Crossing the Borders. Exchange in Art during the Cold War

Dr. Seraina Renz

In my research at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, I examine moments of aesthetic and ideological rapprochement between Italy, the Soviet bloc, and non–aligned Yugoslavia during the Cold War. The focus is on exhibitions, personal exchange, and discursive debate. The motives for the exchange are manifold and interwoven: They can be of a political nature, arise from the desire for cultural connection or from common aesthetic–artistic interests. The study is structured by four thematic complexes: Modernisms; the revival of the historical avant–garde; art and science; spaces and contexts of artistic production. These themes are not sharply delineated from one another, but each represents a specific perspective on art and moments of exchange in their social context. They also imply a loose chronology. The question of the aesthetics and ideological function of a modernist art ("modernisms") was conducted confrontationally from the 1930s to the 1950s and cannot be separated from the political schisms that structured world politics before, during, and after World War II. The continuation or resurgence of avant–garde currents played out in all the regions studied here during roughly two decades beginning in the 1950s. During the same period, the engagement of artists with science became particularly virulent, and even institutionalized collaboration between artists and scientists occurred at times. The questions about the spaces and contexts of art derive from the fact that in all the above–mentioned regions, starting in the 1960s, the spaces of production and reception of art expanded in an unprecedented way. The project is based on archival research, especially in Italy, and follows the traces of transregional exchange.

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