CFP: Art, Money and Socialism – The Economies of East-European Visual Art During the Cold War (Campus Condorcet de l’EHESS, Paris – 4 Nov 2024)

Since the 2000s, when Piotr Piotrowski published his groundbreaking research, the study of fine art of the socialist countries of Eastern Europe has changed dramatically. An important thread was the research of the social and institutional impact on art: in their works, Susan E.Reid, Beata Hock, Klara Kemp-Welch, Jérôme Bazin, Caterina Preda, Maja and Reuben Fowkes questioned the clichés about the dominance of socialist realism, the impenetrability of the Iron Curtain and the artists’ subservience to party regulations.

We invite you to discuss economic aspects of visual art in socialist countries during the Cold War. We are eager to examine official models of fine art production, its economic and political aspects. How influential were artists and art institutions (artists’ unions) in shaping the pricing policy and aesthetic criteria of state commissions for art? How were prices for art works decided and negotiated in a planned economy and how were artworks bought and sold in the absence of a free market? How did the price correlate with the symbolic value of art works and what were the criteria for valorization?

In addition to discussing the local art economy, we encourage you to reflect on the international art trade between Eastern European and Western countries during the Cold War. This trade took place both at the official level and as a result of unofficial (shadow) transactions between independent dealers and artists. It is thought that in the first instance, the export of artistic works served as a source of enrichment for the state budget, an instrument of cultural diplomacy, and a way of promoting a positive image of socialist art abroad. Shadow transactions mainly took place between unofficial artists and foreign buyers (diplomats, correspondents, tourists), and influenced the internal life of artistic communities, their structures, identity, hierarchy and communications.

We would like to discuss the circumstances of these transactions and what exactly provoked the interest of Western buyers. How did the value of art objects change depending on their circulation? What role did the intermediaries (state, institutional, independent) play in creating connections between East and West? Did the international art trade influence the official art canons, or working methods and political positions of the artists? Having sketched out this range of questions as a starting point for discussion, and without being exhaustive, we propose to reflect on the material (and particularly economic) conditions of production and circulation of Eastern European visual art during the Cold War.

Participation and Submission Procedures

We invite master’s and doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences to submit their abstracts with the title (maximum 500 words), in French or English, by June 20th to the following address: Please include a brief biographical sketch (no more than 150 words). Authors will receive feedback on their proposals at the beginning of July. Depending on the contributions received, the results of this study day may be presented in the form of an academic publication.

For additional information and the French version of this text, visit, the source of this call: