Diaspora-Artists logo

Cosmopolitan Modernisms

Book relating to a publication, 2005
Published by: inIVA and MIT Press
Year published: 2005
Number of pages: 208
ISBN: 1-899846-41-7

image of Cosmopolitan Modernisms

One of four books in a series titled Annotating Art’s Histories, jointly published by The MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts and iniva the Institute of International Visual Arts, London. Cosmopolitan Modernisms was published in 2005 and edited by Kobena Mercer.

From the book’s back cover: “Cosmopolitan Modernism explores various moments in 20th-century art where the encounter between different cultures has produced something distinctive and revealing about the lived experience of modernity. Distinguished art historians and emerging scholars are brought together in this book  by a critical dialogue that pushes beyond separate areas of study to arrive at a more connective approach to the history of art.

Travelling through a variety of historical contexts, from colonial India and pre-war Germany, to post-1945 Brazil, and the Caribbean and African-American spaces of the black Atlantic diaspora, this unique collection re-defines the ‘cosmopolitan’ as a critical aspect of the questioning attitude that artists adopted throughout the world.

Featuring internationally respected scholars at the cutting edge of contemporary research, Cosmopolitan Modernisms is the first volume in the Annotating Art’s Histories series. Each volume builds up an in-depth understanding of cultural difference as a constant factor in the history of art. Presenting newly-commissioned writings alongside translations, interviews, bibliographies, and selected reprints of hard-to-find texts, this innovative series is essential reading for students, practitioners and anyone curious about cross-cultural interaction in the visual arts.”

The book’s contributors were: Michael Asbury, London University of the Arts; David Craven, University of New Mexico; Ann Eden Gibson, Delaware University;  Kobena Mercer, Middlesex University; Partha Mitter, University of Sussex; Paul Overy, Middlesex University; Michael Richardson, Waseda University, Tokyo; and Lowery Stokes Sims, Studio Museum of Harlem, New York. 

The book’s contents:

Introduction, Kobena Mercer

Reflections on Modern Art and National Identity in Colonial India: An Interview, Partha Mitter

White Walls, White Skins: Cosmopolitanism and colonialism in Inter-war Modernist Architecture, Paul Overy

Surrealism Faced with Cultural Difference, Michael Richardson

The Post-modern Modernism of Wifredo Lam, Lowery Stokes Sims,

Norman Lewis:’How to Get Black’, Ann Eden Gibson,

Romare Bearden, 1964: Collage as Kunstwollen, Kobena Mercer 

C.L.R. James as a Critical Theorist of Modernist Art, David Craven

Neoconcencretism and Minimalism: On Ferreira Gullar’s Theory of the Non-Object, Michael Asbury

List of Illustrations

Select Bibliography



The book’s flyleaf carried the following endorsements:

“This is exactly what we have been waiting for… These essays ensure that cultural difference and social place are not optional add-ons but the very stuff of the expanded history of artistic practice and interpretation. Insisting on the combination of social-historical determinations and aesthetic-semiotic creatives, Cosmopolitan Modernisms shows how art history can engage with difference so that the excluded subjects of the old canon become the psychologically complex articulations of a radically enriched understanding of the whole of 20th-century art and visual culture.” Griselda Pollock, Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art, University of Leeds.

“It’s about time the next step was taken in cross-cultural discourse around art. Cosmopolitan Modernisms is a detailed, often brilliant examination of what lies beneath the opaque surface of modernist art history. I read it with growing excitement about all the possibilities it suggests for future scholarship.” Lucy R. Lippard, author of Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America

Related people + view all 17

»  Romare Bearden

Born, 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Died, 1988

»  Gavin Jantjes

Born, 1948 in Cape Town, South Africa

»  Wifredo Lam

Born, 1902 in Cuba. Died, 1982

»  Kobena Mercer

Born, 1960 in Ghana

»  Rachel Whiteread CBE

Born, 1963 in London, England