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Sarah Wilson: Picasso / Marx and socialist realism in France

—Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013.

Marx’s ideas are now subject to worldwide reappraisal, with conferences attracting the most important critical thinkers on the left. Marx and the Aesthetic (Amsterdam, 2012) reappraised Marx in the context of his own creative inspirations and contemporary art today. Max Raphael’s Proudhon, Marx, Picasso (1933), published in Paris by the exiled German art historian, a contemporary of Walter Benjamin, included the first attempt at a Marxist critique of Picasso. His book appeared when the global crisis of capitalism coincided with the birth of fascism.

Picasso / Marx looks backwards and perhaps forwards, resituating Picasso in dialectical terms. His context as player in the little-known Communist West, centred on Paris, brings into play the Marxist theory of his times. From the 1930s to the 1970s, Marx, Lenin and Stalin’s own theories on art and literature were discussed together with Plekhanov, Bogdanov and Zhdanov. John Berger’s Success and Failure of Picasso (1965), dedicated to Raphael, offered a critique of Picasso’s art and Communist politics within the lifetime of the painter. Picasso / Marx presents a critical view of Picasso to his new audiences from Melbourne to Moscow.

Art and Politics in the 20th Century

—panel discussion at Art Market Budapest

2014 October 11, 17 h

Art Market Budapest


The panel discussion, which examines encounters between art and politics in the 20th Century, is inspired by two recently published books: Sarah Wilson’s Picasso / Marx (2013) by Liverpool University Press and Klara Kemp Welch’s Antipolitics in Central European Art (2014). The former confronts the biography and Marxist theories surrounding the art of the Catalan master whilst the latter discusses the strategies of avant-garde artists who were active during Socialism, such as Július Koller, Jiří Kovanda and Hungarians St. Auby Tamás and Tót Endre.





—art historian, Courtauld Institute of Art, London


—art historian, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

László BEKE

—art historian, Budapest


—art historian, Institute of Art History, Budapest

Barnabás BENCSIK

—art historian, Founder and Director of ACAX, Budapest


Moderator: Gábor RIEDER

—art historian, Budapest



Klara Kemp-Welch: Antipoltiics in Central European Art 1956-1989. Reticence as Dissidence under Post-Totalitarian Rule

—London: IB Tauris, 2014.

Art historians have tended to frame late socialist central European art as either ‘totalitarian’ or ‘transitional’. This bold new book challenges this established viewpoint, contending that the artists of this era cannot be simply caricatured as dissident heroes, or easily subsumed into the formalist Western canon. Klara Kemp-Welch offers a compelling account of the ways in which artists in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary embraced alternative forms of action-based practice just as their dissident counterparts were formulating alternative models of politics – in particular, an ‘antipolitics’ of self-organization by society.


Drawing on Václav Havel’s claim that ‘even a word is capable of a certain radiation, of leaving a mark on the “hidden consciousness of a community”’, the author argues that all independent artistic initiatives in themselves served as a vehicle for opposition, playing a part in the rebirth of civil society in the region. In doing so, she makes a case for the moral and political coherence of Central European art, theory and oppositional activism in the late-socialist period and for the region’s centrality to late-twentieth century intellectual and cultural history.


This richly illustrated study reveals the struggle of Central European artists to enjoy freedom of expression and to reclaim public space, from within a political situation where both seemed impossible.


‘Klara Kemp-Welch’s book is illuminating and thoroughly written.’ – Dr. Victor Tupitsyn, Emeritus Professor, Pace University, Westchester, New York


‘This is a remarkable art history, concisely developed and engagingly analyzed.’ – TJ Demos, Reader in Modern and Contemporary Art, University College London, University of London (UK).

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