0249 Terrified by the Close Other. Is the Postwar History of German Art Ready to Embrace "State Functionaries"?

  • Justyna Balisz-Schmelz (Author)

    Art historian and critic Justyna Balisz-Schmelz is a graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. From 2005 to 2010, she studied Art History and Theatre Studies at the Humboldt-Universität and then at the Freie Universität in Berlin. Currently, she works as an adjunct professor at the Department of History of Modern Art and Culture of the Institute of Art History at the University of Warsaw; she also lectures at the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University.
    Justyna Balisz-Schmelz collaborated with the Centre for Historical Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin as a co-author of Modi memorandi. Leksykon kultury pamięci [Modi memorandi. A lexicon of memory culture]. She is the author of the book Przeszłość niepokonana. Sztuka niemiecka po 1945 roku jako przestrzeń I medium pamięci [The past undefeated. German art after 1945 as space and memory medium] (2018). She has published articles in scholarly journals (including Przegląd Zachodni, Jahrbuch der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Folia Historiae Artium, Zeszyty Artystyczne, Widok) and in collective works, including Display. Strategie wystawiania [Display. Exhibition strategies], eds. Maria Hussakowska and Ewa Małgorzata Tatar (2012) and Polish Avant-Garde in Berlin, ed. Małgorzata Stolarska-Fronia (2019). Her scientific interests focus primarily on German art after 1945, bilateral German-Polish and German-German artistic relations; she also examines the possibility of applying the cultural theory of collective memory to the field of visual arts.

Identifiers (Article)


The article sets out to investigate the fundamental problem for the methodology of postwar German art history, namely, the unavoidable fusion of two markedly different perspectives, i.e., those of East and West Germany, into a coherent narrative. The reconstruction of key exhibitions and controversies sparked by East German art, in 1989 and beyond, suggests that the revision of the canon of art history may be faced with greater challenges whenever adopting the perspective of the close Other (political or ideological), rather than that of a remote Other (ethnic or cultural). The incorporation of the close Other into a uniform narrative on art history can be a moot point, most notably in those cases where the western concept of art calls for a necessary restatement, and one's identity needs to be critically redefined in the process. This is best exemplified by what happened in Germany after 1989.