The “New East” in Central Eastern European Art

On the heels of a long period of isolation, alongside the trials and tribulations caused by the restoration of independence, in the late 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century Central Eastern European art rapidly ran the gamut of tensions and upheavals characteristic of the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde art on the other side of the Iron Curtain. This was a reaction to political events brought about by the sudden acceleration of history, and it disrupted the demise that had seemed almost inevitable by that point. In recent years, the West has become increasingly more interested in Central and Eastern Europe, whether with regard to its culture or politics. The West no longer looks at this region only through the condescending prism of communism: it has discovered the area’s richness and diversity. However, at times, this leads to subsequent orientalization, when Eastern Europeans are seen as the disadvantaged, exotic Others who do not measure up to Western democratic standards. Because of the financial and political crises, this image is becoming more nuanced, but the perception of Eastern art is still riddled with many stereotypes.

This panel discussion at the Orient exhibition opens up an opportunity to reflect on whether Central Eastern European culture and art can be autonomous in the current political context.