“Group Dynamics—Collectives of the Modernist Period” at Lenbachhaus, Munich


Beijing, Buenos Aires, Bombay (today’s Mumbai), Casablanca, Khartoum, Kyoto, Lahore, Łódź, Nsukka, São Paulo, Tokyo: in the twentieth century, artists all over the world banded together in collectives. The tendency of like-minded individuals to work in groups and support each other is universal; yet the concerns pursued by these groups, their aesthetic methods, political objectives, and utopian visions, express themselves in widely diverse ways depending on the time and place. The exhibition “Group Dynamics—Collectives of the Modernist Period” examines selected examples to shed a light on the emergence and evolution of collectives and their engagement with the societies and cultures around them. The period under consideration in the presentation—from around 1910 to the 1980s—spans international modernization movements and anticolonial struggles for independence. 

Groups are propelled by steadfast loyalties and irreconcilable ruptures. Their dynamic is unpredictable: collaboration, discussion, conviviality, rivalry, friendship, open-mindedness, inclusion, dissociation, weariness, controversy, love, polemics, and enthusiasm are characteristic features of the lives of groups. They provide us with one possible model for an understanding of art that is not grounded in the individual: art does not come into being in a vacuum, it grows out of exchanges of ideas and social interactions. 

At the dawn of the twentieth century, many people enjoyed unprecedented mobility: artists struck up relationships with colleagues beyond the bounds of their cities and countries, groups sharpened their programs in solidarity with international developments—and, often, in opposition to traditional art academies and adversaries in their immediate vicinity. The founding of new art schools and collectives, the publication of programmatic writings or magazines were concomitants, but also engines of this phenomenon. 

The modern era brought sustained changes of social structure: the world took on a more cosmopolitical cast, while class distinctions became entrenched. The modernist period marks a late culmination of European colonial rule, but also its demise in the form of struggles for liberation in many colonized parts of the world. In art and culture, the concept of modernism encompasses antithetical yet reinforcing tendencies such as the belief in progress and esotericism, a fetishistic embrace of technology and nature cults. Many artists and groups framed their own modernity as a radical program, a newfound resolve also reflected in numerous manifestos. The manifold resonances between the artists and works gathered in the exhibition yield a panoramic portrayal of dynamic synergy and antagonism, a complex international world in which art serves as a compass and a cause that sparks lively and boisterous exchanges of ideas.

Collectives represented in the exhibition: Action, Tokyo; Artistas del Pueblo, Buenos Aires; Bombay Progressive Artists‘ Group, Bombay (today‘s Mumbai); Casablanca School, Casablanca; Crystalists, Khartoum; Grupa “a.r.”, Łódź; Grupo dos Cinco, São Paulo; Khartoum School, Khartoum; Kokuga Sosaku Kyokai, Kyoto; Lahore Art Circle, Lahore; Martín Fierro, Buenos Aires; Mavo, Tokyo; Nsukka School, Nsukka; Wuming Huahui / No Name Group, Beijing.

Curatored by Karin Althaus, Susanne Böller, Sarah Louisa Henn, Dierk Höhne, Eva Huttenlauch, Matthias Mühling, Tanja Schomaker, Stephanie Weber.

At Lenbachhaus, Munich
until June 12, 2022


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