Postwar: art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic, 1945-1965 examines the vibrant and turbulent postwar period as a global phenomenon for the first time in recent exhibition history. In eight dramatic chapters, the exhibition guides visitors through the first 20 years following the end of World War II, demonstrating how artists coped with and responded to the traumas of the Holocaust, the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; how the two political blocs of the Cold War exploited the arts and created competition between realism and abstraction, and how displacement and migration produced new cosmopolitan contexts across the world. The postwar period also marked the end of European colonial systems; the rise of nation-building, decolonization and liberation movements; the partition of countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East; as well as the civil rights movement in the United States. These changes unleashed an incredible energy visible in the art of the time. New technologies began to pour into everyday life; the space age fascinated artists as well as the masses, opening up a completely new and dynamic field of artistic consideration.
As an in-depth, global study, the exhibition shows painting, sculpture, installation, collage, performance, film, artist books, documents, photography, in total more than 350 works by 218 artists from 65 countries.
‘As a result of exposure to publications such as Black Orpheus and Middle Eastern art, the work of Ibrahim El-Salahi and others reflects a pronounced set of pan-African and pan-Arabic references (African sculpture, Arabic calligraphy) informed by Western modernism. El-Salahi’s cosmopolitanism evidences time spent in London, but also reflects his relations with African American artists and musicians, travel to Mexico and China, and exhibitions in Nigeria and Senegal. His is a cosmopolitanism not primarily oriented towards the West.’
Chapter 6, Cosmopolitan Modernisms