Introduction to Special Issue

This introduction charts the emergence of the term Capitalist Realism at the intersection of the international postwar art movements of Pop, Fluxus, Nouveau Réalisme, happenings, and Anti-Art. It relates the independent coinage of Capitalist Realism by artists Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke, and Manfred Kuttner in Germany in May 1963 with that of artist Akasegawa Genpei Japan in February 1964 and argues that they were both part of a broader interest in developing new strategies of artistic realism during the Cold War. The artists’ sly and ironic appropriations of consumer objects and advertisements sought to capture the operations of capitalism, not only as an economy, but as an ideology that materially and systemically reproduces itself within everyday life. Relating the Cold War moment to the development of capitalism after the fall of the communist bloc, the introduction ends by addressing the strategic applicability of Capitalist Realist modes to contemporary art in the neoliberal era.

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