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ART SEEN - "Degenerate Art"

ART SEEN // Events// Art & Culture // Nov. 23, 2017

The news hit the art world like lightning in 2014: the Kunstmuseum Bern was made sole heir to the 'Gurlitt art trove', an unexpected and initially overwhelming gift that came with many questions and huge responsibility.

The “Gurlitt art trove” comprises more than 1500 priceless artworks that were in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt (1932–2014), son of the German art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895–1956).

Cornelius Gurlitt caught the attention of customs investigators during a routine control and was put under surveillance because of suspected tax evasion. During razzias, the officials discovered an unbelievable treasure cove of art works. The case made international headlines and caused much controversy, as the artworks found consisted mostly of pieces that disappeared during the Nazi regime: Where did each piece originally come from and who owned them? Are there potential heirs? Under what circumstances did Hildebrand Gurlitt acquire them? 

With the discovery of the art trove, numerous works by artists resurfaced that had been defamed by the Nazi regime as «degenerate» and whose whereabouts were a puzzle following their confiscation from German museums. The present exhibition, carefully curated by the Kunstmuseum shows a selection of 160 works of Modern Art from the 'Gurlitt legacy', that had been outlawed under the National Socialists.

They consist mostly of works on paper, featuring expressionism, contructivism and verism, with artists like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde or Paul Klee being represented. 

The audio guide in English is highly recommended, as written explanations on walls and an interesting film about the 'Gurlitt art scandal' are in German only. Alternatively, there's an interesting BBC Art, if you'd like to do more research prior to your visit.

The Nazi regime condemned as 'degenerate' and being 'un-German' in spirit all art and cultural movements that did not comply with its artistic ideals. New forms of art, like expressionism, dada, surrealism, cubism or Bauhaus all fitted into this category. Moreover, all art by artists with Jewish backgrounds was classified as 'degenerate'. Literature, music or even architecture could be identified as such.

This fascinating exhibition examines the political processes which led to Modern Art being defamed as 'degenerate' and consequently being confiscated, sold or worse; destroyed.

Particular attention is being paid to the fate of artists who found themselves facing repressions and persecution. 

The crucial historical events are placed in direct relationship with the figure of Hildebrand Gurlitt (Cornelius' father) with all his contradictions, trying to put his role into context: was he the profiteer of Nazi regime or a fervent and passionate advocate of Modern Art, trying to save priceless works of art in times of a ruthless dictatorship? 


WHERE:                            KUNSTMUSEUM BERN, Hodlerstrasse 8-12, CH - 3000 Bern 7

WHEN:                              until March 4, 2018

OPENING TIMES*:            Tuesday 10:00 - 21:00, Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00 - 17:00 (Closed on Mondays)

                                          *may vary over holiday period

ENTRY FEES:                   CHF 10 (Students: CHF 5, Children up to 16 years: free)

                                           Highly recommended audio guide: CHF 6


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