Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937
Hitler couldn’t exterminate modern art—the great Jewish Bolshevik cultural conspiracy, as he saw it—whose daring and pungency, obscured by today’s babble about money, somehow gained new life in the story of Gurlitt and the Nazis’ degenerate campaign.
I suspect this partly explains the popularity of “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937,” at the Neue Galerie in New York, where lines stretched out the door as soon as the show opened in March. Seeing the exhibition, you can recover a sense of what was once radical and thrilling about pictures by Expressionists like Max Beckmann, George Grosz, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. A debased term, the avant-garde gets its jive back. Art matters again. The Nazis raised the stakes by stigmatizing modern art. As Genet once put it, fascism is theater. So modernism returns to its role as tragic hero in the show.
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