The Czechoslovak Republic came into being in 1918 as a new democratic state in Europe. In the general spirit of optimism that spread in the following years, artists from almost all fields developed visionary ideas that they were also able to realise due to the rapid economic upswing. With the exhibition “Hej rup! The Czech Avant-Garde” from 12 October to 3 March 2024, Berlin’s Bröhan Museum says it is dedicated to “the diverse voices of the Czech avant-garde movement that turned the republic into a melting pot of European ideas between 1918 and 1938”. The cry “Hej rup!” (Let’s go!) stands programmatically for the drive that characterised the new state in this period and gave many people – from workers to poets – the feeling that a new era had dawned.
In Prague and Brunn, but also in Zlin in Eastern Moravia, top achievements of an independent avant-garde emerged, which combined literature, design, architecture, theatre, photography, film and music. Art was particularly influenced by France, by cubism and surrealism; architecture and design looked towards German modernism. The writer, graphic designer, artist and theoretician Karel Teige, who played the role of a mediator, coined the term “poetism” for the Czech avant-garde. With the Munich Agreement of 1938 and the subsequent break-up of Czechoslovakia, this cultural heyday ended abruptly. Not only those who had loudly criticised National Socialist policies were persecuted and murdered.
Curated by Dr Tobias Hoffmann and Julia Meyer-Brehm, the exhibition aims to provide an overview of the most important currents of the Czech avant-garde. Starting with Cubism and Surrealism and moving on to architecture, furniture design and photography, over 300 paintings, graphics, collages, sculptures and photographs will provide a vivid picture of the history of Czech art and design in those years and paint a picture of the Czech contribution to European modernism.
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