The review of the recently published book Central and Eastern European Art Since 1950 by Maja and Reuben Fowkes by Czech art historian and critic Marianna Placáková.
How to write about the art history of Central and Eastern Europe? In her review of the recently published book Central and Eastern European Art Since 1950 by Maja and Reuben Fowkes, Marianna Placáková wonders who will be given credit for the knowledge and findings from research conducted by researchers from our region. Is it possible that a certain inequality persists between the former West and the former East?
Placáková’s review considers mainly the book itself and the policies of the publishing house (Thames&Hudson), therefore she doesn’t comment the complex activities of Maja and Reuben Fowkes in Eastern Europe. This fact caused a critical debate and Fowkeses decided to write a reply explaining their position. The reply is published below the review.
Which actions are actually decolonizing?
Being a little late to the party, it was only last week that I first opened the year-old book Central and Eastern European Art Since 1950 by Maja and Reuben Fowkes, and consequently started wondering how scholars write about the art history of this region and what is the role of local art historians in this process.
The book focuses on Central and Eastern European art since the 1950s up until today. Its contents are ordered by decades. It has 230 pages with no footnotes or endnotes, there is only a selection of mostly English literature related to the topic of the book and an extensive appendix with pictures. The text itself consists of lists of more or less known authors, galleries, dates, and places. It outlines the development from post-war works influenced by new cultural policy, through the abstraction and the pop-art of the 60s to the action art of the 70s and goes even further covering the post-1989 situation reacting to the rising neoliberalism. It is actually a very long, easy-to-understand explanatory dictionary entry. After all, similar encyclopedic publications are no exception in art history. So where lies the problem of this book? Maybe it could provide an overview to those readers who are not quite familiar with the Eastern European context?