Brno, city of the avant-garde? - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Brno, city of the avant-garde?

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Brno, city of the avant-garde?

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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Vladimir Karfík – Baťa Department Store, Brno (1931)

  • Friday 26 February 2016
    PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
    6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

    Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN


  • Matthew Rampley - University of Birmingham

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  • Klara Kemp-Welch - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Thanks to Simon Mawer’s novels Mendel’s Dwarf (1997) and The Glass Room (2009) the Czech city of Brno has enjoyed considerable public attention. Best known as the location of Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat Villa (1929-30), Brno became a pre-eminent site of modernist architecture in interwar Czechoslovakia, and symbolised the identity of the new independent state as a democratic and progressive entity. Yet until 1918 Brno was largely a satellite of Vienna. Only some 80 miles north of the Habsburg capital, it had strong social, cultural and artistic ties to its metropolitan neighbour, including its very own Ringstrasse designed by the Viennese architect Heinrich von Ferstel. It also had a substantial German-speaking population with limited loyalty to the new Czechoslovak state. This lecture thus explores the emergence of Brno as a centre of modernist architecture in the light of the conflicting political and social currents of the early 20th century; examines Brno’s role as an emblem of the shaping of visual culture after the redrawing of the political map of central Europe in 1918, considering the political stakes involves.

Matthew Rampley is chair of art history in Birmingham. Recent books include: The Vienna School of Art History: Empire and the Politics of Scholarship, 1847-1918 (2013) and (ed.) Heritage, Ideology and Identity in Central and Eastern Europe: Contested Pasts, Contested Presents (2012). He is currently leading a Leverhulme Trust-funded research project on museums of art and design in Austria-Hungary.

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