Art and Power: Europe Under the Dictators (1930-1945)
The 23rd Council of Europe Exhibition
Deutsches Historisches Museum: 11 June - 20 August 1996Zur deutschen Version
The political upheavals which occurred in Europe in the thirties
and the war years continue to reverberate, and the world we live
in today has been irreversibly shaped by that age of extremes.
Half a century after the end of the Second World War, a ground-breaking
exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum shows how
art, architecture and film were subverted and used as propaganda
to further the ideals of the totalitarian regimes of Hitler, Stalin
In the highly charged atmosphere of Europe in the thirties, culture was fiercely contested by the competing ideologies of Communism and Fascism and artists faced stark choices about their relationship to authority. For some this presented exceptional opportunities; for others it cost them their lives.
The exhibition is devised around four cities. It begins with the Paris International Exhibition of 1937, when the great powers faced each other on the cultural field with a competitiveness which matched their preparations for war. The Paris Exhibition was the site of a sharp cultural confrontation on the banks of the Seine, with each pavilion declaring its country's credo. Speer's German pavilion, topped with the Prussian eagle, faced Iofan's Soviet pavilion, complete with Mukhina's celebrated sculpture "The Industrial Worker and Collective Farm Girl". The Spanish pavilion, designed by the Catalan architect Sert, housed Picasso's "Guernica" while Franco's artists where shown in the Vatican pavilion. The art of both Spains is shown in this exhibition which includes studies for "Guernica", Miró's tragic Still Life of 1937, Dali's famous "Premonition of Civil War" and "Montserrat" by Gonzalez.
After Paris, the exhibition focuses on Rome, Moscow and Berlin. It includes about 600 works: painting, sculptures, architectural models, drawings, photographs, posters and film. Much of the architectural material has not been exhibited before. New urban plans for these great cities were personally promoted by Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin, dictators whose megalomania embraced architecture on a massive scale. The exhibition shows what Berlin would have looked like if Hitler had won the war; Speer's plan included a triumphal arch three times the size of the Arc de Triomphe, a huge palace for the Führer and two 50 kilometre highways stretching from east to west and north to south, one crowned by a People's Hall, 300 metres high with space for 150,000 people.
Tolerance of artists was markedly different from country to country. In Germany the situation was extreme. Beckmann, Nolde, Klee, Barlach and Kollwitz were labelled degenerate, while artists and sculptors such as Ziegler, Breker, Thorak and Kolbe were purchased and promoted by the Nazis. In contrast, Italian artists favoured by the Fascist regime of Mussolini included major figures of the 1930s, such as the sculptor Martini and the painter Sironi. Other artists in the Italian section include de Chirico, Guttuso, Fontana, Morandi, Pirandello and Carrà.
Stalin's 1935 'Moscow Plan' is the focus of the Russian section, along with other architectural projects: the Moscow Underground, the Palace of the Soviets Competition and the All Union Agricultural Exhibition. Soviet artists include the avant-garde of an earlier generation : Malevich, Tatlin and Filonov as well as painters and sculptors of the official Socialist Realist style such as Gerassimov, Brodskii and Mukhina. For each of the three cities, the exhibition includes art made in the service of the State as well as in opposition and exile.
Major lenders to the exhibition include the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; the Shchusev Museum of Architecture, Moscow; the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome; the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan; the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; the Akademie der Künste, Berlin; the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt; the University Museum of Art, Iowa; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid and many private collections.
"Art and Power" has been curated and selected by Professor Dawn Ades of the University of Essex; David Elliott, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford; Professor Tim Benton, Dean of the Arts Faculty of the Open University; Dr Iain Boyd Whyte, Director of the Centre for Architectural History at the University of Edinburgh; Lutz Becker, artist and film-maker and Simonetta Fraquelli, an historian of 20th century Italian Art. It is supported by a strong international committee of museum directors and art historians from all parts of Europe.
"Art and Power" is the latest in the series of Council of Europe exhibitions which have been staged in different European cities since the war. It is only the second to be devoted to the 20th century and, as such, is a successor to "Tendencies of the Twenties" in Berlin in 1977. After the Hayward Gallery the exhibition was shown at the Centro de Cultura Contemporanea, Barcelona. It will be held in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin from 11 June - 20 August 1996.
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition with an introduction by Eric Hobsbawn, an afterword by Neal Ascherson and contributions from leading specialists on Russia, France, Italy, Germany and the United States. (price: DM 48,-, out of print).
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