Window-Shopping with the Avant-Garde: Commercial Display and Modern Design in Interwar Romania

Research Seminar

  • Public event without registration
  • Datum: 28.05.2024
  • Uhrzeit: 11:00 - 13:00
  • Vortragende: Alexandra Chiriac
  • Ort: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rome and online
  • Kontakt:
Window-Shopping with the Avant-Garde: Commercial Display and Modern Design in Interwar Romania
The relationship between avant-garde artists and consumer culture has often been framed as antagonistic. Nonetheless, in the period between the First and Second World Wars, commercial display became a significant means through which modern design was introduced to the general public. Recent studies have demonstrated how commercial display practices have “contributed to the formulation of new forms of aesthetic experience, as well as art and design typologies” (Lasc et al. 2017: 5). Taking as a case study the Romanian avant-garde movement, this talk examines how the visual realm of retail practices intersected with new trends in art and design, in particular the introduction of modern design for the domestic interior in Bucharest.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Romania’s capital was a growing metropolis undergoing a process of modernisation visible also in its evolving commodity culture. Inspired in part by the reformist zeal of the Deutscher Werkbund, as well as by the display innovations of the 1925 Paris International Exhibition, Romanian avant-garde artists advocated for a new culture of simplicity and utility in both commercial practices and consumer tastes, spearheading the modernisation of Bucharest’s homes and shop windows. This talk considers the techniques they used to display and promote new design, as well as the manner in which they engaged with the general public in showrooms, on the street, and even on the theatre stage.

Alexandra Chiriac is an art historian specialising in histories of twentieth-century modernism, with a focus on design and performance. During 2024-26, she will be an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe in Leipzig. Previously, she has held fellowships from the Leonard A. Lauder Research Centre for Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hedda Sterne Foundation. She holds a PhD from the University of St Andrews and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Her recent peer-reviewed publications include the monograph Performing Modernism: A Jewish Avant-Garde in Bucharest (De Gruyter, 2022), available open access, and the chapter ‘Berlin, Bauhaus, Bucharest: Re-Making Modernism in the Global Peripheries’ in the volume Historical Narratives of Global Modern Art (Routledge, 2023).

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Scientific Organization: Lara Demori

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