Éva Forgács

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline Art History
Adjunct Professor of Art History in the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena/California

Research project

Cultural Transfer: Exchanges of Art and Culture between Western Europe, Russia
and Central Europe throughout 20th Century Modernism and Beyond


This project aims to examine different incarnations of trends and movements in 20th century art history and cultural history that migrated from one country to another; from one culture to another, and underwent serious modifications in the process. Since scholarship uses, in most cases, the same terminology for the various incarnations of these tendencies, researching their differences and specific local significances promises interesting results. For example, Constructivism, Futurism, Cubism, occupied very different cultural space in the Central European cultures than in their respective countries of origin, because these concepts landed in very different historical, political and cultural contexts that cannot be neglected when interpreting them even if our terminology is not nuanced to indicate such alterations.
The project is aimed particularly at the examination of various chapters of modernism and the avant-gardes in 1920s Germany, Russia, and Central Europe. These three locations were interconnected in many ways - Germany occupied a special place in early Soviet political thinking, and many important Central European thinkers, artists, writers, and intellectuals became «Wahlberliner», that is residents of Berlin who chose to live there, during this period.
The inquiry of the project is anchored in the concrete examination of the impact of the Russian painter Kazimir S. Malevich on Western- and Central European artists. While his painterly work was embraced in the well-meant belief that they spell ideas that are similar to the Westerners’ views, the misinterpretations, mistranslations, and rejection of some of his written work indicates a deeper rift between Western and Eastern thinking; Central Europeans had their own interpretations of Malevich, and, interestingly, a Malevich revival in the last decades of the 20th century.
At the same time Malevich has experienced an unparalleled post-mortem career in the international art world, too. The reasons and circumstances of this revival is also part of my research.
Malevich’s work is particularly interesting for historical analysis because Malevich’s painted and written oeuvre put him at the crossroads of the conception of art as prophetic versus secular activity; the concept of the artist as a quasi-high-priest versus participant of the pragmatic political struggles of his time. Such contradicting philosophies often translated as strategies; they will be examined in this light.



Éva Forgács is Adjunct Professor of Art History in the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena/California. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences of Budapest.
She was curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts, Budapest; guest professor at UCLA in Los Angeles, and senior lecturer at the OTIS School of Art and Design in Los Angeles.
She co-curated «Monuments of the Future: The Designs of El Lissitzky» at the Getty Research Institute in 1998, and was consultant of «Central European Avant-Gardes 1910-1930» at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2002. Besides Art History, she is interested in literary scholarship. She has written essays on Imre Kertész, Péter Nádas, György Petri, Orhan Pamuk and other writers.

Selected publications


‘Reinventing the Bauhaus. The 1923 Bauhaus Exhibition as a Turning Point in the Direction of the School’, Bauhaus: Art as Life, Barbican Art Gallery, Koenig Books, London, 2012.


‘Between the Town and the Gown. Hannes Meyer’s Dismissal from the Bauhaus’, Journal of Design History, August, 2010.


‘Everyone is Talented. László Moholy-Nagy’s Synthesis of Reform Pedagogy and Utopian Modernism’, Hungarian Studies Review, special volume: László Moholy-Nagy. Translating Utopia into Action, vol.37, no.1-2, 2010.


‘The Safe haven of a New Classicism: the Quest for a New Aesthetics in Hungary 1904-1920’, Studies in East European Thought, 2008, pp.75-95.


‘Malevich and Western Modernism’, in C. Douglas and C. Lodders (eds), Rethinking Malevich, The Pindar Press, London, 2007, pp.237-253.


A Duna Los Angelesben. Művészeti írások [Los Angeles on the Danube. Selected essays on art], Kijárat Kiadó, Budapest, 2006.


‘Enlightenment versus the ‘National Genius’. Attempts at constructing both modernism and national identity through visual expression in Hungary 1910-1990’, in W. Tegethoff (ed.), Nation, Style, Modernism, Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich, 2006, pp.317-331.


‘How the New Left Invented East-European Art’, Centropa, vol.3, no.2, 2003, pp.93-104.


The Bauhaus Idea and Bauhaus Politics, CEUP - Central European University Press, London / Budapest / New York, 1995 ; reprinted 2003 ; updated Hungarian edition, 2010.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Law
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Literature