Jonathan jones, Art and the DDR

Jonathan jones, Art and the DDR

Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete

September 18th, 2008, 9:57 pm #1

Today's Guardian revamps some of the crudist cold war stereotypes concerning art in the socialist countries during from the 1950s and beyond.
"American Art came of age during the cold war. How did the East respond? With paintings of tractors" says Jonathan Jones.
Failing to compare like with like, and implying that artists in the DDR were unable to produce paintings, he states
German Artists flocked from East to West Germany; the abundant creativity of West German Art in the 1970s and 90's left the friezes you can still see on tower blocks in the former GDR looking quaint".
All this is belied by the astounding exhibition organised by the Museum of Modern Art Oxford and the Ministry of culture of the GDR in 1984 (the catalogue was entitled Tradition and Renewal; Contemporary Art in the GDR).
Artists represented were:
Gudrun Brune
Carl Friedrich Claus
Hartwig Ebersbach
Hubertus Giebe
Sighard Gille
Bernhard Heisig
Gerard Kettner
Walter Libuda
Wolfgang Petrovsky
Jurgen Scieferdecker
Willi Sitte
Volker Stelzmann
Dagmar Stoev
Werner Tubke
Frank Voigt
The catalogue points out:
"Careful observation from life is the basis of all art training in the GDR but often serves as a starting point for further developments, and there is no embarrassment about the artist taking on a social role or confronting broad existential issues".
jonathan jones is quite clearly an ignoramus about socialist art and he would do well to seek out a copy of this catalogue as would others with more affinity for art that is humanistic in its sensibility.
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Guy Burgess
Guy Burgess

September 20th, 2008, 9:51 am #2

This is quite a deep question and these are just initial thoughts.

It seems to me that Jones is singing an old refrain which was written in the Cold War by the CIA to paint the West as a haven for freedom of expression and avant-gard thinking. It was aimed at the intelligentsia to foster anti-communism in the east and keep those in the art milieu in the West on side.

In those days little was known here about the art movements in the socialist states as there were no cultural agreements with the West and few if any touring exhibitions. But as Cube points out several tours, including the one mentioned, helped redress the balance.

Even in the hey-day of "social realism" Zhdanov distinguished between the "formalism" of abstract art which was empty, meaningless and anti-people and modern art which had a political content like that of Picasso and a number of other communist and progressive artists in western Europe.

True Jones takes these points on board including the role of the CIA even obliquely conceding that some of the art he admires was part of the Cold War struggle but he doesn't take it to its logical conclusion -- that the modern art he admires withers when the Cold War ended because the secret subsidies ran out.

Nor does he go beyond the very narrow confines of painting in his brief commentary. If we were to look at construction as an expression of Western art during the Cold War we could come up with some very good examples of the dreadful housing estates erected in the 50s and 60s which weren't a patch on their equivelents in the socialist world.

I suppose the real question is what is "art" for and whom does it serve? Is it simply art for arts sake or is it there to serve the people who one way or another subsidise it.

I've only just read the Jones piece and I've linked it below to take the discussion forward:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/ ... rt.coldwar


Guy Burgess
Eton & Cambridge

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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

September 20th, 2008, 7:19 pm #3


To take the argument further it's clear that Jones ignores the overall flourishing of all the arts in the Soviet Union during the leadership of Lenin and Stalin. We haven't looked at classical music in any great detail in previous discussions and I am no expert but it seems to me that Soviet composers were at the helm during this period.

Here's a link to an extract from Prokofiev's composition for Stalin's 60th birthday in 1939. I think it's a good example:


http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=peLk6EEOlrU


pip,pip,


H A R Philby
(Col.ret'd)
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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

September 20th, 2008, 8:56 pm #4


This short piece gives some idea behind the rationale of the CIA's investment in modern art:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/cummings3.html
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Kim Philby
Kim Philby

September 20th, 2008, 8:58 pm #5


Here's another more detailed expose:

http://www.countercurrents.org/rajiva200107.htm
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A. Non
A. Non

September 22nd, 2008, 12:28 am #6

Why not have an expose of your crap so-called leadership of the NCP?
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Ordinary Proletarian
Ordinary Proletarian

September 23rd, 2008, 12:45 pm #7

This short piece gives some idea behind the rationale of the CIA's investment in modern art:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/cummings3.html
Interesting to see that the CIA was involved in so called 'modern art'.I have
always thought of it as completey decadent and degenerate.
Give me the superior Juche art of the DPRK any day
http://pyongyangartstudio.com/socialist ... index.html
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