Mein Degeneration

By sizemore Last edited 161 months ago
Mein Degeneration

Great article in the Guardian today about a new exhibition at the Tate Modern of Germany's pre-war era 'Degenerate Art'. Degenerate to the Nazi Party that is:

To many spectators today, this might seem a comparatively gentle modernist work. But try to see its disorder, eroticism and racial impurity through Hitler's eyes. In 1937 Schmidt-Rottluff, one of the founder-members of the Dresden avant-garde group the Brücke - the Bridge - had more than 50 of his works exhibited in the most notorious art event of the 20th century. The Entartete Kunst - Degenerate Art - exhibition opened in Munich in July of that year. It was the most successful modern art exhibition of all time. In six weeks it had a million visitors, and a million more caught it on tour.

Interestingly it wasn't the foreign art of say Picasso and Duchamp that brought out the critics in jackboots, but the German modernists. Even members of the Nazi Party had their work included in the original exhibition that drove at least one artist to suicide.

Jonathan Jones argues that we now have an illogical distaste for German art and that if we were to have our blinkers removed we would see just how vital and important it is:

It's a story of defeat - but it could be told differently. It would be great to see a full-scale exhibition. In fact, it would be worth reconstructing the entire Degenerate Art exhibition. The restaging would, I suspect, profoundly alter our view of modern art. We would see how German it is.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, most of the almost 16,000 works of art seized by German officials were burnt. Some were sent to be auctioned in Switzerland and the remainder, some 650 pieces were included in the 1937 exhibition:

Put together in less than two weeks, the exhibition presented modernist works alongside sarcastic commentaries, quotations from Hitler and art by the mentally ill. The price of the work was mockingly highlighted, with the slogan ‘paid for by the taxes of the German working people’.

The work is on show right now and it's free. Just go up to the third floor of the Tate Modern anytime before the 30th of October to start the führer spinning in his grave.

Last Updated 16 August 2005