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Lecture programme associated to The Modern Idol exhibition

Czech Centre

Lecture programme associated to the exhibition:
The Modern Idol. Henry Moore in the Eastern Bloc

Friday, 15 October 2021, 16:00-18:00
Czech Centre Bucharest (11 Ion Ghica St.)

access based on green certificate, in the limit of 20 participants
event in English, Zoom live on www.facebook.com/InstitutulPrezentului

The Institute of the Present announces a lecture series in connection with the exhibition “The Modern Idol. Henry Moore in the Eastern Bloc” open at the National Museum of Art of Romania between 14 October 2021–6 February 2022. Conceived in a documentary format, the exhibition proposes a contextualisation of the Henry Moore exhibition taken on tour to Bucharest, Bratislava, Prague and Budapest in 1966–67. The exhibition is a collective research project, being initiated by art historians Alina Șerban (Bucharest), Daniel Véri (Budapest) and Lujza Kotočová (Prague) and contains a series of interviews with witnesses of the exhibition in Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Considered, at the time, the largest international retrospective of the artist, the exhibition, organised by the British Council in cooperation with local authorities IN Romania, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, the exhibition featured works—sculptures and drawings—spanning over five decades, from 1924 until 1964. The research featured in the exhibition explores the stories of these shows in the three countries.

The lecture programme on October 15 is moderated by art historian Alina Șerban, featuring three presentations of up to 30 minutes, followed by Q&As. The programme is supported by the Czech Centre Bucharest, Polish Institute Bucharest and Liszt Institute—Hungarian Cultural Centre Bucharest.

Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius. Henry Moore as a Modernist Warrior: the Case of Poland
Henry More’s works were first shown in Poland in the Tate Gallery exhibition of British art that took place in 1946 at the National Museum in Warsaw and, subsequently, in the artist’s grand retrospective staged by the British Council, which travelled to several Polish cities in 1959/60. This paper focuses on the dramatic shifts in reception of Moore’s art in Polish art criticism and the media in the aftermath of WWII. While the militant Stalinist discourse in Poland of the early 1950s vilified him as a representative of reactionary bourgeois ideology, a no less belligerent post-Stalinist art criticism worshipped Moore as a modernist warrior, instrumental in ousting socialist realism. The paper will also reflect on the part played by Moore as a judge of the Auschwitz Memorial Competition in 1958.

Dr Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius teaches art history at Birkbeck College, University of London. She was Curator and Deputy Director of The National Museum in Warsaw. Her publications include: “Kantor was Here: Tadeusz Kantor in Great Britain” (Black Dog 2011, with Natalia Zarzecka), “From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum” (Ashgate 2015, with Piotr Piotrowski); “Imaging and Mapping Eastern Europe: Sarmatia Europea to the Communist Bloc” (Routledge 2021).

Lujza Kotočová. Diplomatic Processes and Exhibition Policies: The Public Presentation of Henry Moore’s Works in Czechoslovakia, 1966
Although the cultural transformations of the vibrant 1960s in Czechoslovakia have been well documented, the subtle influence of the strategic contacts between various local agencies and their British counterparts has been often omitted. To provide a better understanding of how art and its export were used as tools of power and diplomacy within the context of the Cold War, the lecture will focus on the touring exhibition of Henry Moore which was hosted by national galleries in Prague and Bratislava in 1966. In order to analyse critical responses not only to the exhibits, but also to the manner and circumstances in which they were displayed, it will look at the development of British-Czechoslovak cultural diplomacy after 1959 and explore how different political and institutional efforts shaped the general tone of the event. Finally, by drawing on a range of predominantly unprocessed archival sources and contemporary press, the lecture will highlight some rarely discussed aspects of Czechoslovak exhibition policies where more research is necessary in a much wider context.

Lujza Kotočová, MA, is an art historian based in Prague, Czech Republic. Her main areas of interest include intellectual influences on artistic production in the period of socialism, institutional frameworks of art criticism and the issue of documentation of ephemeral art. She is currently participating in the activities of the Academic Research Centre of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and also working in the National Film Archive within the video art section.

Daniel Véri. Close Encounters. Henry Moore in Hungary
When Henry Moore’s works suddenly appeared in an exhibition organised in Budapest in 1961, the experience of the local audience must have been almost as surreal as encountering an alien from a distant galaxy.

Even though the exhibition—which comprised a few small, bronze sculptures and Moore’s photographs of his own works—was much less spectacular than the UFOs in Spielberg’s film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the modern figuration, as well as the scale and natural setting of the works opened up brand new sculptural possibilities, unimaginable at the time given the recent experience of Socialist Realism.

The show was only the second occasion, following the Stalinist era and the defeat of the 1956 Revolution on which modern art from the West reached the Hungarian audience; the first being the 1959 French book exhibition, which presented merely art books—most of which were stolen by the visitors—along with framed reproductions.

In contrast to the 1961 exhibition, the one in 1967 – a belated addition to Moore’s 1966 tour in the region—showcased a substantial number of works in a major exhibition hall. Nevertheless, the organisation of both shows was accompanied by the suspicion and reluctance of the Hungarian authorities.

This lecture provides an insight into cold war cultural diplomacy, the intent and manoeuvres of the British Council and the Hungarian authorities, as well as the widespread reception of Moore’s oeuvre—not only in sculpture and the fine arts in general but also in film and even poetry.

Daniel Véri, PhD, is art and cultural historian, researcher at the Museum of Fine Arts—Central European Research Institute for Art History (KEMKI, Budapest), and member of the “Confrontations: Sessions in East European Art History” research group (UCL, 2019–2021). His research interests include Central European art from the 1945–89 period, especially cultural diplomacy, the artistic reception of Jewish identity and the Holocaust, as well as the cultural history of blood libels. Co-author of “The Great Book Theft. French Book Exhibition Behind the Iron Curtain” (2020, with Mária Árvai).


The exhibition “The Modern Idol. Henry Moore in the Eastern Bloc” is produced by the Institute of the Present in collaboration with the National Museum of Art of Romania and will be open between 14 October 2021–6 February 2022 in the Kretzulescu wing of MNAR (Calea Victoriei 49–53, access from corner with Valter Mărăcineanu). General opening hours: Wednesday–Sunday, 10:00–18:00, last entry at 17:30.

The Institute of the Present is a research and an artist resource platform in the field of visual and performing culture conceived by Ștefania Ferchedău and Alina Șerban. Centred on artists and their personal accounts, on time-specific encounters and forms of (self) archiving, the Institute looks at various practices and situations from the recent past until today from a transnational and transcultural perspective.


Funders: Cultural programme co-funded by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund; Project supported by the Romanian Order of Architects from the architectural stamp
Partners: Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Museum of Art – Central European Research Institute for Art History (KEMKI)
Supported by: Czech Centre Bucharest, Polish Institute Bucharest, Liszt Institute – Hungarian Cultural Centre Bucharest
Logistic partners: Policolor, Ytong

Visual identity
: Andrei Turenici (Daniel & Andrew Studio)

The project does not necessarily represent the standpoint of the Administration of the National Cultural Fund. AFCN cannot be held liable for the content of the project or the manner in which the outcomes of the project may be used. These shall devolve entirely on the beneficiary of the financing.

Contact: ip@institutulprezentului.ro

Image from the opening of the “Henry Moore” exhibition, Budapest, Műcsarnok, 1967. Courtesy of Fortepan, photographer Sándor Bojár
Institutul Prezentului