Czech Cubism in the Marketplace of Symbolic Goods (summary)

Jindřich Vybiral (PDF)

So-called Czech Cubism is one of the most attractive topics in the historiography of Central  European architecture, but few scholars have asked themselves what is truly Cubist in Czech ‘Cubist’ architecture. Although the ideological basis of this phenomenon lies in German, psychologically oriented art theory, the wider professional community perceives it as a response to concurrent events in French art. This paper analyses the notion of Czech architectural ‘Cubism’, shows its genesis, and explains the function of this label. The term ‘Cubism’ began to be used in Czech critical discourse as a classification concept for architectural works only after the form of modernity advocated by Emil Filla and Vincenc Kramář became canonical in the competitive struggle for a monopoly on artistic recognition. The term ‘Cubism’ expressed the orientation of Czech modernism towards Paris, which in Filla’s and Kramář’s conception represented the only legitimate centre of development. The chosen label neutralised the controversial, anti-rationalist, or even anti-modernist aspects of the Pavel Janák group’s programme, as well as its origins in German theory. The autonomous and original artistic phenomenon that emerged from rich transcultural encounters and interchanges was thus subordinated to the model of vertical art history and degraded to a product of diffusion – i.e., the reception of French art.

Keywords: Modern  architecture,  Cubism,  Expressionism, German art theory, circulation, interchange, classification concepts