Articulate Works Of Art…
An exhibition of paintings – titled: ‘London 1938: Defending Degenerate German Art’ – is taking place in Berlin. The event reminds us of another exhibition – an exhibition of 300 works by 64 German painters that was organised in London in 1938. Many of those painters were forced into exile by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, and their works had also been stripped from German museums, as the Nazis used to believe that those artworks were symbols of devolution and the artists were carriers of a degenerate culture.
In such a scenario, the German painters and their well-wishers had organised the exhibition in London mainly to inform the world about the Nazi attack on them. The initiative got a huge response, as hundreds of painters and art-lovers from different parts of the world attended the event. Eminent personalities, like Virginia Woolf and Pablo Picasso, were there in that exhibition. Although critics had questioned the quality of those works, the political significance of the initiative was unquestionable. At that time, the outside world had no idea about the real appearance and character of the Nazi regime. The exhibition helped the art-lovers get an idea about the Nazi rule. Later, many artists – whose works were exhibited in London – became victims of Nazi atrocities and died at concentration camps.
Thirty of the original 300 paintings, by 64 artists from Wassily Kandinsky to Oskar Kokoschka, have been reunited for the first time at the Liebermann Villa in Berlin for the Oct 7, 2018-Jan 14, 2019 event. Visitors at the Liebermann Villa also get to have detailed information about the exhibition that had taken place eight decades ago. The theme and the title of the current event reflect the political motives of the organisers.
The initiative is not a mere reminisce, as it has a close connection with the current political situation in Germany and other parts of Europe. The German people had tried to get mental relief from the horror of Hitler and his Nazi forces after the WWII. They had realised that the reactionary forces were still active and the neo-Nazis were making serious attempts to make a comeback. However, they faced a strong political and social opposition and were forced to retreat.
Collage (1913) by Alexander Archipenko. Photograph: Moderna Museet, Stockholm
In recent times, Germany and other European nations have witnessed the return of ultra-nationalism. That’s why the rightist AfD performed well in 2017 German elections. Although Chancellor Angela Merkel has managed to survive so far, her government lacks stability. In this perspective, the ongoing exhibition reminds us of the period when dictatorship had murdered the liberal democracy and destroyed the artworks. This trend has been repeatedly experienced by many countries. It’s inevitable….
At the same time, we have to admit that art is eternal. An artist needs ‘absolute freedom’, as it is not possible for him/her to create artworks as per the ruler’s instructions. So, the absolute power can’t tolerate artists and their creations!
Segelbild, um (1915) by Jacoba van Heemskerck. Photograph: Moderna Museet, Stockholm
When rulers, like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, describe independent artists as reactionary and torture them for cultivating degenerate culture, they actually launch attacks on personal liberty. This fact is relevant in many countries in the contemporary world. People, who are in power in different parts of the globe, still attack those who don’t hesitate to criticise the mighty rulers.
There are also some people who believe that our society is still not in danger. Perhaps, they don’t want to face the reality. No exhibition can help these people get out of their present slumber!
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