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Distributed for Reaktion Books

In the Shadow of Yalta

Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989

Distributed for Reaktion Books

In the Shadow of Yalta

Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989

In this comprehensive study of the artistic culture of the region between the Iron Curtain and the former Soviet Union, Piotr Piotrowski chronicles the relationship between avant-garde art production and post–World War II politics in such Iron Curtain nations as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia. Featuring more than two hundred images, most by artists largely unfamiliar to an English-speaking audience, In the Shadow of Yalta is a fascinating portrait of the inspiring art made in a region—and at a time—of critical importance in modern Europe.

498 pages | 223 halftones | 6 1/2 x 9 1/2

Art: European Art

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"This landmark study of postwar art in East-Central Europe by the late art historian Piotrowski, originally published in Polish in 2005, offers a nuanced, comparative overview of experimental art practices in Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and East Germany under state socialism, accounting for regional commonalities without flattening the distinct social and political circumstances of each country."


"Piotrowski's achievement is to disinter the histories of various forms of modernism, post-modernism, and the neo-avant-garde that flourished in Eastern Europe; to disentangle the fruitful misunderstandings on which some of them were based; and to explain the originality that lay behind many of the apparent inconsistencies. . . . Piotrowski writes clearly and readably, even in translation, and his groundbreaking study is augmented with numerous illustrations."

Burlington Magazine (UK)

"Piotrowski’s book is a truly ground breaking publication, both in its scope and in its critical approach, in its engagement with theory and with artistic practice as well as with the wider geopolitical framework of the Cold War. It provides plenty of illuminating insights into the pages of post-1945 avant-gardes and their discourses. . . . Piotrowski contextualizes the shifting kaleidoscope of artworlds in the Other Europe within a wider realm of debates at the heart of contemporary art criticism. Remarkably, the book is not addressed solely to the ‘ignorant’ Western audience, but equally so to the contemporary Eastern European reader, whose knowledge about the art of other ‘brotherly countries’ is also likely to be minimal."

Reviews in History

"Telling a comprehensive narrative of the visual arts in post-World War II Eastern Europe is an enormous challenge that makes Piotrowski's undertaking nothing short of heroic. . . . Piotrowski's book is a major contribution to scholarship on Eastern Europe and is a treasure trove of facts, organized and sorted out in a way that has not been done before. It is a groundbreaking work that many later publications will build on."

Eva Forgacs | Art Margins

“A significant book that builds on a focal theme of Piotrowski’s previous publications—the perceived need to ‘map’ art practices from the Soviet and post-Soviet eras in relation to both Western and specifically local historical and cultural contexts. . . . An important source in this topic area."


Slavic Review

"Analysis of artworks quickly turns into discussion of major issues that will be of value to historians interested in the role of culture in the maintenance of power. What, for instance, is the value of critical practice when it is tolerated and even sponsored by the power structures which it sets out to critique? And what has been the fate of utopian thinking amongst Eastern European intellectuals?"

Journal of European Studies

"Piotrowski demonstrates persuasively that the visual art of Central and Eastern Europe must now become part of the mainstream, global canon of twentieth-century art, even as he vigorously questions whether such a canon can any longer have real meaning. This is the fascinating and problematic crux of Piotrowski's entire volume, and confronting the author's contemplation of such paradoxes is one of the true pleasures of reading In the Shadow of Yalta."

Slavonic and Eastern European Review

Table of Contents

1. The Geography and History of Art in Eastern Europe

Part I: Behind the Iron Curtain Before 1948

2. The Surrealist Interregnum, 1945-8

Part 2: Modernism and Totalitarianism

3. The ‘Thaw’ of Art Informel

4. Myths of Geometry

5. Un-Socialist Realism

6. The Critique of Painting: Towards the Neo-avant-garde

Part 3: The Neo-avant-garde and ‘Real Socialism’ in the 1970s

7. Mapping the Neo-avant-garde, c. 1970

8. Conceptual Art between Theory of Art and Critique of the System

9. The Politics of Identity: Male and Female Body Art

Epilogue: The Spectres Haunting Europe in the 1980s

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