"The Invention of the XXth Century"
"Carl Einstein and the Avant-gardes"
Ausstellung im Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid
Kurator Uwe Fleckner, Professor für Kunstgeschichte Hamburg
11.11.2008 bis 16.2.2009
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The Invention of the XXth Century
Carl Einstein and the Avant-gardes
Exhibition in the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 11.11.2008-16.2.2009
Curated by Uwe Fleckner
Carl Einstein is most likely the less »classic« among the classic art historians of the XXth century. Although he studied several semesters of art history at the Berlin university, Einstein worked as novelist, poet and dramaticist, as author of essays and translations as well as art and literature critic, he edited anthologies and revues, and worked occasionally in the art market and even as writer of a film scenario. As author of the experimental novel Bebuquin or the dilettanti of miracle (1912), he owns an undoubted place in the European history of literature; – but especially in the field of art history, Einstein counts among the most interesting innovators, whose challenging and promising books and articles are re-discovered only since the last two decades. In Germany, France, the United States, and recently in Spain, scholars and publishing houses have started to work on Einstein and his writings on art. Like Walter Benjamin, Aby Warburg or Georges Bataille in the last years, Carl Einstein is now in the position to play a leading rôle as on of the central intellectual figures of art historical and theoretical discours. The show projected for the Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía will make him for the first time ever the protagonist of an international exhibition and will therefore be in the very focus of the artistic and art historical debates of our time.
Besides a wide range of art critical and theoretical essays, the following publications of Einstein belong to his most famous writings on art: his study of Negro Sculpture, first published in 1915 and followed by African Sculpture in 1921, his surrealistic-anthropologic revue Documents (1929-1930) as well as the monograph on his close friend Georges Braque, which appeared 1934 for the first time and has to be judged as a magistral summary of cubist aesthetics. But first of all, his Art of the XXth Century, published originally already in 1926 (revised editions in 1928 and 1931) in the world-famous series »Propyläen-Kunstgeschichte«, made him one of the first historians of the avant-garde movements and fulfilled what Guillaume Apollinaire promised of him already in earlier years: »un des esprits les plus clairvoyants«. Already radicalized in his political convictions by the experiences in the trenches and hospitals of the First World War, and agitating as communist in the soldier’s soviets in Brussels and Berlin, he decided in 1936 to give up his literary career and to fight at the side of the famous anarchist Buenaventura Durruti in the heart of the Spanish Civil War. Hiding from the German army, he was forced, as so many left-wing intellectuals, to comit suicide in July 1940.
It ist the aim and ambition of the exhibition to give a convincing visual overwiev of the intellectual work of Carl Einstein. Concentrating on the art works of the most important artists of the XXth century which Einstein has seen, worked with and/or has written about, and using documentary material of his biography only in respect of his intellectual life, the show must create its own retrospective art history of the century as it was seen by this central figure of the art world. Indeed, the exhibition has to deal with the thinking and writing of Einstein, but it will not be considered as a show of written material, but in the first line as a visual event presenting paintings and sculptures of highest quality. The exhibition consists of the following sections_
01 Fragments of a Broken Life: Carl Einstein 1885-1940
02 African Art Seen by an Avantguardian
03 The Civil War of Painting (Dada/Verism)
04/I The Art of the XXth Century
04/II The Art of the XXth Century: An Epoch in Pictures
05 Cubism as Conception of the World
06/I Hallucination, Metamorphosis, Primitivism (Surrealism)
06/II A Visual Adventure: Carl Einstein’s Revue »Documents«
07 The Collective Syntax of Freedom (Spanish Civil War)