06.06.2014 to 12.10.2014

Part I. The World of Yesterday - Germany and European Modernism 1890-1914
Part I of the exhibition depicts the pre-war emergence of a new European phenomenon: modernism, as represented here by outstanding examples of poster, commercial, and book art. The selection features some 110 posters, 50 illustrations from books and magazines, and miscellaneous publicity material that all exemplify the artistic styles that defined this epoch and reflected the search for both a new concept of style and a general shift in focus towards the contemporary. In particular, the fledgling medium of the commercial poster reflected the advent of a new, often radically pared-down visual aesthetic. In many such posters we see innovative, now iconic designs by the Beggarstaff Brothers, Jules Chéret, Ludwig Hohlwein, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Lucian Bernhard, and others. The idea of modernity rapidly became the objective of a movement that turned to magazines, books, international exhibitions, the international art trade, and art brokers such as Julius Meier-Graefe and recognized in them an aesthetic dialogue with the potential and will to overcome national prejudices. Part I of the exhibition centres on the reception of modernity and nascent modernism in Germany and the European sensibility which Austrian author Stefan Zweig hauntingly described in his popular memoir 'The World of Yesterday'.

Part II. Words in Freedom - Rebellion of the Avant-garde 1909-1918

The exhibition traces the publishing and communications network of the avant-garde movements of Futurism and Expressionism. In the early 20th century the term 'avant-garde' became untethered from its original military context and has been used ever since in the context of art, as a metaphor for a troop formation operating ahead of the rank and file, able to penetrate into enemy territory. This conscious self-stylization as the 'avant-garde' is most especially reflected in the strategic publicity of the time, characterized not merely by a certain rhetoric, but by certain publication types, most notably manifestos. The spectacular self-dramatizations and publications of the avant-garde gave rise to a unique form of communication that blended art and literature. Today's exhibition design, created especially for the show, leads the visitor into a labyrinth of manifestos, magazines, photographs, and letters - a labyrinth that ultimately unveils startling concatenations and sheds new light on the art of the 20th century. The exhibition ranges in date from the turn of the century to the end of the Great War and traces the historical logic of the 'isms of art', their radical sense of competition and their international topography.
The display features works selected from the collections of the Kunstbibliothek, Kupferstichkabinett, and the Staatsbibliothek Berlin. Much of the material stems from the archive of Herwarth Walden's magazine 'Der Sturm'. The collector's archive of Egidio Marzona also figures highly in the selection of works, in an exhibition that furthermore aims to raise the profile of the Kulturforum as a site of learning and new research.

The exhibition has received funding from the Hauptstadtkulturfonds, the cultural subsidy for the German capital.

Die Kuratoren Anita Kühnel und Michael Lailach im oberen Bereich der AVANTGARDE-Ausstellung.
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Foto: Juliane Eirich

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