The Europe that was Lost – Thoughts on Central and Eastern European Modernism
The late Konstantin Kalinowski, professor of art history at the University in Poznań, Poland, once told me that the last decent coffee house was to be found in the city named Lviv, Lvov, or Lemberg in Ukraine, in the former province of Gali- cia of the Habsburg empire. He was, of course, thinking of the typical Viennese nineteenth century version of the coffee house with overstuffed chairs, waiters in white and black, and coffee specialities like the Einspänner and the Melange. In this way, professor Kalinowski made use of the world-view of the Western Euro- pean. As always, the perspective can be reversed. Turks were present in Lviv in the 17th century, both as peaceful merchants and as besiegers. Coffee-drinking in Lviv may well have pre-dated the Viennese coffee houses (as is the case with earlier coffee houses in London or Bremen). Culture finds its ways. In the present volume, Tom Sandqvist has made use of a radical turn of per- spective, as he scrutinizes the cultural climate of Eastern Europe at the begin- ning of the 20th century. He actively searches for alternative roots for typical ingredients of supposedly international (more often as not, equal to Western) Modernism in the urban centres of Eastern Europe, in Prague, Vilnius, Budapest, Zagreb, Belgrade etc. In the course of this pursuit, dada, the cult of the machine, free-form typography, cubism, black-and-white suprematism, seem to loose the international traits. Instead, the author finds, on the one hand, proof of strong local nationalism,...
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