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Petr Hlaváček

Die vergessene Karlsbader Ausstellung von Oskar Kokoschka des Jahres 1911

Oskar Kokoschka's close relationship to Bohemia is well known in the collective cultural consciousness of the land, as are Kokoschka's contacts with Czechoslovakia and his exile in Prague. However, little light has been shed on his early involvements with the Czech environment during the Austro-Hungarian period. In 1911 an exhibition was opened in Karlovy Vary of Kokoschka's work presenting a symbolic watershed between Kokoschka's departure from Berlin and his return to Vienna and therefore of a rather strange form of acclimatisation the artist went through upon returning to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Why Karlovy Vary? Sometime in 1909-1910, Kokoschka met Walter Serner in Vienna. This Jewish intellectual and Karlovy Vary native had studied law since 1909 at university in Vienna and took a lively interest in the literary and artistic life of the imperial capital. From 1909-1913, Serner published articles on the Viennese cultural life in the weekly Karlsbader Zeitung, which belonged to his father, Berthold Seligmann. He even had his own column in the weekly featuring original feuilletons titled Wiener Kunstbrief (1910-1911). Based on Serner's enthusiasm and his personal contacts in Vienna, the idea of organising an exhibition of Kokoschka's work in Karlovy Vary was born. The exhibition took place from 1 July to 15 August 1911 in the renowned Café Park Schönbrunn and Serner was its curator and chief organiser. The conservative public of Karlovy Vary reacted rather reservedly, as had been expected. Nonetheless, Serner had counted on this, and it was thus one of the first cultural provocations of this later co-founder of Dadaism, a cultural Bohemian who was to become a bold figure of the avant-garde culture of Weimar Germany.

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