First World War and Avant-Garde Art: Deconstructure - Constructure
Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
26. June 2014 - 28. September 2014


Curators: Branko Franceschi, Ana-Maria Milčić

The exhibition „World War I and Avant-garde Art: Deconstruction - Construction“ and the international conference of the same name are held regarding the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I and it is the countries central event of reconstructing this major historical event.

Institute for the Research of the Avant-Garde, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the  Marinko Sudac Collection organized the exhibition „ World War I and Avant-garde Art: Deconstruction – Construction“. 

Under the auspices of the Croatian Ministry of Culture.

In recent years, like all projects organised by the Institute for Researching the Avant-garde and the Marinko Sudac Collection, the international conference and its accompanying exhibition World War I and Avant-garde Art: Deconstruction - Construction, are a part of, and a step forward in achieving a complex strategy of bringing to the forefront the key roles that historic Avant-garde movements had, and still have, in the construction of society, civilisation and culture which represent our immediate and everyday existential surroundings.  Though its virtual counterpart has been innovatively, and with much global success, achieving these goals since 2009, the long-term goal and ideal method of this strategy will be realized through establishing and constructing the Museum of Avant-garde as a platform for the dissemination of information regarding the historic Avant-garde in a physical space.

Artistic Avant-garde ideas originated in the heated social-political reconstruction of Europe at the start of the 20th century, and its manifesto was announced to the public in the time before and during the First World War, hence the 100th anniversary of its beginnings is used by the conference and exhibition as a platform for the historic context within which to introduce artistic projects and practices which had paved the way for a radical break from the traditional understanding of the significance and role of art in society during its activities from 1909 to 1938.  Therefore, the blueprint for exhibiting the chronological timeline in the exhibition space merges historical facts with works of art and textual information regarding artistic movements and manifestations.  Within the wider spectrum of the exhibition, significant individual historical episodes are discussed profusely and in greater detail.

Filippo T. Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto, published in the Parisian daily Le Figaro on February 20, 1909, is viewed as the dawn of the Avant-garde.  The manifesto outlined the main principles of the movement, including passionate contempt of ideas from the past, especially political and artistic traditions, and instead imploring for aesthetics based on love for speed, technology and fervour.  Cars, planes, and industrial cities were all fitting artistic themes for futurists, representing man's technological triumphs over nature.  The deconstruction of reality and its total reconstruction programmed to fit the standards of the modern age, would become the guiding principle of all Avant-garde movements.  The ultimate task of artistic practice was the abandonment of the ivory towers of clean aesthetic spheres and actively, even assertively, shaping social reality.  Although at the level of their political engagement avant-gardists displayed conflicting stances (futurists developed a complex relationship with fascism, while the Russian Avant-garde established the largest possible curricular identity with the October Revolution only to be brutally rejected by it), the innovations that they introduced into the realm of art determined the visual culture within which we live today and continue, a full century later, to inspire generations of artists.  The Avant-garde urge to reconstruct the universe resulted in multidisciplinary art that unified picture, word, movement and live performance into a total art-spectacle, at the centre of which is the observer.  Avant-gardists did not hesitate to bring together elite and popular art, and their systematic encroachment upon all segments of life resulted in innovative design and architecture.  Using manifestos, books and publications as the most powerful means of self-promotion and propaganda, they developed modern forms of visual communication and composition and influenced marketing strategies.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb was chosen as the ideal institutional context within which to present the first decade of the Avant-garde opus as it promotes aesthetics and the guardianship of historical phenomena of this precise artistic practice, without which an institution of this kind would be unimaginable and unprecedented.  Hence, this exhibit of materials and discussions takes us back to the foundations upon which the museum's holdings originated and upon which its wider social mission is developing.   

Branko Franceschi

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