|Hitler touring the Degenerate Art Exhibition, July 16, 1937|
In his beautifully curated show, Dr. Olaf Peters uses the 1937 exhibition “Entartete Kunst,” or “degenerate art,” and, compares it to works shown in the “Great German Art Exhibition.” The painstaking process of requesting works for loan was years in the making. The paintings, sculptures, drawings, posters, and photographs inform the viewer of the persecution and exploitation of modern artists under the rising power of Hitler and the National Socialists.
|Adolf Ziegler, The Four Elements, 1937|
|Max Beckmann, Departure, 1932-35|
|Lasar Segall, Eternal Wanderers, 1919|
|Paul Klee, The Angler, 1921|
I cannot fully compare the socio-political turbulence of Germany in the years leading up to World War II to that of countries policing artists of today. There are similarities, however, I didn’t live in Germany practicing modern art in 1937 and I don’t live in China working under a police state like Ai Weiwei. The importance and educational merit of a show like “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937” reminds us of the monstrosities of the past, the iconoclasts we read about in texts, those that have left a lasting impression on art history, their lives not easy, yet they continued to work in a style they believed in. Pussy Riot keeps pushing Putin’s buttons, but does so to show the world what’s really going on under his ruling. Even in the most liberal of states, freedom of expression is questioned, but those who push the limits find themselves with articles written about them circulating the Internet, which, in turn, goes into text, which thus becomes art that is endured. In the words of Pussy Riot to Ai Weiwei: “I don’t see myself as a dissident artist, I see them as a dissident government.”