Reassessing Modernism (AT)

For centuries, Europeans have celebrated the fine arts as being among our key cultural assets. In the broadest sense, art that is regarded as historically relevant is that produced either in Europe or on other continents whose cultures are both proximate and familiar, an example being the US. This canon is observable in all of the collections of the great European museums.

Both the development and the historiography of art are temporarily conditioned, and each is an aspect of contemporary culture. Yet today, in an open, globalized society, questions concerning the relevance of specific artists or artistic tendencies are posed in fundamentally different ways than in previous decades, and we are forced to concede that to date, our perspective, with its Western orientation, has been extremely one-dimensional. Museum directors, curators, and art historians have begun to think differently. A vast reassessment has now been initiated: perspectives are being interrogated, blind spots illuminated, as we address our ignorance of non-European cultural production: the artistic canon is being re-examined now with an eye toward the art of Africa, the near East, South America, and Asia.

Doris Krystof – a curator working in Düsseldorf – refers in particular to the "foreign moderns." "We know very little about them. Our Eurocentric point of view has always been very self-confident, very strong."
Stéphane Martin, Director of the Museé de Quai Branly in Paris, knows exactly what needs to be done: "It's high time we recognized that in particular the modernist artists had recourse to completely different, foreign cultural assets. Without the influence of Africa, for example, many European pictures could never have been created. Expeditions to Africa and journeys to colonial lands led to cultural transfer on a far greater scale than we have hitherto realized."

This film is a journey of discovery that provides a very different consideration of modernist art history. Biographies of Indians, Africans, and Egyptians familiarize viewers with people who were animated by the very same ideas that moved the members of Die Brücke in Germany or the European Surrealists. Through old photographs, film footage, and works of art, these artists come to life. Viewers will acquire a vivid impression of artistic activity taking place at other locations around the world when the modernist were working in Europe.

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