Years of Disarray. Art of the Avant-Garde in Central Europe 1908-1928

Was the Central European avant-garde always at the vanguard of artistic change, or did it merely follow the trends dictated by Paris, Berlin, and New York? What can we learn about the avant-garde if we dismiss the narratives constructed by the national art histories? Years of Disarray: Art of the Avant-garde in Central Europe 1908–1928, exhibition presented at the International Cultural Centre, consists of chapters that together tell the story of new art movements in the region that experienced a particularly difficult period in the early 20th century.

The exhibition seeks to present a panorama of avant-garde movements that came to life in the new Central European states and to highlight what they shared and how they differed. The period 1908–1928 is a time frame offering a broad perspective that shows the progress of artistic transformations as well as confronts their varied rhythm and chronology.

After the end of the Great War in 1918 Central Europe became a place where avant-garde ideas, founded or implemented earlier, were developed with great intensity. While the older generation of artists continued their earlier experiments after the war, younger artists came to treat Cubism, Expressionism, and Futurism as petrified and exhausted formulas, instead shifting their attention to Constructivism and abstraction. The rapid revival of modern art came with the focus on “the city and the machine” and with the fascination with urban civilisation. Central European artists often developed new trends in art. Of particular significance were movements such as Hungarian Activism, Polish Formism, or Czech Poetism, which marked the Central European avant-garde’s major contributions to global art.

Years of Disarray juxtaposes and confronts Central European artists – Polish, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian, Croatian, and Serbian – for whom great artistic centres such as Paris, Berlin, and New York remained important points of reference, but who used impulses and inspirations derived from there to creatively rework them, without feeling inferior due to their peripheral or belated position.

This rich and varied exhibition features more than 170 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints by artists such as Anton Jasusch, Bohumil Kubišta, František Foltýn, Géza Schiller, Josef Čapek, Katarzyna Kobro, Leon Chwistek, Max Oppenheimer, Rafał Malczewski, Sandor Bortnyik, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Tadeusz Makowski, Teresa Żarnowerówna, Tytus Czyżewski, and Władysław Strzemiński. 

One of the exhibition’s highlights is a great selection of unique avant-garde art magazines, publications, posters, folders, film scripts, and photographs that demonstrate their makers’ experiments and efforts towards developing innovative typography and image-making techniques.

The exhibition, which first opened at the Olomouc Museum of Art in September 2018, concludes a several-year-long international research project titled The Birth of a Modern Central European, realised jointly from 2016 onwards by four partner institutions: the Olomouc Museum of Art, Bratislava City Gallery, Janus Pannonius Museum in Pecs, and the International Cultural Centre, which developed a new version of the exhibition for its Krakow audience.

Under the auspices of:
Piotr Gliński, Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland
Antonín Staněk, Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic
Ľubica Laššáková, Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic
Péter Fekete, Secretary of State for Culture of the Ministry of Human Capacities of Hungary
Gernot Blümel, Federal Chancellery for the EU, Arts, Culture and Media of the Republic of Austria

Main organizer: International Cultural Centre in Krakow
Co-organizers: Olomouc Museum, Bratislava City Gallery, Janus Pannonius Museum in Pécs, Arbor vitae societas 
Supervision:  Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, Łukasz Galusek
Authors of the exhibition: Lenka Bydžovská, Karel Srp
Professional cooperation: Steffen Eigl (Berlin), Erwin Kessler (Bucharest), Zsófia Kiss-Szemán (Bratislava),  Monika Rydiger (Krakow), György Varkonyi (Pécs), Irina Subotić (Belgrade), Patrick Werkner (Vienna)
Curator of the Polish rerun: Monika Rydiger
Curator cooperation: Anežka Šimková, Šárka Belšíková (Olomouc)
Curatorial consultation of the Polish edition: Zsófia Kiss-Szemán (Bratislava), Tünde Pusztai (Pécs), György Varkonyi (Pécs) 
Texts: Lenka Bydžovská, Karel Srp, Monika Rydiger 
Translation: Ladislav Nagy, Andrzej Jagodziński, Nicholas Hodge 
Polish and English proofreading: Aleksandra Marczuk, Monika Rydiger, Nicholas Hodge 
Exhibition design: Anna Wisz 
Coordination and organisation of the exhibition: Anna Śliwa, Małgorzata Dziedzic, Monika Rydiger, Karolina Wójcik 
Cooperation: Julita Blak, Marcin Dyrcz, Joanna Hojda-Pepaś, Oliwia Kaczmarzewska, Dorota Korohoda, Karolina Murdza, Karolina Wróblewska-Leśniak 
Educational programs: Angelika Madura, Joanna Hojda-Pepas 
Accompanying program: Izabela Okręglicka