The book constitutes the first in-depth study of modernism in design and performance in interwar Romania, covering the period 1924 to 1934. It focuses on Jewish avant-garde artists and cultural producers, assessing their innovative involvement in interior design and stage design in Bucharest. It highlights not just visual artists and theatre makers, but also design educators, arts patrons, and women entrepreneurs whose invisible labour, creative vision, and financial support brought the avant-garde into being. Richly illustrated and based on extensive research in Romania, Latvia, Germany, and the United States, the book highlights the transnational impact of Jewish cultural production and its contribution to avant-garde movements across Europe and further afield. It shows how Bucharest was connected to places such as Berlin, Paris, Riga and Chicago through modern design and experimental Yiddish theatre, and argues that the Schule Reimann was more influential in Romania than the Bauhaus. Drawing on scholarship from the fields of performance studies, design history, and art history, this volume makes a valuable new contribution to histories of modernism and avant-garde.

The book offers:

  • A significant new contribution to scholarship on Jewish cultural production and East-European avant-gardes

  • A transnational approach, highlighting mobility and cultural collaboration

  • Extensive original research and previously unpublished archival material and visual sources.

Alexandra Chiriac, Performing Modernism: A Jewish Avant-Garde in Bucharest (De Gruyter, 2022)

Winner of the De Gruyer Open Access Anniversary Competition - click here to download a free open access PDF or to purchase the paperback.

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“The publication of this work in open access will contribute to considerably expanding the specific knowledge of Romanian art and culture through largely hitherto completely unknown material, and to adding an essential chapter to the history of the European avant-garde, modifying outdated terms and concepts in the process.”​

“The book is a pioneering scholarly work based on original extensive research and it offers new insights into the role of Jewish artists and theater producers in the evolution of Romanian modernism. [...] Chiriac presents fascinating historical artistic design and theater materials, her research and discoveries offer critical contributions to the scholarly discussions on Romanian modernism and redefine concepts of national cultural heritage. The book further offers another important example of the central role of Jewish protagonists and networks in shaping European modernism.”

Assessment of the jury

Assessment of the peer reviewer

Performing Modernism has been reviewed in the following publications:

Revue Roumaine d'Histoire de l'Art, Série Beaux-Arts,
Tome LX, 2023, pp. 183–188

- Amelia Miholca
(University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art,
vol. 46, issue 2 (137), 224, pp. 81–85,

- Carmen Levick
(University of Sheffield)

Journal of Modern Jewish Studies,
March 2024, DOI: 10.1080/14725886.2024.2324454

- Corina L. Petrescu
(The University of Mississippi)

Journal of Design History, vol. XX, no. XX, 2023,

- Vanessa Vanden Berghe
(Chelsea College of Art, UAL)

Umění Art, vol. LXXI, no. 2, 2023, pp. 198–199,

- Julia Secklehner
(Masaryk University)

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Familia, no. 16, October 2023,

- Amalia Cotoi
(Babeș-Bolyai University)

CAA Reviews, 12 June 2024,
DOI: 10.3202/

- Mimi Ginsberg
(independent scholar)

AJS Review: The Journal of the Association for Jewish Studies,
vol. 48, no. 1, April 2024, pp. 229–231,

- Paula Ansaldo
(University of Buenos Aires)

Caietele avangardei,
anul 11, nr. 21, 2023

- Mădălina Lascu
(Romanian Academy Library)

Journal of Romanian Studies, vol. 5, no. 1, 2023,
pp. 112-115

- Christene d'Anca
(University of California, Santa Barbara)

Performing Modernism has also been featured on the New Books Network podcast.

The New Books Network is a podcast series dedicated to public education. It reaches about half a million people every month and NBN listeners download close to 1.5 million episodes a month. In this episode, Alexandra Chiriac is in conversation with Roland Clark (Liverpool University).