Could the gathering of writers and artists in 1920s Paris happen again?

We are all familiar with the story: after the First World War, a huge number of novelists, poets, artists, musicians the avant-garde of 20th century art/literature. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, MacLeish, Copland, Cole Porter, Picasso, Dali, Joyce, TS Eliot, Dos Passos, and so many others went to Paris in the immediate aftermath of the war.

This got me thinking: could this be replicated in hopefully our decade or in the upcoming one? If so, what city would you choose? (I really don’t care what country the city is in.) Why did you pick the city you picked? Most importantly, what would the city have to offer writers/artists/musicians?

You could make a good case that this already happened in Berlin after re-unification. Rents were dirt cheap at the time in East Berlin, and there were a huge amount of abandoned government offices that became squats. It was more musicians and visual artists than writers specifically but there was a definite influx.

If you were going to pick a city now, you’d pick a cheap one in Asia. Yogyakarta and Ubud both in Indonesia have thriving art scenes and dirt cheap costs of living. Chang Mai in Thailand has a similar vibe.

Ok, so… I guess you wouldn’t vote for Berlin, eh?

All the places on your poll have very high costs of living (on a global scale). Tokyo is the last place you’d get a mass gathering of struggling artists.

Well, most of the artists on my list were hardly “struggling,” if you mean struggling in the sense of struggling to pay the bills. And if you have a recommendation for a city that’s not on my list, please feel free. What city/country would you choose? Why? What’s the appeal (financially or culturally) ? I’m trying to think of somewhere that would be culturally appealing i’m trying to think of somewhere that would be culturally appealing as well as financially.

Fascinating… Where are these towns in relation to, say, Jakarta?

Also, I’m thinking more along the lines of four years down the road.

It has to be somewhere that’s inexpensive to live, and that’s resistant to gentrification. Anywhere that actual creative people start accumulating is rapidly killed by gentrification nowadays.

In Australia, I’d suggest Tasmania: Hobart for sure and maybe even Launceston. Affordable housing and global warming will make it attractive, and Australia’s worst economy will keep the gentrifiers at bay for a while. Though, of course, becoming cool will inevitably result in the ultimate banishment of cool people. I can’t see any outpost of coolness surviving for long on the mainland.

The gatherings already exist: they’re called New York City and London, which regardless of era have always had immensely creative and influential art scenes. I know a lot of people are suggesting out of the way places, but how often do artistic folk congragate in these kind of towns? It wasn’t like Paris in the 20s was an out of the way or cheap area to live; no great cities are.

If you could please add Montréal, I’ve already decreed the #Montreal2020 Planetary Art Colloquium as part of the #titheforart movement. Maybe the summer will stretch out to the entire decade, but some kind of worldwide artistic and literary shake-up has never been more necessary.

maybe its not entirely what the OP was looking for but the places I mentioned Yogyakarta, Ubud and Chang Mai all have sizable expat artist communities including many people that earn a living remotely. Among them are a lot of writers that work over the internet as well as artists that have studios in these places then fly off to other places to do shows.

Sorry, can’t add Montreal to the polling list, but if you want to pick any city in Canada, just vote for Vancouver. I’ll know. :slight_smile: By the way, how is the cost of living in Montreal? If you had to compare it to a city in the US?

BTW, How are the beaches in Tasmania?

Tasmania has many beautiful and uncrowded beaches, but its considerably colder than the rest of Australia. You probably only want to swim in the ocean from October-March.

Anyway, back to the question of what city gets the honour of replicating what happened in Paris in the 20s…So, the ideal city to replicate would have to have the following:

A) Relatively low cost of living. (Although back in the day, most of those guys weren’t exactly missing too many meals.)

B) It has to be culturally appealing. Part of the reason so many writers went to Paris back then was because that was where the avant-garde of literature and art and music and whatnot were living.

C) It has to offer something completely new and awesome to artists that had never been offered to them before. Paris in the 20s offered freedom to artists who, in many cases, wouldn’t have had in their home countries due to either government censorship or repressed social attitudes.

D) The climate has to be appealing. I know, this is probably going to start a huge argument. Just hear me out on this. Think about it: there’s a reason the poll above has something of a tropical bias. For me the perfect place to live: the beautiful tropics with palm trees and astonishingly nice weather year round and walks on the beach with my girl and all I have to do is write books for a living.

E) This is probably (and ARGUABLY) the biggest factor of them all: it has to be a continuing source of inspiration for artists for the rest of their lives. (Hemingway wrote two books about his life in Paris: the sun also rises, and a movable feast. Fitzgerald wrote tender is the night based on his experiences in Paris. See where I’m going with this?)

Rio De Janiero

Reasonable cost of living, beautiful harbour and beaches. Carnival. Lots of culture.

If you were going to pick a city now, you wouldn’t pick one in the bottom third of the Press Freedom Index - art and suppression of free speech don’t mix. Thailand’s ranked 130 and Indonesia’s ranked 132 out of 180.

Global warming will fix that soon enough.

None of that crap here! You want to talk politics, there are plenty of political threads. Not HERE. Scram.

For myself and every artist I’ve talked about it with, the general consensus is: artists don’t do well in warm weather where it’s nice all the time. Why paint something when you can go outside and nap under a tree? It’s gotta be garbage atleast 4 months out of the year, cold especially. London, NYC, Paris, all have this to varying extent. In America, cities like Austin have a rep as being creative but they aren’t, at all. They’re all lazy loaf abouts. So, I can’t see semi-tropical places being a great place for an artist community.

I wonder if it’s more common nowadays for a writer or an artist to be attached to a college, as a professor, student, or some sort of fellow. That might inhibit a larger gathering of talent in one city.

You need to stop saying this. Most of the artists on your list were struggling. Struggling is not the same as starving. I defy you to name a long list of truly starving artists who were famous at the time they were all starving together as a community. (And, no, Chumbawamba doesn’t count.) The Americans went to Paris precisely because their money went about five times as far there as in the U.S. They lived simply and spent huge amounts of their time working furiously.

The other problem is that your list is bizarrely oriented to standard western culture. By all accounts there are many flowerings of art and literature and music across the Middle East and Asia. We in the west don’t notice them because they don’t always publish in English. Whether they ever will come to the attention of Americans is an interesting question, although the Internet has made work available that would have been seen only by a few scholars in earlier decades.

So the answer to your question, Could the gathering of writers and artists in 1920s Paris happen again?, is absolutely. It’s happened many times in many places over the last 100 years, it is happening now, it will certainly happen more in the future. The only reason that anyone can ask this question is that we Westerners are constrained by our biases and ignorance.