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24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969-1971
DATUM 07. Nov. 2019 - 02. Feb. 2020 Ort The National Museum of Art of Romania, National Gallery & Institute of the Present

24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969-1971, installation view, National Museum of Art of Romania & Institute of the Present, 2019/20

Horia Bernea, Ion Bitzan, Liviu Ciulei, Radu Dragomirescu, Șerban Epure, Pavel Ilie, Ritzi Jacobi, Peter Jacobi, Ovidiu Maitec, Paul Neagu, Miriam Răducanu, Diet Sayler, Radu Stoica, Vladimir Șetran, Grupul Sigma


The Institute of the Present and the National Museum of Art of Romania open the exhibition 24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971. This is the first event of a cycle conceived by the Institute of the Present and dedicated to the visual and performing arts of the 1960s and 1970s in Romania. Proposing a new working format, that of the exhibition-file, 24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971 emerged from a research conducted in the Demarco archives from Edinburghm which reveals, in hindsight, the presence in the local field of art of a series of forgotten narratives, some fragmented, other impossible to reassemble in their original temporal flow. Such narratives have, however, the capacity to evoke the existence of certain discontinuities in the apparently homogenous structure of the cultural landscape of the time, of certain trans-national contact areas not only with the West, but also with other Socialist worlds.

Starting from the interest manifested by the Scottish promoter Richard Demarco in establishing a dialogue with the artistic milieus of Eastern Europe, initiated with the opening in October 1967, at the Demarco Gallery, of the first exhibition dedicated to art from the region, 16 Polish Painters and, particularly, with Romania, on his first visit from September 1968, the exhibition centres upon a moment in time when history seemed to change its course and which, unexpectedly, locates, at regional and international level, the experiences of Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde at the late 1960s and the early 1970s. The benchmarks are provided by the 1969 exhibition 4 Romanian Artists (Ion Bitzan, Ritzi Jacobi, Peter Jacobi, Paul Neagu), which travelled from Bauzentrum Hamburg to the Demarco Gallery, and by the 1971 exhibition Romanian Art Today, presented as part of the Edinburgh International Festival, designed in association with events that featured the most recent tendecies in Romanian theatre, poetry and dance.

The brief, but intense, history of the encounters between the Romanian art and the Richard Demarco Gallery projects, in a wider analysis of the local artistic phenomenon, mirrors a number of pursuits, interests and possibilities occurring at the institutional level due to the shifts in Romania’s foreign affairs policy of the time, which inevitably shaped the public cultural agenda. Furthermore, this micro-history captures the paradigm shift in the visual and performing arts after 1965, the tendencies of empowerment and individuation of the artistic gesture through the configuring of anti-formalist, self-reflexive attitudes and, to the same extent, it opens a discussion envisaging the relations developed locally between the new art practices and the (official) Socialist art of the time. Such deconstruction of the various frequencies of this cultural exchange underlines the role it played in situating the Romanian art of the period in direct relation with similar manifestations regionally and internationally.

Inspired by the title of the poem 24 Arguments (1984) by artist Paul Neagu, the exhibition invites a multi-layered reading of the experiences, tempos and fine weavings intertwined between the institutional and the individual narratives, between the local conditions and the global dialogues, starting from a series of works conceived in this time. Thus, 24 Arguments. Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971 allow us to revisit the artists’ individual trajectories, to follow the variety of media approached and to understand the significances of this moment in the local history of art, setting a non-linear, transversal itinerary between the various constellations of the exhibition. Beyond the diversity of media, traditions and references that have shaped the work of these artists, beyond the incidental connections that have occurred as a result of Demarco’s visit to Romania, this exhibition does not stop at the biographical connections and links, but rather investigates the existence a common spirit that defined this generation of artists.

24 Arguments includes a performing event based on a reconstruction of the work Genesis by choreographer Miriam Răducanu, performed by artist Mădălina Dan. The piece was part of the programme presented in the frame of Romanian Art Today, featured as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1971.


Research and exhibition concept: Alina Șerban
Research and artistic direction: Ștefania Ferchedău

The exhibition is realised by the Institute of the Present in collaboration with the National Museum of Art of Romania and the Demarco Archive, Edinburgh.