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Posts Tagged ‘Neue Gallerie’

Degenerate Art

May 6, 2014 | by

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Lasar Segall, Eternal Wanderers, 1919, oil on canvas; on display at the Neue Galerie.

Cornelius Gurlitt, identified in obituaries as a “Nazi-era art hoarder,” died this morning in Munich of heart trouble. Gurlitt’s cache of more than 1,400 important modern works, inherited from his art-dealer father—including pieces by Picasso, Matisse, Manet, and Renoir—was discovered in 2012. It was not made public until November 2013. Although classified as “second-degree mixed-race Jewish,” Hildebrand Gurlitt was one of three dealers given official sanction by Hitler to peddle “degenerate art” in other countries, with the profits going to Germany. And although Gurlitt was required to return a number of works to their former owners, the majority of the collection is thought to have been acquired “legally.”

Says Bloomberg,

Isolated from the outside world, Gurlitt stopped watching television in 1963, booked hotel rooms months in advance by post when he had to travel, and never used the Internet, according to Spiegel magazine. His collection was discovered in a raid after authorities became suspicious when he was found carrying 9,000 euros during a random search at the Swiss border in 2010. He was returning from a visit to Bern to sell some artwork there.

It is unclear what will happen to the collection, although art historians will apparently continue to investigate the works’ provenance and post images of them. Read More »

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The Heads of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

September 30, 2010 | by

Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, Afflicted with Constipation, 1771–83, lead-tin cast.

The eighteenth-century bookseller Christoph Friedrich Nicolai was a leading figure in the German Enlightenment and a quixotic critic of the younger German Romantics—Goethe, Schiller—who would soon supplant his own circle of intellectuals. He was also a keen observer and chronicler, and in his “Description of a Journey Through Germany and Switzerland,” Nicolai wrote of his 1781 encounter with sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt in a breezy dispatch that seems eerily like a contemporary profile of a living artist. Once a court sculptor preparing imperial commissions, Messerschmidt had, by the time Nicholai met him, descended into a kind of necromantic madness and retreated to Pressburg, where between 1771 and 1783 he worked over a private series of busts—or “heads,” as they came to be known—that exhibit both a stunning realism and a mesmerizing fascination with the expressive possibilities of the human grotesque. The text below is an abridged version of that profile, translated by Herbert Ranharter.

From left: The Yawner, 1771-81, tin cast; The Artist as He Imagined Himself Laughing, 1777-81, tin cast.

The most peculiar artist was without a doubt Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, who subsequently died in August of 1783 in his fifty-first year. He lived and dressed like an ordinary citizen. When he began his studies in Rome, he bought a trunk of a lime tree and lugged it into the Farnesi Palace, where he put it down in front of the Hercules statue. Two Spanish sculptors, living off their courtly pensions, dressed in their fashionable morning gowns while mucking about with their measuring devices and clay models, looked over their shoulders at the German stranger with the shabby clothes and short hair and rather thought him to be a day laborer. Messerschmidt set to work with a few carving knives and whittling the wood this way and that. The other artists watched him and, particularly the Spaniards, shrugged their shoulders, thinking that nothing good can come of such activity. Their mockery soon turned to astonishment when they saw a beautiful Hercules emerge from the unwieldy trunk. The Spaniards, who had never been taught this approach, thought that this must have been accomplished with the help of evil spirits, and one of them made utterances to that effect. Messerschmidt, who was always a bit brusque, slapped this man, who was not particularly liked by his fellow students, for making such assertions. Thus Messerschmidt asserted his place with honor, giving him a new status among his peers.

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The Things We Carried

July 27, 2010 | by

Otto Dix went to war voluntarily. A good part of his WWI duty on team Germany was as a machine-gunner, which provided Dix with front row seats to the Battle of Somme and other horrifying displays of anatomy, brutally exposed. He was entrenched in gore. He was repeatedly wounded, once near-fatally. Things around him were about as violent as is conceivable—and Dix, like others who thrilled to the front, spent those years cultivating a conception of violence. Which is shitty and all, except that that was his motive from the get go: Dix was eager for the terribleness, volunteering, he once explained, “to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him squarely. I had to experience that quite directly. I wanted it.”

He got it. And for the next near-decade, Dix stored the sought-after experience of those war years in the sick, fragmented cinema of the brain where we keep all the worst of what we’ve seen, that asylum for repression from which broken imagery escapes into our nightmares and peripheral vision. Then, in 1924, Dix produced Der Krieg (The War), a cycle of fifty-one demented and harrowing prints that document his experience in battle: exposed brains; eviscerated youth; abstractions that, upon reflection, reveal themselves to be piles of disembowelment; blood blood blood. The series acts as sort of post-traumatic stress exorcism modeled after Francisco Goya’s Los Desastres de la Guerra. Loose translation: “I’ve seen shit you can’t even imagine and these artworks will only give you a fraction of an idea of how awful my daydreaming mind has forever become.” Read More »

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