Publication details

Art collections - seeking middle class identities? Constructing social status as a collector in interwar Czechoslovakia



Year of publication 2019
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The art collecting phenomenon needs to be understood as one of the most significant and complex attribute of the social elites’ lifestyle. At least from the dawn of Early modern era, the dynamically developing network of the noble residences with their specific material, symbolical and spiritual cultures formed the constituent parts of the political and social system. Thus, the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy in Central Europe was strongly accompanied with the changing social elites. Not by the coincidence, one of the first laws adopted by the newly established Czechoslovak Republic was that on the abolition of the noble titles. The economic powers and social positions of “old regime” representatives were deeply hurt also by the discriminatory land reforms that followed. From this point of view, we can look at the 1920s and 1930s as the decades of the dynamic social restructuring processes and strong flows of the artistic assets, all these accompanied by the intense searching for the new modern social and individual identity. The paper will take a look at the specific phenomenon of dozens of art collections of businessmen, bankers, lawyers, attorneys, doctors – representatives of the quickly developing (upper) middle class – that have been founded or built during this period as the notable integral parts of the social identity prospective constructs and private (or also professional) lives lived by their owners. What was the structure and referring points of these collections? Did they mostly refer to their noble predecessors (concerning the main aspects) or rather to the national altruistic motives and modernist ambitions of their owners? The paper is intended to be the report on the current state of the research on interwar period Czechoslovakia art collecting, opening the new interdisciplinary interpretational points of view as well as the field for contextual comparisons and connections that could help us search and share common aspects of bordering countries and regions (Prague, Brno, Vienna, Budapest, Kosice).