Berlin recreates Nazi-baiting art exhibition from 1938

时间:2019-08-29 责任编辑:冒峡蝠 来源:365体育投注 - 首页√ 点击:268 次

A Berlin gallery has reconstructed an exhibition of German modern art 80 years after it was staged in by a group of collectors and dealers intending to cock a snook at the Nazi regime’s campaign against artists it saw as debauched.

Thirty of the original 300 paintings, by 64 artists from Wassily Kandinsky to Oskar Kokoschka, many of whom were forced into exile and whose works had been stripped from German museums, will be reunited for the first time at the Liebermann Villa in Berlin for the exhibition .

The gallery is the former home of the Berlin painter Max Liebermann who died in 1935. Twenty-two of Liebermann’s works were loaned to the 1938 show by his wife, Martha. The artist’s portrait of a dark-haired Albert Einstein – who was forced to flee the Nazis – forms the centrepiece of the exhibition.

The 1938 show deliberately coincided with the first anniversary of the Nazis’ propaganda exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art), in which 650 works confiscated from German museums were put on display in Munich to highlight to ordinary Germans the necessity of ridding their culture of destructive forces.

The London show was hailed as the biggest international response to Nazi censorship but some critics were furious at the efforts its curators went to to present the exhibition as non-political.

Collage, 1913, by Alexander Archipenko. Photograph: Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Others struggled to see the cultural value of the largely expressionist artworks, with the Daily Telegraph’s critic denouncing them for their “poster-like crudity”.

“When they saw the London show, many people reportedly said they couldn’t agree with Hitler on most things, but they sided with him when it came to modern art,” said Martin Faass, the Berlin exhibition’s co-curator. “Many people simply couldn’t get their heads around it.”

Judgments on the artworks aside, British critics overwhelmingly saw the show, visited by Virginia Woolf and Pablo Picasso, as an important protest against the Nazi regime.

The Manchester Guardian’s critic pointed out the irony of the likelihood that “without the spur of the Führer’s official condemnation, it is possible that this collection would never have been got together” and described it as “a disturbing show and an intensely national one. The general impression it leaves is of a set of men savagely protesting against the pain they have been unjustly made to bear.”

German critics in Nazi-controlled media roundly condemned the exhibition. The newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack) called it “Bolshevik art – half of it, of course, by Jews and emigrants”, which had “nothing to do with what the German people consider to be art”.

Details of how the original show was coordinated remained largely undocumented until , an art historian at the Courtauld Institute in London, pieced together how the exhibited artworks were hurriedly assembled within just nine months via a network of art collectors and artists scattered across a continent on the brink of war.

Segelbild, um 1915, by Jacoba van Heemskerck. Photograph: Moderna Museet, Stockholm

The result, she said, was a “remarkable cultural event ... a fundamentally international project in which German emigres played a central role”.

Faass said the reassembled paintings – including works by Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, and Max Beckmann – have been displayed alongside the stories of those who loaned the works.

“The stories behind the pictures are as important as the artworks,” Faass said. “After the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933, most of the collectors, like the artists, had no place anymore. They hoped the exhibition would help them shape a new existence.”

Oskar Kokoschka’s towering oil on canvas, , captures his defiant mood. He was one of the first artists to be denounced by the Nazis who seized more than 400 of Kokoschka’s works from museum collections. Thanks in part to the London exhibition, a new audience was introduced to his oeuvre and he was able to flee to Britain, living there and successfully selling his works until the end of the 1940s.

His self-portrait was lent to the 1938 exhibition by Emil Korner, an economics professor with whom Kokoschka had sought refuge in Czechoslovakia, before Korner himself was forced to emigrate to Zurich.

Martha Liebermann, whose bank account was frozen by the Nazis, hoped the London exhibition would help her to raise basic living costs and pleaded to collectors to buy her husband’s works which would be destroyed or confiscated if they were returned to . The Einstein portrait is believed to have been bought by the Royal Society, although there is no proof Liebermann ever received the £350 asking price.

Liebermann took her own life in 1943, a day before her planned deportation to the Terezín Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia.

The artist , by contrast, successfully sold all her lithographs on display in London and received commissions for further works.

The German-Jewish collector Erich Alport lent to the exhibition the portrait Young Man With a Coloured Scarf, painted by Helmut Kolle in 1930. The painting was an homage to the Weimar Republic’s gay scene, which Alport had experienced before being forced to leave Germany because of his Jewish roots and homosexuality.

Faass said it was unusual to curate an “exhibition about an exhibition” but bringing a portion of the works back together had helped underline what an important cultural collaboration the 1938 show had been, used as it was “to introduce Britons to modern German art, and to help emigrants show themselves as representatives of a better Germany”.

Faass added: “In these Brexit-tainted times, it’s important to show how significant, then and now, on a European and international level such cultural cooperations are. We value this opportunity at such a challenging time, even if we didn’t specifically seek it out.”

is at the Liebermann Villa, Berlin, Germany, from Sunday to 14 January 2019.