As we all wonder (in a state of total wonder!) about the latest cache of “degenerate” art Hitler banned in 1938, please notice a forgotten detail. As Hitler, his favorite architect Albert Speer, and his favorite (if unknown) sculptor, Arno Breker, drove together into Paris victoriously in 1940, he declared he wanted to have a German museum as great as the Louvre.
The art dealer Gurlitt who was preparing that Museum in Linz, Austria (where the dictator grew up) was also the one whose secret cache was just uncovered in Munich: (It pays to know the Boss!) I serendipitously “discovered” Breker in Schwerin, where my new German wife was celebrating a relative’s anniversary.
This was the exhibition that the poster designer Klaus Staeck, who is the current Head of the Academy of Art in Berlin, boycotted! BERUF VERBOT! When Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, hassled the apolitical Dusseldorf sculptor, the failed artist Adolf told Arno not to fret: Artists don’t understand politics, as he bestowed a great ranch on him to expedite his sculpturing! The soft, benign side of Adolf!
But I came not to praise Hitler (although the failed artist had a soft place in his heart for artistic beginners) but to say what we may be missing because of his Entartete Kunst campaign in 1938. For example, George Grosz (1893-1959 ). Lutz Becker has just written a lively take on his career in Germany, America, and returning to Germany in “George Grosz: Drawings from two portfolios: “Ecce Homo” and “Hintergrund” THE BIG NO (Hayward Publishing (2012).
My wife Hildegard has scanned this black and white collection of Gross’s (he de-Germanized his last name when he fled Hitler to New York in 1933.) Hilly’s visual selections begin with his Dada premiere. Get the whole book. It’s the grossest Gross I have yet seen. NO has never been so beguiling. “Degenerate”, my ass! Say a big YES to his shrewd NO’s.