The Exhibition Degenerate Art

In 1937, an exhibition took place in Munich, which has passed as an infamous event into history.

Leading up to its opening, officials of the fascist government had raided Germany's public galleries, and removed Modern artworks which they regarded as 'degenerate.' This included Impressionist, Expressionist and Abstract works, as well as paintings, drawings and sculptures which were seen to display the wrong social or political attitudes.

The Exhibition Degenerate Art (Ausstellung Entartete Kunst) was created from the raided images and sculptures, to show what was now regarded as 'unacceptable' art. It opened in Munich on July 19, 1937 and displayed over 600 artworks, including paintings and sculptures by Ernst Barlach, Marc Chagall, Wassily Kandinski, Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Emil Nolde and more than one hundred other artists.

Following it's display in Munich, the exhibition went on tour through Germany and Austria. Entry to the event was free. It was seen by an estimated 3 million visitors, and remains to this day one of the world's most-visited exhibitions of Modern Art.

Hung in cramped arrangements and surrounded by hostile graffiti comments, the artworks on display were accompanied by derogatory legends, which included aggressive personal attacks on the artists.

Following the exhibition, most of those included artists who were still in Germany were forbidden to work, to teach or to exhibit. In many cases they were forbidden to paint or draw at all, even in private. Police raids took place to enforce these bans.

Most of the raided artworks were finally destroyed or sold off in auctions abroad to raise money. Some pieces, however, disappeared in the private collections of high-ranking Nazi officials.

The livelihoods and careers of many artists were destroyed by the prohibition to work, by far-reaching repressions and public demonisation. Often, the only options for those affected were to go into exile abroad, or to try to hide in 'internal exile' - a complete retreat from public life.

Entartet Project

While the exhibition Degenerate Art no longer exists, copies of the guidebook, which was published to accompany the exhibition's tour, survive.

This text has become the starting point for our project.

Entartet explores the echoes of this totalitarian and highly populist example of propaganda today. The guidebook's content ranges from statements about Modern Art, which could easily be found in newspapers or on online forums today, to the most shocking statements of political and racist hate and intolerance.

It is the often seamless transition, from populist statements which might still be regarded as an acceptable opinion today, all the way to the clearly criminal and inhumane, which makes this text a historical document worth exploring.

For us, Entartet is less about art, than it is about populism and intolerance. Their victims require our attention, simply, as human beings.