Avant-Garde, Aestheticization and the Economy


  • Michael Müller




It would very much seem as though the avant-garde in post-war Germany had initially lost sight of the previously politically grounded programmatic narratives. Moreover, it seemed quite obsolete to insist on the destruction of the affirmative. After all, had it not been the Nazis who had pursued such destruction far more successfully than the avant-gardes before them, albeit with completely opposite goals in mind?

For this reason, it seemed so compelling to regard the restoration of the avant-garde via the renewed recourse to the autonomy of art as an expression of an anti-fascist stance. The linkage of emancipation of individual subjectivity and radical social change called for by the avant-gardes now collapses once again. In the years that followed, the conservative cultural position repeatedly turned on attempts to closely link aesthetic innovation with social change.

This taming of a recalcitrant art was followed in the early 1970s, after a brief intermezzo at the end of the 1960s, by talk of the failure of the avant-garde, before being subjected to outrageous defamation ten years later (particularly in architecture).

The question of whether today the universalization of the aesthetic has indirectly realized the hopes of the avant-gardes of an aesthetics of and in lived practice, will be the subject of my remarks.

Author Biography

Michael Müller

Michael Müller is a Professor and Chair for art history and cultural studies at Bremen University. His most important books are: The Villa as Hegemonic Architecture (1992, first German edition 1970); Die Verdrängung des Ornaments (1977); Funktionalität und Moderne (1984); Architektur und Avantgarde (1984); Die Macht der Schönheit (1995); Die ausgestellte Stadt. Zur Differenz von Ort und Raum (2005); Kultur der Stadt. Essays für eine Politik der Architektur (2010).