Did you know Adolf Hitler was an artist and art aficionado who was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna – twice? Although he was encouraged by the school to apply to the Academy’s School of Architecture, the academic bureaucracy discouraged him from doing so. He held a (big) grudge and, years later, he would exact his revenge in the form of a propaganda art exhibit in 1937 entitled entartete Kunst (degenerate art).
The art his Nazi regime deemed “un-German” was banned and those who supported this work were subject to dismissal from teaching positions (hence the targeted revenge), prevented from selling or producing such art, or worse. Its prime targets were works that came out of Cubism and Expressionism and even included those by Picasso, Chagall, and Matisse.
The term “degenerate” was adopted by the National Socialist regime as part of its campaign against modern art (and basically anything it didn’t like). During the war, many works were seized from museums and private collections as artists and collectors fled to safety.
The Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937 exhibit will be in NYC until September 1, 2014, at the Neue Galerie. The show comes on the tail of the recently released film, Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, which has spurred interest in the historical treatment of art during war and occupation.
Although many of the works in the Nazi exhibit were sold or destroyed, the show’s curators managed to bring together at least some works and photographs from the original and others from works that escaped the führer’s clutch.
Note: This exhibit is for teens and adults only – the museum only allows children over the age of 12.