We appreciate this review of our book and the relevant points the reviewer makes about the book’s contribution and its shortcomings. Yet, we thought it would be helpful to our readers to know how and why we chose to address the terminology of “avant-garde” and “neo-avant-garde” in the endnotes.
The discussion about the terms “avant-garde” and “neo-avant-garde” are extensive and would have required much more space for explaining each term individually and in a detailed manner. The three authors who used these terms in their essays in this edited volume, Katalin Cseh-Varga, Cristina Cuevas-Wolf, and Dávid Fehér recognized that it was necessary to coordinate their use of these terms. So we considered what we were trying to communicate across each of our essays, and then collectively decided to follow our editors recommendation to have each of us insert an endnote explaining our individual choice of terminology.
The few things we considered were:
1) It is important to acknowledge the fluid integration of modern art from the 1920s and 1930s with the new postwar tendencies (as experienced at the time, according to the Polish art historian Piotr Piotrowkski) that were produced in the spirit of progression that are identified as the “avant-garde”. Additionally from an art historical perspective, it is important to distinguish between the historical avant-garde and a specific non-conformist attitude that appeared in Soviet Russia and East-Central Europe.
2) The term “avant-garde,” which addressed the contemporary artistic trends in the 1960s and 1970s, also registers the artists’ resistance to the term “neo-avant-garde,” which was used mostly by official authorities. Yet, some artists, like György Jovánovics, accepted the term “neo-avant-garde” retrospectively because they felt it allowed them to re-adopt the historical avant-garde tradition.
3) Although a positive use of the term “neo-avant-garde” arose retrospectively in the post-1989 discourse, it is important to acknowledge the position of key German and Hungarian art historians, such as Peter Bürger and László Beke who have either critiqued or condemned the use of the term.
Recent publications on the Hungarian avant-garde, such the Elizabeth Dee Gallery’s catalog With the Eyes of Others: Hungarian Artists of the Sixties and Seventies, have opted to use the term “neo-avant-garde,” because it is a term familiar to an American audience. However, the term “avant-garde” can work just as well, depending on the period and context addressed.
In defining our usage of the terms “avant-garde” and “neo-avant-garde,” we wanted to address in brief our understanding of the nature of the avant-garde in Hungary specifically. The differentiation between the terms "modern," "avant-garde" and "neo-avant-garde" belong to the biggest challenges of recent art historical scholarship in Eastern Europe. And one book cannot give a definite answer to such a complex issue.
Cristina Cuevas-Wolf, Katalin Cseh-Varga, and Dávid Fehér