The DEGENERATE ART EXHIBITION (German : Die Ausstellung "Entartete
Kunst") was an art exhibition organized by
Adolf Ziegler and the Nazi
Munich from 19 July to 30 November 1937. The exhibition
presented 650 works of art, confiscated from German museums, and was
staged in counterpoint to the concurrent Great German
The day before the exhibition started,
Hitler delivered a speech
declaring "merciless war" on cultural disintegration, attacking
"chatterboxes, dilettantes and art swindlers".
Degenerate art was
defined as works that "insult German feeling, or destroy or confuse
natural form or simply reveal an absence of adequate manual and
artistic skill". One million people attended the exhibition in its
first six weeks. A U.S. critic commented "there are probably plenty
of people—art lovers—in Boston, who will side with
Hitler in this
* 1 Background
* 2 Event
* 2.1 Layout
* 2.2 Political goals
* 3 Subsequent events
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 External links
Goebbels views the Degenerate
Hitler's rise to power on 30 January 1933 was quickly followed by
actions intended to cleanse the culture of degeneracy: book burnings
were organized, artists and musicians were dismissed from teaching
positions, and museum curators were replaced by Party members. In
September 1933 the
Reichskulturkammer (Reich Culture Chamber) was
established, administered by
Joseph Goebbels , Hitler's Reichminister
für Volksaufklärung und
Propaganda (Reich Minister for Public
The arbiter of what was unacceptably "modern" was Hitler. Although
Goebbels and some others admired the Expressionist works of artists
Emil Nolde ,
Ernst Barlach , and
Erich Heckel , a faction led
Alfred Rosenberg despised the Expressionists, and the result was a
bitter ideological dispute which was settled only in September 1934,
when Hitler—who denounced modern art and its practitioners as
"incompetents, cheats and madmen"— declared that there would be no
place for modernist experimentation in the Reich. Entartete
Degenerate Art Exhibition catalogue, 1937, p. 23. Works from
top left to lower right: *
Johannes Molzahn , Der Gott der Flieger,
1921, oil on canvas. *
Jean Metzinger ,
En Canot ("On the Beach"),
Kurt Schwitters , Merzbild, 1918–19, mixed media, 100 x 70
Johannes Molzahn , Familienbild
In the first half of 1937, preparations were underway for the Große
Deutsche Kunstausstellung ("Great German
Art Exhibition"), which was
to showcase art approved by the Nazis. An open invitation to German
artists resulted in 15,000 works being submitted to the exhibition
jury, which included allies of Goebbels. When the works they selected
for the exhibition were shown to
Hitler for his approval, he became
Hitler dismissed the jury and appointed his personal
photographer Heinrich Hoffmann to make a new selection.
In a diary entry of 4 June 1937, Goebbels conceived the idea of a
separate exhibition of works from the Weimar era, which he called "the
era of decay. So the people can see and understand." The art
historian Olaf Peters says Goebbels' motivation in proposing the
exhibition was partly to obscure the weakness of the works in the
Art Exhibition, and partly to regain Hitler's trust after
the dictator's replacement of Goebbel's jurors with Hoffmann, who
Goebbels feared as a rival. On 30 June,
Hitler signed an order
Degenerate Art Exhibition. Goebbels put Adolf Ziegler
, the head of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of
Visual Art), in charge of a five-man commission that toured state
collections in numerous cities, in two weeks seizing 5,238 works they
deemed degenerate (showing qualities such as "decadence", "weakness of
character","mental disease", and "racial impurity"). This collection
would be boosted by subsequent raids on museums, for future
exhibitions. The commission focused on works by artists mentioned in
avant-garde publications, and was aided by some vehement opponents of
modern art, such as Wolfgang Willrich.
The exhibition was prepared in haste, to be presented concurrently
with the Great German
Art Exhibition scheduled to open on 18 July
1937. Imitating Hitler, Ziegler delivered a mordant critique of
modern art at the opening of the
Degenerate Art Exhibition on 19 July
Jean Metzinger , 1913,
En Canot (Im Boot) , oil on canvas, 146 x
114 cm, exhibited at Moderni Umeni, S.V.U. Mánes , Prague, 1914,
acquired in 1916 by
Georg Muche at the Galerie
Der Sturm , confiscated
by the Nazis circa 1936 from the
Kronprinzenpalais , Nationalgalerie ,
Berlin, displayed at the
Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich, and
missing ever since.
The exhibition was hosted in the Institute of Archeology in the
Hofgarten . The venue was chosen for its particular qualities (dark,
narrow rooms). Many works were displayed without frames and partially
covered by derogatory slogans. Photographs of the exhibitions had
been made, as well as a catalogue, produced for the Berlin show,
which accompanied the exhibition as it travelled. A film of sections
of the exhibition had also been produced. The Degenerate Art
Exhibition included 650 paintings, sculptures and prints by 112
artists, primarily German:
Georg Grosz ,
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , Paul
Georg Kolbe ,
Wilhelm Lehmbruck ,
Franz Marc ,
Emil Nolde ,
Willi Baumeister ,
Kurt Schwitters and others. Ziegler also
confiscated and exhibited works of foreign artists, such as Pablo
Jean Metzinger ,
Albert Gleizes ,
Piet Mondrian , Marc
Wassily Kandinsky . A large number of works were not
displayed, as the exhibition focused on German works. The exhibition
lasted until 30 November 1937, and 2,009,899 visitors attended it, an
average of 20,000 people per day.
The first three rooms were grouped thematically. The first room
contained works considered demeaning of religion; the second featured
works by Jewish artists in particular; the third contained works
deemed insulting to the women, soldiers and farmers of Germany. The
rest of the exhibit had no particular theme.
There were slogans painted on the walls. For example:
* Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist rule
* Revelation of the Jewish racial soul
* An insult to German womanhood
* The ideal—cretin and whore
* Deliberate sabotage of national defense
* German farmers—a Yiddish view
* The Jewish longing for the wilderness reveals itself—in Germany
Negro becomes the racial ideal of a degenerate art
* Madness becomes method
* Nature as seen by sick minds
* Even museum bigwigs called this the "art of the German people"
Speeches of Nazi party leaders contrasted with artist manifestos from
various art movements, such as
Surrealism . Next to many
paintings were labels indicating how much money a museum spent to
acquire the artwork. In the case of paintings acquired during the
post-war Weimar hyperinflation of the early 1920s , when the cost of a
kilo loaf of bread reached 233 billion German marks , the prices of
the paintings were of course greatly exaggerated. The exhibit was
designed to promote the idea that modernism was a conspiracy by people
who hated German decency, frequently identified as Jewish-Bolshevist,
although only six of the 112 artists included in the exhibition were
in fact Jewish.
The concurrent Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung ("Great German Art
Exhibition") was intended to show the more classical and "racially
pure" type of art advocated by the Nazi regime. That exhibition was
hosted near Hofgarten, in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst . It was
described as mediocre by modern sources, and attracted only about half
the numbers of the
Degenerate Art one.
Entartete Kunst, poster for the 1938 exhibition
Degenerate Art Exhibition was hosted a few months later in
Berlin, and later in Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Weimar, Halle, Vienna and
Salzburg, to be seen by another million or so people. Many works were
later sold off, although interested buyers were scarce and prices
dropped drastically with the addition of such a large quantity of
works to the art market: Goebbels wrote of them changing hands
between U.S. collectors for "ten cents a kilo", although some "foreign
exchange ... will go into the pot for war expenses, and after the war
will be devoted to the purchase of art ." Almost 5,000 were burned on
20 March 1939.
In 1991 the Los Angeles County Museum of
Art staged a forensic
reproduction of the exhibition.
300 of the exhibited works were apparently stolen by art dealer
Hildebrand Gurlitt who reported them destroyed by bombardments. They
were seized from his son's apartment in 2012.
In 2014 the
Neue Galerie New York staged Degenerate Art: The Attack
Art in Nazi Germany, an exhibition bringing together
paintings and sculptures from the 1937 exhibition along with films and
photos of the original installations, promotional and propaganda
materials and some surviving Nazi-approved art from the official
exhibition set up to contrast with the modernist and avant-garde works
the Nazis considered "degenerate".
Art of the Third Reich
* 2012 Nazi loot discovery
* ^ A B C D E F G Spotts, Frederic (2002).
Hitler and the Power of
The Overlook Press . pp. 151–68. ISBN 1-58567-507-5 .
* ^ Adam 1992, p.52
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T "U. Ginder: Two 1937
Art Exhibitions in Munich". History.ucsb.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-28.
* ^ Grosshans 1983, p. 73-74
* ^ A B C D E Kimmelman, Michael (19 June 2014). "The
Hated". The New York Review of Books 61 (11): 25–26.
* ^ "Jean Metzinger, Im Boot (En Canot),
Degenerate Art Database
(Beschlagnahme Inventar, Entartete Kunst)".
Emuseum.campus.fu-berlin.de. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
* ^ "
Degenerate Art Database (Beschlagnahme Inventar, Entartete
Kunst)". Emuseum.campus.fu-berlin.de. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
* ^ Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art), complete inventory of over
16,000 artworks confiscated by the Nazi regime from public
institutions in Germany, 1937-1938, Reichsministerium für
Volksaufklärung und Propaganda. Victoria and Albert Museum, Volume 1
p. 36, Metzinger, Im Kanu, 16956
* ^ Kaiser, Fritz (1991). "Entartete "Kunst" Ausftellungsführer".
In Barron, Stephanie.
Degenerate art : the fate of the avant-garde in
Nazi Germany. Translated by Britt, David. New York: H.N. Abrams. pp.
* ^ Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, German town;
Degenerate Art exhibit in Munich, Film of
Degenerate Art Exhibition,
Story RG-60.2668, Tape 951
* ^ "1937
Munich exhibition of Degenerate Art". Ushmm.org.
* ^ Barron 1991, p.46
* ^ Evans 2004, p. 106.
* ^ Barron 1991, p.9.
* ^ A B Budick, Ariella (21 March 2014). "‘Degenerate Art’
exhibition at the Neue Galerie New York". The Financial Times.
Retrieved 23 March 2014.
* ^ Wilson, William (1991-02-15). "
Art Review : Revisiting the
Unthinkable : Nazi Germany\'s \'Degenerate Art\' Show at LACMA". Los
Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035 . Retrieved 2016-11-16.
* ^ Hall, Allan (3 November 2013). "Nazi art treasure trove valued
at £1 billion is found in shabby
Munich apartment". Daily Mail.
Retrieved 3 November 2013.
* ^ Eddy, Mellisa (5 November 2013). "German Officials Provide
Details on Looted
Art Trove". New York Times. Retrieved 5 November
* Adam, Peter (1992).
Art of the Third Reich. New York: Harry N.
Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-1912-5
* Barron, Stephanie, ed. (1991). 'Degenerate Art:' The Fate of the
Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. New York:
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN
* Evans, R. J. (2004). The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: The
Penguin Press. ISBN 1-59420-004-1
* Grosshans, Henry (1983).
Hitler and the Artists. New York: Holmes
Degenerate Art Exhibition
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner