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Anselm Franke (ed.), Tom Holert (ed.): Neolithic Childhood

Anselm Franke (ed.), Tom Holert (ed.)

Neolithic Childhood
Art in a False Present, c. 1930

Hardcover, 464 pages


Art in a False Present

Resonating at the heart of Neolithic Childhood. Art in a False Present, c. 1930 is the question whether art has present, past, and future functions. The modernist assertion of the autonomy of art was intended to render superfluous art’s social and religious functions. But what if the functionlessness of art comes under suspicion of being instrumentalized by bourgeois capitalism? This was an accusation that informed the anti-modernist critique of the avant-garde, and particularly of Surrealism. The objective throughout the crisis-ridden present of the 1920s to the 1940s was to reaffirm a once ubiquitous, but long-lost functionality—not only of art.


The publication accompanying the exhibition examines the strategies deployed in this reaffirmation. These include the surrealist Primitivism of an “Ethnology of the White Man” together with the excavation of the deep time of humanity—into the “Neolithic Childhood” mapped out by the notoriously anti-modernist Carl Einstein (1885-1940) as a hallucinatory retro-utopia. The volume brings together essays by the curators and academics involved in the project, primary texts by Carl Einstein and a comprehensive documentation of the exhibition including lists of works, texts on as well as images of numerous exhibits and finally installation views. At the center of the volume, a glossary discusses Carl Einstein’s own theoretical vocabulary as well as further associated terms, such as Autonomy, Formalism, Function, Gesture, Hallucination, Art, Metamorphosis, Primitivisms, Totality.


With contributions by: Irene Albers, Philipp Albers, Joyce S. Cheng, Rosa Eidelpes, Carl Einstein, Anselm Franke, Charles W. Haxthausen, Tom Holert, Sven Lütticken, Ulrike Müller, Jenny Nachtigall, David Quigley, Cornelius Reiber, Erhard Schüttpelz, Kerstin Stakemeier, Maria Stavrinaki, Elena Vogman, Zairong Xiang, Sebastian Zeidler.


With reproductions of artworks by:
Jean (Hans) Arp, Willi Baumeister, Georges Braque, Brassaï, Claude Cahun, Lux T. Feininger, Max Ernst, Florence Henri, Barbara Hepworth, Hannah Höch, Heinrich Hoerle, Paul Klee, Germaine Krull, Helen Levitt, André Masson, Alexandra Povòrina, Gaston-Louis Roux, Kalifala Sidibé, Louis Soutter, Yves Tanguy, Toyen, Jindřich Štyrský, Raoul Ubac, Paule Vézelay and many others.

  • ethnology
  • surrealism
  • 1930s
  • art theory
  • art history
  • Modernism
  • avant-garde

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Anselm Franke

Anselm Franke

has been the head of the Department of Visual Arts and Film at Haus der Kulturen der Welt since 2013. He previously worked as a curator at KW Berlin and as director of the Extra City Kunsthal in Antwerp. Franke received his doctorate from Goldsmiths College, London.
Other texts by Anselm Franke for DIAPHANES
Tom Holert

Tom Holert

is an art historian, cultural theorist and artist based in Berlin. In the 1990s he was editor of Texte zur Kunst and Spex. From 1997–1999 he was Professor at the Merz-Akademie, Stuttgart, and from 2006–2011 Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, where he has been honorary professor since. 
Other texts by Tom Holert for DIAPHANES