhol, although [...] Read more.
In 1990, three years after Andy Warhol’s death and one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) organized the first one-man show of this pop artist in Eastern Europe. The Prints of Andy Warhol, although never shown at the MoMA in New York, traveled to the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Jouy-en-Josas, France, the Národní Galerie in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the Staatliche Kunstsammlung in Dresden, the GDR, the Mücsarnok in Budapest, Hungary, and the Muzeum Narodowe in Warsaw, Poland. The current paper analyzes the cultural–political context of The Prints of Andy Warhol. It first discusses the place of both American pop art and Eastern Europe in MoMA’s International Program (IP) and then explores the organizational challenges, art historical contents, and public reception of the exhibition. The paper concludes by examining the broader impact of The Prints of Andy Warhol on both the growing awareness of American pop art in Eastern Europe and MoMA’s cultural diplomacy in this region after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Full article
20 pages, 336 KiB  
Article
Hungarian Representative Exhibitions and the Rhetoric of Display in the 1920s
by Samuel D. Albert
Arts 2024, 13(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts13010023 - 26 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1118
Abstract
This article examines the series of art exhibitions organized by the Hungarian government in the 1920s. After examining the bureaucratic framework of the exhibition, the article then discusses the materials displayed at five different exhibitions, organized between 1920 and 1927. While much of [...] Read more.
This article examines the series of art exhibitions organized by the Hungarian government in the 1920s. After examining the bureaucratic framework of the exhibition, the article then discusses the materials displayed at five different exhibitions, organized between 1920 and 1927. While much of the material displayed remained the same, the rhetoric, particularly the catalog essays that accompanied the exhibition provided insight into the organizers’ goals and the governmental ideology underlying that rhetoric. Full article
21 pages, 7715 KiB  
Article
State Strategy of International Art Exhibitions in Interwar Lithuania 1918–1940
by Giedrė Jankevičiūtė
Arts 2024, 13(1), 19; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts13010019 - 23 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1115
Abstract
The Republic of Lithuania was one of several young nation-states that re-established or proclaimed their statehood in the aftermath of the First World War, following the dissolution of empires in Europe. The quest for cultural identity and attempts at its representation within the [...] Read more.
The Republic of Lithuania was one of several young nation-states that re-established or proclaimed their statehood in the aftermath of the First World War, following the dissolution of empires in Europe. The quest for cultural identity and attempts at its representation within the country, in the region, and on the international stage was the crucial element in the nation-building process, where cultural diplomacy played a pivotal role. For Lithuania, as for most European countries of that era, exhibitions, especially art exhibitions or art sections in the case of world shows (for instance, the Expo 1937 in Paris or the New York World’s Fair in 1939), served as a prominent means of expressing its identity. An overview of the Lithuanian state art exhibition strategy, the dynamics of its organizational process, the exhibition content, and their geographical reach are discussed in the article. To comprehensively grasp Lithuania’s cultural strategy and to reconstruct the network of its artistic connections, foreign art exhibitions organized at the state level and the acquisition of artifacts from these exhibitions for Lithuania’s national art collection, the M. K. Čiurlionis Art Gallery, are briefly reviewed as well. Full article
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10 pages, 194 KiB  
Article
The Western Artist in Stalin’s Moscow: The Case of Albin Amelin
by Katarina Lopatkina
Arts 2024, 13(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts13010014 - 10 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1179
Abstract
This article is a reconstruction of travel experiences of Swedish artist Albin Amelin in Moscow in 1937–1938, based on archival materials. It focuses on the exchange between the Soviet Union and Western artists in the interwar period and shows international Soviet art contacts [...] Read more.
This article is a reconstruction of travel experiences of Swedish artist Albin Amelin in Moscow in 1937–1938, based on archival materials. It focuses on the exchange between the Soviet Union and Western artists in the interwar period and shows international Soviet art contacts as part of the state’s diplomatic work. This case study enables a detailed observation of the elements of the Soviet hospitality industry, and a description of various practical aspects of the artist’s stay in Moscow. Full article
17 pages, 5512 KiB  
Article
Dialogue between the Concept of the Object in the Theater of Tadeusz Kantor and the Theatrical Praxis of the Periférico de Objetos
by Katarzyna Cytlak
Arts 2024, 13(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts13010011 - 04 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1537
Abstract
Tadeusz Kantor was a Polish artist and theater director who directly influenced the conceptual understanding of theater, especially in Argentina following two visits to Buenos Aires with his troupe Cricot 2 in the 1980s. He exerted a particularly strong influence on the Periférico [...] Read more.
Tadeusz Kantor was a Polish artist and theater director who directly influenced the conceptual understanding of theater, especially in Argentina following two visits to Buenos Aires with his troupe Cricot 2 in the 1980s. He exerted a particularly strong influence on the Periférico de Objetos [The Periphery of Objects], a troupe founded in Buenos Aires in 1989 by Daniel Veronese, Ana Alvarado and Emilio García Wehbi, labelled by critics as “the Argentine theatre of the image”. Despite radically different socio-cultural contexts, elements arising from Kantor’s theater practices (especially his idea of the “poor object” and his concept of “reality of the lowest rank”) acquired distinctly different meanings in Latin America from those coined by Kantor. A nuanced examination of the Periférico de Objetos indicates that Kantor’s concepts, which in their original context resisted politicization, played an important role in the creation of a socially and politically engaged theatre. His concepts, adapted to local realities by the Periférico de Objetos, were reflected in debates surrounding the recent Argentinian past, most notably, the post-dictatorship period. Full article
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10 pages, 235 KiB  
Article
The Janus Face of Polish Cultural Diplomacy in Paris during the Khrushchev Thaw
by Piotr Bolesław Majewski
Arts 2024, 13(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts13010007 - 26 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1126
Abstract
The Khrushchev Thaw allowed Poland a slightly larger margin of freedom in its cultural exchange with Western Europe than it had since the end of the Second World War. In this newly relaxed political climate, two models of Polish cultural diplomacy emerged in [...] Read more.
The Khrushchev Thaw allowed Poland a slightly larger margin of freedom in its cultural exchange with Western Europe than it had since the end of the Second World War. In this newly relaxed political climate, two models of Polish cultural diplomacy emerged in the West. The first constituted the official foreign policy of Poland’s communist authorities, while the other remained unofficial, relying on a network of contacts with Poland’s government-in-exile. An examination of contemporary Polish art exhibited in Paris during the 1950s and 1960s reveals this dichotomy. The first type of cultural patronage was coordinated in Paris by communist representatives of the Polish Embassy. The second emerged in Paris within Polish political émigré circles. Its key proponents were the Literary Institute (Instytut Literacki), including the intellectual and artistic milieu of the monthly journal Kultura (“Polish-based Culture”) and the Lambert Gallery (Galeria Lambert). State foreign policy, funded by the state budget and anchored in agreements between Poland and France on cultural cooperation determined the former, while the latter constituted an oppositional stance against the Eastern Bloc, deriving its strength from the resolve of Polish political émigré circles, their extensive network of sympathetic foreign contacts, and an understanding of the mechanics of the art market. The communist model sought to build a friendly image of Polish culture despite the apparent ideological rift between Eastern and Western Europe. The émigré approach stemmed from a refusal to accept the political division of Europe and involved searching the world of art for evidence of forces in Poland that opposed the political status quo. Finally, the patronage model adopted by communist authorities followed the state-imposed policy of favoring figurative art over Polish abstract art, whereas the model championed by émigré circles pursued the opposite strategy. It showcased unrestrained, spontaneous, and mostly abstract art. It evidenced an affinity for international trends in the art of the time, including abstract expressionism and, in particular, Parisian Art Informel. How can these two strands of cultural diplomacy co-exist? Which resonated more with international audiences? Full article
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