Arthistorical methodologies

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Top 10 artists grouped by country + Cross-genre/country/timeperiod essays

East Art Map: Contemporary Art And Eastern Europe (eds. Irwin)

  • Irwin group chose 22 selectors from 17 countries, each was asked to select 10 artists/groups from their country (active in the period from 1950s until now) and write cca 1-page entries on each of them
  • website released in 2004 [1]
  • website structured into MAP (17 countries by 5 periods) and MOVEMENTS. periods: 1945-57, 1958-70, 1971-83, 1984-96, 1997-2004. movements: retroavantgarde (8 artists), moscow conceptualism (6 artists), anonymous authorship (11 artists), sots-art (2 artists). country not included: Moldova. users of the website are invited to propose other relevant artists/groups and these are listed as Suggested additions
  • book released in 2006[1]
  • book structured into 2 parts: Selected Artworks and Events and Essays. First includes 23 texts covering 18 countries (2x Croatia, 3x Russia, 2x Serbia and Montenegro, 2x Slovenia), the second includes 19 cross-genre and/or cross-country and/or cross-timeperiod essays.

Top programmatic and sociopolitical texts in a country grouped by time-period

Czech Art 1938-1989. Programmes, critical texts, documents. [Czech] (ed. Ševčík, Morganová, Dušková)

  • 1997 - academic research centre at Academy of Arts in Prague (VVP AVU) founded -> began to research documents and text material which have been storing in searchable bibliography database -> in 2000 launched online and included database of books, catalogues, and articles in magazines, anthologies, samizdats [2]
  • then idea of strictly selective anthology of fundamental programmatic texts of Czech art after WW II.
  • research sponsored by Ministery of education and Ministery of culture
  • soon found out it is too few of them -- and many important historical streams would be left out => idea of a broader historical and theoretical developments in Czech art, including not only programmatic texts, but also critical texts, essays, historical political documents (in order to contextualise the times)
  • 500 texts in narrower selection, out of which 200 were chosen for the book (each accompanied by one/two-paragraph annotation with sociopolitical/historical context)
  • book released in 2001[2], accompanied by online database [3]
  • book structured into 5 chapters: 1938-47 (liberal times), 1948-56 (february coup, reorganisation of fine artists union), 1957-63 (political and cultural relaxation), 1964-69 (new mgmt of fine artists union, liberalisation), 1970-89 (normalisation); plus chronology of major events in Czech art

Essays by art genre in a country

Alternative Culture. The Story of Czech Society 1945-1989 [Czech] (ed. Alan)

  • end of 1996 ~ first ideas -> evolved into series of documentaries (dir P.Slavík) -> need of a broader sociologicla and arthistorical project
  • 1997 - working group established
  • 1999 - received the grant (Grant Agency of CZ)
  • from 1997 debates in team via seminars (coordinated by Naďa Dvorská) -> refusal of chronological approach -> key themes according to cultural fields
  • then biographical sociological research -- group of trained researchers (led by E.Stehlíková) takes biographical interviews + also interviews from Film & Sociology Foundation are used
  • then analysis by cultural theoreticians and historians, and by sociologists
  • 4 problematic areas => and solutions
    • had to ignore understanding of culture in contemporary sociological/anthropological theories, and subjects of cultural studies (sociocultural and esthetical parameters of everyday, like fashion, living, fun, celebrations, urbanism, applied design) -- these would include eg. escape into the private space, so called second living, self-supplying, self-help => thus only intellectual/artistic activities and sociopolitical context are included
    • historical memory - issues of reinterpretation and reconstruction of events, activities and works (positive view of alternative scene; non-locality/ordinarity of phenomena)
    • society vs culture -- it is not possible to include both views at the same time => thus focus on relations of society and art
    • what is alternative culture? => defined as conscious diversion fromthe governing cultural streams, pushed through and supported by totalitarian regime by its power; includes underground/dissident/illegal/forbidden/parallel/independent/unofficial/semiofficial culture
  • book released in 2001[3], accompanied by CD compilation
  • structure of the book: 13 texts by 13 authors on music (3), fine arts (2), theatre (2), literature (1), film (1), photography (1), philosophy (1), and on alternative culture as a sociological topic (1)

Top documents grouped in thematic cross-country/genre chapters in a roughly chronological order

Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Easterns and Central European Art Since the 1950s (eds. Hoptman and Pospiszyl)

  • 2 editors, 2 assistents of editors (Majlena Braun, Clay Tarica), 9 consultants
  • concentration on art and theory, especially on theory
  • important issue of perception of CEE art in the West: inspired by Edward Said's text Oriental Other about 19th century's Europe, it was later expanded by Igor Zabel, Nada Beroš, Piotr Piotrowski
  • refused covering the retrospective regional assesments, monographs, arthistorical chronologies, retrospective situational analyses => but instead chose landmark texts, that labeled movements, challenged received ideas, changed the way art was made and thought about by international writers at their communities and nationally ~ focus on primary source material
  • book released in 2002[4]
  • book structure: refused treating each region separately, BUT worked in thematic chapters at roughly chronological order. 6 chapters, each includes 6-10 documents and 1-2 page annotation. Chapters: secret life in people's culture, pioneers and their manifestos, conceptual art, body art, retroavantgarde, freedom and nationalism.
  • critique: disproportions between single countries (only 1 essay to Hungarian art, while almost 1/2 of book to Soviet and Polish art); predominance of attitudes emerging from avant-garde and experimental practices; presentation of art that is resigned to traditional media, such as painting or sculpture (editors' apparent preference for conceptualism and performance art)


The Avant-Garde in the Shadow of Yalta. Art and Politics in Central-Eastern Europe, 1945-1989 [Polish] (Piotrowski)

  • cross-country highlight of the currents, trends, and artistic traditions in the political context
  • methodological tools: frame (after Norman Bryson)


Between worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-gardes, 1910-1930 (eds. Benson and Forgács)

  • includes hundreds of documents, almost all of them translated into English for the first time; landmark texts by the major writers, editors, artists, magazines, and movements of Central Europe.


Central European Avant-Gardes. Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930 (ed. Benson)

  • narrative: arranged around events and situations rather than by linear, art historical categories
  • structure: features hundreds of color plates and reproductions of documents; discussions of movements from Artificialism to Zenitism; essays on figures, publications, and exhibitions; and shorter "city views" of Belgrade, Berlin, Bucharest, Budapest, Cracow, Dessau, Ljubljana, £ódz, Poznań, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw, Weimar, and Zagreb.



  1. Irwin (eds.), East Art Map: Contemporary Art And Eastern Europe, Afterall Books, 2006, (online), (online), (google books)
  2. Jiří Ševčík, Pavlína Morganová, Dagmar Dušková (eds.), České umění 1938-1989. Programy, kritické texty, dokumenty, Prague: Academia, 2001 (online)
  3. Josef Alan (ed.), Alternativní kultura. Příběh české společnosti 1945-1989, Prague: Lidové noviny, 2001 (online)
  4. Laura Hoptman and Tomas Pospiszyl (eds.), Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Easterns and Central European Art Since the 1950s, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, (online), (review)
  5. Piotr Piotrowski, Awangarda w cieniu Jałty. Sztuka w Europie środkowo-wschodniej w latach 1945–89, Poznan: Rebis, 2005 (online)
  6. Timothy O. Benson, Éva Forgács (eds.), Between worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-gardes, 1910-1930, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002, (online), (google books)
  7. Timothy O. Benson (ed.), Central European Avant-Gardes. Exchange and Transformation, 1910–1930, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002, (online), (google books)