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Confrontations: Sessions in East European Art History

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Czech Art Differently

By Maja Fowkes, on 5 November 2019

Giving insights into the history of the Confrontations exhibitions in Prague from the years around 1960 and the early 1980s, Pavlína Morganová began the group seminars at the Academy of Fine Arts. Among the specificities of the secluded spirit of the early Confrontations that she revealed was the rule that each artist was allowed to invite only a single visitor to the exhibition to avoid drawing the attention of the authorities, giving a fresh perspective on the question of audience numbers in exhibition making.

Hana Buddeus posed the question of what kind of art history could be reconstructed by taking account of the work of a photographer favoured by other artists to document their work through her research on prolific Czech photographer Josef Sudek. By analysing the content of these images, she demonstrated the fluidity in practice of divides between official and unofficial streams of artistic production.

Johana Lomová drew attention to the specific role played by the applied arts in socialist states. To this end she focused on a lesser known aspect of the work of Czech art critic Jindřich Chalupecký, later renowned for his advocacy of neo-avant-garde and experimental art, but who during the 1950s and early 1960s published almost exclusively on the applied arts and their contribution to Czechoslovak socialist society.

Juliane Debeusscher put forward the idea of an Eastern-Southern European connection as a heterogeneous area of cultural transfers and entanglements during the Cold war. Examining the trajectories of Jiří Valoch’s exhibition exchanges with Franco’s Spain during the 1960s, she argued for a more differentiated understanding of ‘non-socialist countries’ rather than a monolithic West, in order to account for the cultural specificities of authoritarian dictatorships.

(Maja & Reuben  Fowkes)

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