September 2005
  Arts
MICHAEL BARNETT 

DEGENERATE ART. WAS THIS AN EARLY SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER?

What has Mel Brooks's satirical show The Producers got in common with an exhibition at Tate Modern? What indeed, you may ask? Well, after the fuhrer's decree in June 1937 giving Goebbels (Leader of the Reich Chamber of Culture) the OK to plunder museums for German degenerate art from 1910 onwards, more than 15,000 works were removed. Then in July 1937 the Degenerate Art show opened in Munich. It was hastily put together in two weeks and was Hitler's way of mocking modern art and, in particular, trying to annihilate German modern art at a stroke.

The avant-garde movements, such as Cubism, Dadaism and Expressionism - Expressionists were singled out as mad artists - were condemned by the Nazis as morally and socially subversive. But, as with Springtime For Hitler, Bialystock and Bloom's awful show in The Producers, that was supposed to be a guaranteed flop but became a box office hit, the art show that should of been seen as repulsive by the German people, became the best-attended exhibition of the century. More than two million people came to see the art works, though I do not know whether they were order to attend or went of their own accord.

Degenerate Art is the English translation of the German phrase, "Entartete Kunst".

The exhibition, if looked at from another point of view, actually exposes the true sense of German Modernisim at that time. Hitler only wanted art that exalted the Aryan way of life, and remember, Adolf as a boy had shown a talent for drawing and attended classes at the prestigious Vienna Academy of Fine Arts (though he actually failed his entrance exam).

The art on display in this small exhibition in the Tate include works by, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff whose painting Woman with a Bag (1915) was completed shortly before his departure for the Russian front during the First World War. This is an interesting work. When examining the protracted features of the woman's face, it suddenly hits you that you are looking at the severity of an African mask instead of an human head.

In 1947 Schmidt-Rottluff was appointed professor at the art accademy in Berlin.

Oskar Kokoschka's Marianne-Maquis (1942), depicts British war leaders Winston churchill and General Montgomery drinking tea in the Cafe de Paris in London, as well as other poignant works.

In 1939, confiscated art work by Kokoschka was sold at auction in Switzerland with other paintings by Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin ans Paul Klee.

The Sea B (1930) is by Emil Nolde who at one time called for loyalty to Hitler, yet more than 1,000 of his works were removed from German museums for being degenerate. His inclusion in this show was curious to me as he was a Nazi.

There are also pictures by, Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, Ernst Barlach and Boris Taslitzky. Taslitzky was a member of the French Resistance and was deported to Buchenwald concentration camp. His horrific experiences underpin his work, such as his painting The Death of Danielle Casanova.

It is not possible to recreatate exactly the the orginal exhibition as many works were destoryed. But this one-room show at Tate Modern gives a new generation a chance to see fine examples of German modern art. And from a weird aspect - Hitler as the arbiter of good cultural taste, and what should be detested.

So, Springtime for Hitler's degenerate art, has become a Summer of Love hit art show.

Don't miss the Tate boat - go and see this crucial exhibition.

Degenerate Art

Until 23 October 2005

Tate Modern

Bankside

London SE1

www.tate.org.uk

Recorded information 020 7887 8008

*Tate Boat, with the distinctive Damien Hirst spots, runs every 40 minutes between Tate Britain and Tate Modern (and also stops at the London Eye).

The Producers (booking to April 1 2006) Theatre Royal, Drury Lane London WC2 Tel:0870 8901109


THE POETRY OLYMPICS AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL LONDON

On September 25 the Royal Albert Hall will once again host The Poetry Olympics.

This celebrates the 40th anniversary of the First International Poetry incarnation which jam-packed the concert hall back in 1965. And also the 70th birthday of the Olympic torchbearer and coordinator, Michael Horovitz.

The remarkable line-up features diverse artists, singer-songwriters, actors and musicians including Pete Townshend; Jerry Hall; Beth Orton; Fran Landesman; Linton Kwesi Johnson; John Hegley;, Christopher Logue, Adrian Mitchell who were performing at the momentous '65 show, and Horovitz, among others. It will be co-hosted by James Naughtie from the BBC.

This unrepeatable gathering brings together a nucleus of the most varied 21st century troubadours, reintroducing the public to perhaps the longest-standing known cultural tradition - of poetry, songs, music and acting.

Previous Poetry Olympics have featured superlative performances by artists ranging from Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney, through Ray Davies with Damon Albarn, to Joe Strummer, Kylie Minogue and Patti Smith.

Don't wait until 2012, back this cultural bid in September.

For Tickets to this historic event on Sunday, 25th September at 7pm - from £5 (Gallery Concessions) to £40 (Grand Tier Boxes) go to www.royalalberthall.com or telephone 0207 589 8212.

Further information: www.poetryolympics.com. email:info@poetryolympics.com. This year The Olympics Twenty 05 is produced by New Departures Ltd.

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