Book event: Objects in Exile: Modernism across Borders, 1930-1960

Please join us for a discussion between Kathleen James-Chakraborty (University College Dublin), Ines Weizman (School of Architecture, Royal College of Art) and Robin Schuldenfrei, the author of Objects in Exile: Modernism across Borders, 1930-1960(Princeton University Press), on the occasion of the book’s launch.

Objects in Exile is an essential examination of how emigration and resettlement defined modernism. In the fraught years leading up to World War II, many modern artists and architects emigrated from continental Europe to the United States and Britain. The experience of exile infused their modernist ideas with new urgency and forced them to use certain materials in place of others, modify existing works, and reconsider their approach to design itself. In Objects in Exile, Robin Schuldenfrei reveals how the process of migration was crucial to the development of modernism, charting how modern art and architecture was shaped by the need to constantly face—and transcend—the materiality of things.

Taking readers from the prewar era to the 1960s, Schuldenfrei explores the objects these émigrés brought with them, what they left behind, and the new works they completed in exile. She argues that modernism could only coalesce with the abandonment of national borders in a process of emigration and resettlement, and brings to life the vibrant postwar period when avant-garde ideas came together and emerged as mainstream modernism. Examining works by Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, Lucia Moholy, Herbert Bayer, Anni and Josef Albers, and others, Schuldenfrei demonstrates the social impact of art objects produced in exile.

Shedding critical light on how the pressures of dislocation irrevocably altered the course of modernism, Objects in Exile shows how artists and designers, forced into exile by circumstances beyond their control, changed in unexpected ways to meet the needs and contexts of an uncertain world.

Kathleen James-Chakraborty is Professor of Art History at University College Dublin, where she leads the European Research Council-funded project Expanding Agency: Women, Race, and the Global Dissemination of Modern Architecture.  Her books include Modernism as Memory: Building the Federal Republic of Germany (Minnesota, 2018) and Bauhaus Effects in Art, Architecture, and Design (Routledge, 2022), co-edited with Sabine Kriebel.  She is the 2018 recipient of the Royal Irish Academy’s Gold Medal in the Humanities.

Ines Weizman is the Head of PhD Programme at the School of Architecture, Royal College of Art in London. Since 2022 she is also Professor of Architectural Theory and Design at the Academy of Fine Arts, Institute for Art and Architecture in Vienna. She is the founding director of the Centre for Documentary Architecture (CDA), an interdisciplinary research collective of architectural historians, filmmakers, and digital technologists. Among her most recent publications are Dust&Data: Traces of the Bauhaus across 100 Years (2019), Documentary Architecture/ Dissidence through Architecture (2020) and 100+: Neue Perspektiven auf die Bauhaus-Rezeption (2021).

Dr. Robin Schuldenfrei is the Tangen Reader in 20th Century Modernism at The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. She specializes in modern architectural history with a focus on materiality and the object. Her latest book is Objects in Exile: Modernism across Borders, 1930-1960 (2023). Previous publications include Luxury and Modernism: Architecture and the Object in Germany 1900-1933 (2018) as well as numerous articles, essays and four edited volumes, among them: Iteration: Episodes in the Mediation of Art and Architecture and Atomic Dwelling: Anxiety, Domesticity, and Postwar Architecture. She is currently working on a book about the material politics of global objects.

This event is supported by the Centre for American Art 

This event has passed.

1 Mar 2024

17:30 - 19:00

Free, booking essential

Vernon Square Campus, Lecture Theatre 2

This event takes place at our Vernon Square campus (WC1X 9EW).


Cover, Objects in Exile
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