Published on January 29, 2014 | by Caroline Schmitt

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Nazi ‘degenerate art’ list to be published at the V&A

Page from Entartete Kunst : A typescript inventory for The Reichsministerium

Entartete Kunst was the title of a Munich exhibition in 1937 [Victoria and Albert Museum]

Researchers at UAL have welcomed the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum’s decision to publish the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) confiscated by the Nazi regime, saying it will stimulate the debate about the impact of censorship during WWII.

According to The Independent, two volumes that list 16,558 works of modern art, including Picasso and Van Gogh, will be made available on the V&A’s website later this week.

Dr. Malcolm Quinn, Associate Dean of Research at Chelsea College of Art, explained to Arts London News what ‘degenerate’ stands for:

“It’s that emphasis on the species and the fantasy of a pure racial group that represents the thinking behind ‘degenerated art’. They [Nazis] thought modern art was too cosmopolitan and too open to outside influences and would therefore defect the eyes and brains of Germans.”

Modernist

“Entartete Kunst was the title of an exhibition in 1937 Munich that showcased modernist and colonialist art, [and was] seen as ‘an insult to German feeling,’ for ‘educational purposes’,” Quinn said.

“It is ironic that the ‘degenerate’ art exhibition was far more popular than other exhibitions of pure German art,” he added.

Andrew Marsh, Associate Lecturer on BA Culture, Criticism and Curation at CSM, highlighted: “WWII in most respects has been publicly examined and scrutinised within a historical and political framework. There are public trials of war criminals, countless books and documentaries of the last days of the Reich etc. However, there is still comparatively little on where these artworks ended up or what happened to them post war…But recent news stories, such as the stash of works found in a Munich apartment, only serve to maintain a public fascination.”

In February 2012, 1,500 art works were found in the former apartment of an art dealer who was commissioned by the Nazis to sell withdrawn art. The case was only publicised in November 2013.

Criticised

Page from Entartete Kunst : A typescript inventory for The Reichsministerium

Germany has been criticised for not debating the art pieces [Victoria and Albert museum]

Germany has been criticised internationally for not openly debating the art pieces; some of which fall into the ‘degenerate’ category.

“The Munich story underlines our notion that the issue has been swept under the carpet. At least with the [V&A] list we’re getting the idea of where to look. The dream would be that we get the fullest possible access to ‘degenerate art’, but also to the so-called pure German art. We need to see both of these things. One has to be seen through the other, so what we would really want is a joint exhibition of these two,” suggested Quinn.

The list, originally compiled by the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) has 479 pages, is split into two volumes (A-G and G-Z) and will shortly be made available on the V&A website.

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