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Degenerate Collages

about Karel Teige

Karel Teige died in 1951 of a heart attack, said to be a result of a ferocious Soviet press campaign against him as a “Trotskyite degenerate”. His papers were destroyed by the secret police, and his published work was suppressed for decades, until the rediscovery of his work after the “velvet revolution” of 1989.

From there, his legacy has been revived not only in Prague, but also in Western Europe and the United States, as that of one of the most important figures of the 1920s and 1930s movement.

Born in 1900 in Prague, with evidently endless energy, Karel introduced modern art to Prague. Devetsil-sponsored exhibitions and events brought international avant-garde figures like Le Corbusier, Man Ray, Paul Klee, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Walter Gropius, among many others, to lecture and perform in Prague. He interpreted their work, sometimes literally, for the Czech audience.

In his 1935 Prague lecture, Andre Breton paid tribute to his “perfect intellectual fellowship”: “Constantly interpreted by Teige in the most lively way, made to undergo an all-powerful lyric thrust by Nezval, Surrealism can flatter itself that it has blossomed in Prague as it has in Paris”.

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