Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies (New German Critique, Number 130-February 2017) 0822368641, 9780822368649

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Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies (New German Critique, Number 130-February 2017)
 0822368641, 9780822368649

Table of contents :
Editorial Board
Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies: Introduction / Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, Avinoam Shalem
From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”: Developments and Consequences of National Socialist Cultural Policy / Olaf Peters
Hildebrand Gurlitt and His Dealings with German Museums during the “Third Reich” / Meike Hoffmann
Have German Restitution Politics Been Advanced since the Gurlitt Case? A Journalist’s Perspective / Julia Voss
Restitution as Diagnosis: Political Aspects of the “Trophy Art” Problem and Russian-German Relations / Konstantin Akinsha
A Persian Tapestry Looted by the Nazis from the Princes Czartoryski Museum / Kraków, Amy Walsh
The Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art and Other Cultural Property: Have We Gone Too Far or Not Far Enough? / Lawrence M. Kaye
Five Uncomfortable and Difficult Topics Relating to the Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art / Jonathan Petropoulos
The End of Art and the Future of Criticism in Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History / Malika Maskarinec
Hermann Glöckner: Waste as a Figure of Thought? / Sarah E. James
Instant Selves: Algorithmic Autobiographies on Social Network Sites / Roberto Simanowski

Citation preview

Executive Editors David Bathrick, Cornell University Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University Anson Rabinbach, Princeton University Editorial Advisory Board Devin Fore, Princeton University Lydia Goehr, Columbia University Peter Uwe Hohendahl, Cornell University Brad Prager, University of Missouri Eric Rentschler, Harvard University Michael D. Richardson, Ithaca College Contributing Editors Leslie Adelson, Cornell University Stefan Andriopoulos, Columbia University Susan Buck-Morss, Cornell University Amir Eshel, Stanford University Paul Fleming, Cornell University Gerd Gemünden, Dartmouth College Peter Gordon, Harvard University Atina Grossmann, Cooper Union Isabel Hull, Cornell University Anton Kaes, University of California, Berkeley Biddy Martin, Amherst College Fatima Naqvi, Rutgers University Jane O. Newman, University of California, Irvine Eric Santner, University of Chicago Michael Steinberg, Brown University Katie Trumpener, Yale University Jack Zipes, University of Minnesota Managing Editor Lara Kelingos, Cornell University Graphics Editor Brendan K. Bathrick, Minneapolis, Minnesota

New German Critique is the leading journal of German studies. It covers contemporary political and social theory, philosophy, literature, film, media, and art and reads cultural texts in light of current theoretical debates.

New German Critique Number 130

February 2017

Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies Issue Editors: Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem

Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies: Introduction Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem . . . . . . 1 From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”: Developments and Consequences of National Socialist Cultural Policy Olaf Peters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Hildebrand Gurlitt and His Dealings with German Museums during the “Third Reich” Meike Hoffmann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Have German Restitution Politics Been Advanced since the Gurlitt Case? A Journalist’s Perspective Julia Voss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Restitution as Diagnosis: Political Aspects of the “Trophy Art” Problem and Russian-German Relations Konstantin Akinsha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 A Persian Tapestry Looted by the Nazis from the Princes Czartoryski Museum, Kraków Amy Walsh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 The Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art and Other Cultural Property: Have We Gone Too Far or Not Far Enough? Lawrence M. Kaye . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109



Five Uncomfortable and Difficult Topics Relating to the Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art Jonathan Petropoulos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125

The End of Art and the Future of Criticism in Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History Malika Maskarinec . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 143 Hermann Glöckner: Waste as a Figure of Thought? Sarah E. James . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 Instant Selves: Algorithmic Autobiographies on Social Network Sites Roberto Simanowski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205


is an independent scholar and the director of the Russian Avant-garde Research Project (London).


teaches art history and provenance research at the Free University of Berlin.


SARAH E. JAMES is a lecturer in the History of Art Department at University

College London. is an art law specialist at the firm of Herrick, Feinstein LLP, and cochair of the firm’s Art Law Group.


is managing director of eikones, the institute for visual studies at the University of Basel.


OLAF PETERS teaches art history and art theory at the Martin-Luther-University

Halle-Wittenberg. is John V. Croul Professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College.


AVINOAM SHALEM is Riggio Professor (Arts of Islam) in the Department of

Art and Archaeology at Columbia University. ROBERTO SIMANOWSKI

teaches digital media studies at City University of

Hong Kong. JULIA VOSS is deputy head of culture at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

and fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin in 2016–17. is curator of European paintings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3816191

Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies: Introduction

Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem

In early 2012 German officials investigating violations of tax law discovered a trove of mainly nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European paintings and drawings in the Munich apartment and Salzburg house of Cornelius Gurlitt, the reclusive son of the prominent art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt. The elder Gurlitt had worked for the Nazis but also counted a number of artists despised by them among his friends. Since then, the story of the Gurlitt collection has made headlines worldwide. Beyond the bizarre obsession of the aging son, who lived with and for his artworks hidden from public view, the case raises fundamental questions about the role of art dealers during and after the Third Reich, the mechanics of a largely secretive and insufficiently documented market in looted art, the complicity of art historians and business associations, the shortcomings of postwar denazification, the failure of courts and governments to adjudicate claims, and the unwillingness of museums to determine the provenance not just of Cornelius Gurlitt’s holdings but of Generous funding for the conference was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service, and Columbia’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies. We are also grateful for a donation by Lee Bollinger and Jean Magnano Bollinger. New York’s Jewish Museum provided a festive space for the opening lecture. At Columbia, the conference was cosponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Department of History, the University Seminar on Cultural Memory, the Middle East Institute, and the Department of Germanic Languages. Special thanks go to the staffs of the Departments of Art History and of Germanic Languages and their legendary organizational skills. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705667 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.




thousands of artworks looted by the Nazis across Europe and sold off for hard currency by state authorities or their agents. It also raises a host of legal and ethical questions about restitution and what one might call belated transitional justice for stolen art and its former private or public owners. The Gurlitt story was so toxic that it cast glaring light on the failures of German Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung with regard to Nazi-looted art, its agents, its national and international networks, and its hidden legacies up to the present. The case quickly became a scandal in late 2013 after the German authorities had kept it secret for close to two years. The Bavarian government revealed that the discovery included paintings by Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Franz Marc, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Max Liebermann, and many others. Since the elder Gurlitt was one of Nazi Germany’s most prominent dealers and among postwar Germany’s best-known art entrepreneurs, the paintings were immediately suspected of having been confiscated and stolen from their Jewish owners, or from museums pillaged in the notorious campaign against “degenerate art.” When initial research confirmed that some of the Gurlitt artworks had indeed belonged to Jewish collectors forced to abandon possessions in their desperate efforts to flee abroad, the Jewish Claims Conference intervened; Ronald S. Lauder publicly criticized the German government; and the international press reported at length about a case that to some observers seemed to suggest a perverse equivalence between lost art and lost lives. The Gurlitt case was not the only public manifestation of the controversy over looted art. George Clooney’s 2014 Monuments Men is a clumsy Hollywood reprise of the famous US Army art conservationists in uniform—sort of the Dirty Dozen meet Art History 101—who rescued large quantities of stolen art at the end of World War II. A year later Helen Mirren starred in Woman in Gold, the story of how Maria Altmann, an Austrian American refugee, was able to reclaim her family’s portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Gustav Klimt with the help of a heroic Viennese journalist and an intrepid American lawyer. These objects of loot were and are also sometimes regarded as the last prisoners of wars, and the fight for their restitution symbolizes the battle for remembering and reconstructing stolen lives of individuals and communities.1 Generally speaking and beyond the frame of the Shoah, it is no wonder, then, that museums and other public institutions that amass and store cultural goods become the main arenas in which truth telling, memory, and histories are tested and contested. Today these institutions are put under moral scrutiny. 1. On the emergence of US interest in Nazi-looted art, including earlier films, see Dellheim, “Framing Nazi Art Loot.”

Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem


In Germany the public outcry led to an unprecedented collaboration of German federal and state governments, as well as provenance researchers, legal experts, art historians, and representatives from more than a dozen countries in a newly created task force (Schwabinger Kunstfund). The task force signaled the first concerted effort to determine the provenance of artworks suspected of being looted. As Julia Voss writes in this issue: “For the first time, international experts and representatives of Jewish organizations were asked to join a consulting body.” In this respect, it followed the principles laid down at the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, which declared that “art that had been confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted should be identified.”2 However, according to German law, the only legal institution devoted exclusively to looted art remains the Limbach Commission, established in 2003 to advise museums in restitution cases. As Voss points out, the commission remains a consultative body. It cannot render decisions or negotiate restitutions, and it requires that museums actively initiate its assistance. At the height of the discussions of the Gurlitt case in early 2014, Andreas Huyssen from Columbia University’s Department of Germanic Languages and Avinoam Shalem from the university’s Department of Art History and Archaeology joined forces to organize a scholarly conference on Nazi-looted art and its aftereffects in the present. Holger A. Klein, then chair of art history; Anson Rabinbach, European historian at Princeton and specialist in the history of Nazism; and Elisabeth Rochau-Shalem, with her extensive network of museum curators and provenance research scholars in Germany, joined the planning effort. The conference, “Ghosts of the Past: Nazi-Looted Art and Its Legacies,” took place in early 2015 with an evening keynote by Olaf Peters at New York’s Jewish Museum and a long day of lectures and discussions streamed to a large audience at Columbia and beyond. It brought together an international group of historians of Nazi cultural politics, art historians, scholars in provenance research and the history of German art dealerships, members of the German Task Force of Provenance Research, American museum curators from New York and Los Angeles, lawyers, and journalists. Beyond the specific case of the Gurlitts’ long-hidden treasures, the conference was designed to explore the consciously veiled continuities of art dealerships and auction houses from the Nazi period into the Federal Republic, and to take stock of a fast-developing political and cultural debate. Of course there have been earlier attempts to document Nazi cultural policies and to deal 2. See US Department of State, “Washington Conference Principles.”



with the complicities of the German art-historical establishment.3 The scholarship of the 1960s and early 1970s, vital in the context of the student movement and the New Left, had only a limited afterlife and—curiously enough—was not significantly pursued in subsequent decades when the German memory debate about the Holocaust and the Third Reich took off in the public sphere. Much of the conference focused on the current phase of accelerated and officially supported provenance research, which to a large extent responds to public and political pressures. One consequence is that a host of unanswered questions has emerged on what constitutes “looted art.” Do looted works include only those directly confiscated or acquired by theft or “Aryanization,” as some museums have claimed, or do they include coerced acquisitions more broadly conceived? Can the original owners be identified? By what legal procedures can restitution be effected? And, should the discussion be restricted to looted European art only? Recently discovered lists of Nazi-confiscated household items (Beschlagnahmungen) from Jewish homes in Munich suggest that the objects of loot were not limited to paintings and masterpieces of European art. They also included silverware, oriental carpets and other collected artworks of “oriental” origin, and of course old manuscripts and rare printed books. Until now, German state-sanctioned commissions at both the federal and the state level only address works held by museums and not those in private collections like Gurlitt’s. As Konstantin Akinsha notes in this issue, artworks seized by the Red Army remain beyond the reach of restitution efforts.4 Jonathan Petropoulos documents the considerable irregularities that often accompanied the otherwise admirable work of the Monuments Men, including lost artworks, acts of personal gain, and even the burning of valuable cultural objects. The postwar United States was hardly exempt from chicanery, as the story of the close relationship between the Nazi art dealer Bruno Lohse and several top American museums illustrates. The main purpose of provenance research is to investigate the fate of specific works. It focuses on the transactions of sale and acquisition under extreme political pressure of Nazi racialized property law, and on meticulous documentation of legitimate or illegitimate ownership, with the goal of establishing parameters for restitution. But as several recent cases have shown, even when former owners of a Nazi-looted artwork and their heirs can be clearly identified, restitution invariably involves lengthy legal battles. Museums, both in Germany 3. Brenner, Die Kunstpolitik des Nationalsozialismus; Wulf, Die bildenden Künste; Hinz, Die Malerei im deutschen Faschismus; Hinz, Art in the Third Reich. See also Rabinbach and Gilman, Third Reich Sourcebook, which includes a number of relevant documents, such as the 1940 SS report “Masterpieces of German Art in Private Jewish Collections” (509). 4. On materials from recently opened Soviet archives, see Rotermund-Reynard, Echoes of Exile.

Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem


and in the United States, have been reluctant to restitute. As Lawrence Kaye, who has litigated several key cases, explains in this issue, American museums have been unwilling to adhere to the principles set down in Washington, DC, and subsequently reaffirmed in the 2009 Czech Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets and Related Issues. He cites the egregious case of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and its determination to hold on to its looted holdings through a blizzard of lawsuits and arcane legal maneuvers for almost ten years. By waging this protracted battle, he writes, the Norton Simon Museum “is flouting the dictates of the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration.” Kaye argues for removing the irrelevant statutes of limitation that museums frequently invoke, and for a “fair and just” approach that encourages both parties to engage in reconciliation: “Claimants will be compelled to forfeit perfect justice and even corrective justice, to achieve closure with dignity and some recognition of their lost history. Possessors must meet them halfway.” These battles, no doubt, will go on for some time, as the sinister provenance and history of works will be illuminated in more detail in the future. Of particular interest to us, however, is the historical issue of the intersections between art dealers, auction houses, and Nazi policy, and their hidden continuities into the early decades of the Federal Republic. Hildebrand Gurlitt, part Jewish himself and dedicated to advancing modernism as a museum curator in the 1920s, not only became one of the major art dealers working for the regime but also was able to erase his past and reestablish himself as a respected art dealer in Düsseldorf after World War II. As Meike Hopp’s history of Adolf Weinmüller’s auction houses in Munich and Vienna and Meike Hoffmann and Nicola Kuhn’s biography of Hildebrand Gurlitt have shown, we need to understand the basic structures and mechanisms of how the art markets were gleichgeschaltet under the Nazis, how dealers were not just complicit but proactive in instituting and enforcing Nazi laws, and how old networks that had developed over the years reemerged from the ashes of the Third Reich.5 Hopp summarizes it succinctly in the conclusion to her book: “This targeted and comprehensively organized disenfranchisement was not planned at the highest levels of the Party; it took place in the midst of the art trade itself. It was massively promoted by professional associations and ‘Aryan’ art dealers who recognized the opportunity to get rid of disagreeable competition” (310). Her findings in the paradigmatic case of the Weinmüller auction houses demonstrate that “confiscation and theft of art collections by the Gestapo from 1938 5. Hopp, Kunsthandel im Nationalsozialismus; Hoffmann and Kuhn, Hitlers Kunsthändler. Both Hopp and Hoffmann participated in the conference, but unfortunately Hopp did not provide us with her paper, which summarized the findings of her book.



on must be seen as a result of a continuous development that had begun much earlier” (310–11). Hopp’s impressive archival research does not include Weinmüller’s auctions after his house was reestablished in 1949 after denazification. Hoffmann and Kuhn, on the other hand, treat Hildebrand Gurlitt’s activities in the postwar period in great detail. Their recent book provides a rich case study of the art world’s continuities from the Third Reich into the Federal Republic. The methods of provenance research are necessarily extremely detailed, haunted by the difficulty of absent documentation (either hidden or destroyed), and by detective work sometimes so complex that one may miss the forest for the trees. It has to be archive oriented and extremely positivistic, given legal and political pressures and always looming restitution claims. Some in the conference discussions felt that all the emphasis on ambiguities and “gray zones” of complicity, compliance, and complications risked making the methodological choice into yet another apologetic strategy at a time when German federal, regional, and local institutions are nationally and internationally pressured to come to terms with yet another unwelcome legacy. The danger is to create obfuscation through Wissenschaft. The history spanning the Third Reich and the postwar period is one thing; the lack of easy solutions dealing with the legacies of what one writer has called the “rape of Europe” is another.6 In addition, questions about other looted goods, for example, Jewish private libraries, which were recently the focus of Gish Amit’s study, bring the restitution queries into spaces like the Library of Congress and the Hebrew National Library in Jerusalem.7 Other questions about the looting of Islamic objects, either in the Nazi-occupied regions in North Africa or in other European sites, should also be raised—and the article by Amy Walsh on the story of the Persian (Safavid) carpet from the Czartoryski Collection in Kraków sheds light on one such pertinent case.8 Thus the debate about what to do with the Gurlitt collection and how to assess the legacies of Nazi-looted art will go on for some time, as the provenance of so many artworks in private and public hands worldwide remains to be researched. This is a task, we might suggest, not only for German researchers and museums. 6. Nicholas, Rape of Europa. 7. Amit, EX Libris. 8. A provenance research initiative similar to the one run by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, is needed to cover all these “other” regions. See, e.g., the pioneering work of Banu Karaca on the “missing provenance, ‘lost’ works” of non-Muslim citizens in Turkey during World War II ( [accessed June 14, 2016]). For a report on the Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative, see Milosch, “Provenance.”

Andreas Huyssen, Anson Rabinbach, and Avinoam Shalem


References Amit, Gish. 2014. EX Libris: His‫ܒ‬oryah shel gezel, shimur ve-nikhus ba-Sifriyah ha-le’umit bi-Yerushalayim (Chronicles of Theft, Preservation, and Appropriation at the Jewish National Library in Jerusalem). Jerusalem: Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Hakibbutz Hameuhad. Brenner, Hildegard. 1963. Die Kunstpolitik des Nationalsozialismus. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt. Dellheim, Charles. 2008. “Framing Nazi Art Loot.” In The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times, edited by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jonathan Karp, 319–34. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hinz, Berthold. 1974. Die Malerei im deutschen Faschismus: Kunst und Konterrevolution. Munich: Hanser. ———. 1979. Art in the Third Reich, translated by Rita Kimber. New York: Pantheon. Hoffmann, Meike, and Nicola Kuhn. 2016. Hitlers Kunsthändler: Hildebrand Gurlitt, 1895–1956. Munich: Beck. Hopp, Meike. 2012. Kunsthandel im Nationalsozialismus: Adolf Weinmüller in München und Wien. Cologne: Böhlau. Milosch, Jane C. 2014. “Provenance: Not the Problem (the Solution): Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative.” Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals 10, no. 3: 255–64. Nicholas, Lynn H. 1994. The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Knopf. Rabinbach, Anson, and Sander Gilman, eds. 2013. The Third Reich Sourcebook. Berkeley: University of California Press. Rotermund-Reynard, Ines, ed. 2015. Echoes of Exile: Moscow Archives and the Arts in Paris, 1933–1945. Berlin: de Gruyter. US Department of State. 1998. “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.” Wulf, Joseph. 1963. Die bildenden Künste im Dritten Reich: Eine Dokumentation. Gütersloh: Mohn.

From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”: Developments and Consequences of National Socialist Cultural Policy

Olaf Peters

The term degenerate art conjures National Socialist cultural barbarism and the destruction of modern art in Germany between the wars,1 and it is thus related to “looted art,” with its common ground of unlawfulness, plunder, and destruction. The present article aims to explain the genesis, the dynamics, and some contradictions of National Socialist policy on art in 1937–38. In the last phase of the Weimar Republic, the National Socialists reduced the discourse of decadence and degeneration of the nineteenth century2 to racist themes and This contribution is based on my research while preparing the exhibition Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937, which I organized and curated at the Neue Galerie New York and which ran March 13–September 1, 2014. The exhibition catalog was published by Prestel in Munich. I offer my deep thanks for the chance to present parts of this article in a keynote lecture at the Jewish Museum in New York—a great honor to me. 1. On National Socialist art policies and their consequences, see Brenner, Die Kunstpolitik; Bollmus, Das Amt Rosenberg; Merker, Die bildenden Künste; Backes, Hitler und die bildenden Künste; Barbian, Literaturpolitik im “Dritten Reich”; Dahm, “Nationale Einheit”; Cuomo, National Socialist Cultural Policy; Mathieu, Kunstauffassungen und Kulturpolitik; Petropoulos, Art and Politics; Etlin, Art, Culture, and Media; Sarkowicz, Hitlers Künstler; and Huener and Nicosia, Arts in Nazi Germany. The most recent accounts are Petropoulos, Artists under Hitler; and Ruppert, Künstler im Nationalsozialismus. 2. On this, essentially from the perspective of discourse analysis, see Kashapova, Kunst, Diskurs und Nationalsozialismus, 43–85; and, for a look at art critics, see Baumann, Wortgefechte. See also Schmitz-Berning, Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus, 183–89, 360–61. From a historical perspective, New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705676 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

eventually instrumentalized it for their propaganda for the “Third Reich” policy of extermination.3 Adolf Hitler and his associates did not invent the phrase degenerate art, but they adopted it, intensified it, and derived from it their destructive policies on art. One thing should remain clear in all this: the National Socialist policy did not come out of nowhere.4 There was a decadeslong run-up to it that prepared the ground and developed its own devastating dynamic in different stages and phases—looted art was a last step and parallel consequence of these developments, including the expulsion of the Jews from German society. Degenerate art and looted art should not be conflated, but they are to some degree interwoven. Degenerate art points to the extremes of a state-run campaign against modern art that was part of a broader attempt to impose the National Socialist conception of art by force. After 1933, book burnings5 and Schandausstellungen (exhibitions of shame)6 were symbolic acts to defame and ultimately eradicate what National Socialists hated and to propagate their own views. Exhibitions of degenerate art and artistic bolshevism became a fixed feature of ideological, anticommunist, and anti-Semitic propaganda shows like those in Munich in 1936 and 1937, thus providing an ideological background for looting art. Here I focus on the genesis of the Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst) exhibition in Munich in 1937 as a case study (fig. 1). Decades of research on the Third Reich reveals the symptomatic character of the following: in the administration and policing of culture, we can observe clear frictions within the Nazi regime; unclear responsibilities of and rivalries between factions led to tension and contradictions. Without underestimating the ideological drivers behind the extremes of Nazi art policy, a closer examination shows again and again that such rivalries and competing mandates were crucially responsible for demonstrable trends toward radicalization, epitomized by degenerate art. This evolved against the backdrop of see Weingart, Kroll, and Bayertz, Rasse, Blut und Gene; and, with supplementary information on the consequences in the “Third Reich,” Steinweis, Studying the Jew. 3. See Schuster, Die “Kunststadt” München 1937; Lüttichau, “Entartete Kunst: München 1937”; Barron, Degenerate Art; Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst”; and the catalog for the Neue Galerie exhibition (Peters, Degenerate Art). 4. On the völkisch movement and its ideas on cultural policy, see Puschner, Schmitz, and Ulbricht, Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung”; Puschner, Die völkische Bewegung im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich; Breuer, Ordnungen der Ungleichheit, esp. 263–90; and Breuer, Die Völkischen in Deutschland. 5. See Goebbels, “Rede zur Bücherverbrennung anlässlich der studentischen Kundgebung ‘Wider den undeutschen Geist,’” May 10, 1933, in Heiber, Goebbels Reden, 1932–1945, 108–12. See Dahm, “Anfänge und Ideologie,” esp. 58–59; Reuth, Goebbels, 286–87; and Heiber, Joseph Goebbels, 167–97. 6. See Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 58–131.

Figure 1. Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition brochure cover, 1937. Courtesy of Neue Galerie, New York. Photograph: Hulya Kolabas. The cover image depicts Otto Freundlich’s New Man, 1912, lost and presumably destroyed.


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

dissatisfaction with official, so-called characteristic German art, which was presented as the antithesis of degenerate art. Even the notorious ideologist Paul Schultze-Naumburg had to admit and hope: If the effects of all this [the Nazi measures after 1933] on art have not yet become evident, that is because art is a plant that has to grow slowly and cannot be produced by measures as a finished product. It will take considerable time before German art is healed of the symptoms of the sickness of Marxism. Naturally, even more time will pass before the seed of a time begins to grow on the freshly plowed field. Logically, however, one day Germany will produce an art that corresponds to the racial existence of its residents, who have been freed of an enormous pressure by a new political life and can now develop freely, unhampered, and in accordance with the inner law of their nature.7

The National Socialists did not achieve that: they produced art that was mediocre, politically motivated, and aesthetically irrelevant; they undermined the preconditions for the creation of real art and destroyed artistic modernism through a spiteful and brutal campaign, culminating in the Munich exhibition of 1937. This showcase of officially sanctioned art directly instigated its antithesis in the Entartete Kunst exhibition.8 During the period that followed, this juxtaposition of German art and degenerate art was repeatedly employed to defame modernism as “un-German” and “degenerate.”9 Munich was not only the socalled capital of the movement but also traditionally the “art city” of the Wilhelmine Empire.10 After 1918, however, the city could scarcely maintain that distinction. As Munich had lost its traditional exhibition building in a devastating fire in 1931, the Nazi regime built the Haus der Deutschen Kunst and promoted it with a large propaganda campaign.11 From 1937 onward, the crucial function of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (GDK), in association with such prestigious journals as Die Kunst im Dritten Reich (later Die Kunst im Deutschen Reich), was to provide artists with aesthetic guidelines for producing art.12 It intended to articulate an alternative vision to the supposed cultural decay of the Weimar era, but its contours were unclear. One main problem for 7. Schultze-Naumburg, Kunst und Rasse, 6. 8. See Schlenker, Hitler’s Salon; and Schmidt, “Die ‘Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung.’” 9. See Dresler, Deutsche Kunst und entartete “Kunst.” 10. On Munich, with a focus on the Secession, see Makela, Munich Secession. 11. Arndt, “Das ‘Haus der Deutschen Kunst.’” 12. See Hinz, “Bild und Lichtbild im Medienverbund.”

Olaf Peters


those who shaped National Socialist art policy turned out to be that no one knew precisely which art should really be presented as the official art of the Third Reich. Certain ideas emerged from the reactionary circle around Bettina Feistel-Rohmeder of the völkisch, National Socialist Deutsche Kunstgesellschaft e.V. (German Arts Society)13 as well as the one around Alfred Rosenberg, the leader of the Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur (Militant League for German Culture),14 but their like-minded colleagues continued to create works that could not satisfy their ambitions; instead, they produced mediocre political art that even Hitler rejected. The Reich propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, knew very well how to assess such hackwork and the harm to propaganda that resulted from the reactionary attitudes it represented. Moreover, he and those around him had other aesthetic preferences; after all, some had long believed that some German expressionism could be declared German art.15 Established figures of the art world operated accordingly during the regime’s early years. For example, the director of the museum in Halle, Alois J. Schardt, an enthusiastic advocate of the art of Lyonel Feininger and Franz Marc, attempted as provisional head of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin to draw a line from German Romanticism to expressionism and also presented this thesis in a speech, with members of the Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund (National Socialist German Students’ League) in the audience.16 But after just a few months Schardt’s unusual ideas foundered: their public presentation was forbidden, and their message was toned down by his successor, Eberhard Hanfstaengl.17 During this conflict Hitler did not take a clear position at first, apparently giving those involved some leeway. After his annual speeches on culture during the party conference in Nuremberg in September, a certain lack of orientation reigned.18 Hitler rejected both völkisch art and modern art, although he did not explicitly mention expressionism, so that its advocates could continue to harbor vague hopes. Even a moderate version of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) was offered, under the label “New German Romanticism,”19 as a possible artistic option for the Nazi state and was supported by Nazi leaders like Rudolf Heß. 13. See Baumann, Wortgefechte; and Clinefelter, Artists for the Reich. 14. See Steinweis, “Weimar Culture and the Rise of National Socialism”; and Gimmel, Die politische Organisation kulturellen Ressentiments. On Rosenberg, see esp. Bollmus, Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner; and Piper, Alfred Rosenberg, esp. chaps. 6–7. 15. See Mathieu, Kunstauffassungen und Kulturpolitik im Nationalsozialismus, 88–91. 16. On Schardt, see Heftrig, Peters, and Rehm, Alois J. Schardt. 17. See Hentzen, Die Berliner National-Galerie im Bildersturm; and Janda and Grabowski, Kunst in Deutschland, 1905–1937. 18. See Hitler, Reden zur Kunst- und Kulturpolitik, 1933–1939. 19. See van Dyke, “‘Neue Deutsche Romantik.’”


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

Subsequently, however, the traditional Munich school triumphed, in some cases alternating with a toned-down, conservative Neue Sachlichkeit or with moderate sprinklings of impressionism and even expressionism. The works at the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung and the general ideas about art—to put it pointedly—were oriented around the nineteenth century. They restored obsolete genre painting and showed works that were not exactly ideologically motivated: mainly landscapes, genre paintings, and paintings of animals.20 Otherwise the exhibition featured depictions of women, especially nudes vaguely modeled on antiquity,21 and only a much smaller number of ideological, specifically National Socialist works of art. Sculpture and architecture were, in any case, the preferred genres in the Third Reich.22 The volatility of these overwhelmingly unimportant works resulted from their context, since in connection with the incipient martial policies of Lebensraum (living space) and extermination, these depictions of farmers plowing or of blonde women took on the character of obfuscating affirmative works of art in the service of war and the “final solution.” Just how difficult it was to select appropriate works to represent Hitler’s aesthetic ideas is demonstrated by the organization of the first Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung. And just how open the situation could be when it came to selecting appropriate art is illustrated by an early episode in which Hanfstaengl, a committee member, after being reassured about “great generosity” when it came to aesthetics, asked the Munich Gauleiter Adolf Wagner whether the expressionists Emil Nolde and Ernst Barlach could be presented in the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung. Gauleiter Wagner responded in a characteristically loose way: “Of course, anyone who is making something good has to be admitted; we are not excluding any names, only works.” That was the state of affairs just a year before the Degenerate Art exhibition opened, and it illustrates the extent to which those involved were in disarray. Goebbels had clear words to describe the sometimes chaotic conditions under which works for the GDK were selected in subsequent years. In his diaries he wrote on June 6, 1937: And then the Haus der deutschen Kunst. The building is fabulously beautiful. One day it will be counted among the truly great buildings of our epoch. We are looking at the selections of the jury. The sculptures are passable, but 20. See Hinz, Die Malerei im deutschen Faschismus; and Petsch, “‘Unersetzliche Künstler.’” 21. See Meckel, Animation—Agitation. 22. See Petsch, Baukunst und Stadtplanung im Dritten Reich; Lane, Architektur und Politik in Deutschland; and Nerdinger, Bauen im Nationalsozialismus.

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Figure 2. Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler during the selection of artworks for the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung, 1937. Courtesy of Neue Galerie, New York. Photograph: Heinrich Hoffmann.

the paintings are in some cases outright catastrophic. They hung pieces that immediately produce horror. That’s what happens with a jury of artists. They all look at the school, at names and intention, and most of them lost any sense of the real art of painting. The Führer is wild with rage. Prof. Troost fights with the courage of a lion but she by no means succeeds with the Führer. All the others on the conservative jury withdraw in misery. Only Prof. Ziegler still has courage. A painting by Staeger was rejected that I myself had purchased a few days ago. But now the Führer is getting involved. That’s good. Afterward, I will take Ziegler to task as well. He is entirely crushed.23

This quotation is revealing in several respects. First, it makes it clear that there were no aesthetic standards or directives established in advance that would have helped the jury make its selection (fig. 2). The nine-member jury consisted of, among others, Gerdy Troost, an architect’s widow; the sculptors Karl Albiker, Josef Wackerle, and Arno Breker; and the insignificant painter Conrad Hommel. Adolf Ziegler24 and the political graphic artist Hans Schweitzer, 23. See Goebbels, Tagebücher, 3:167, entry for June 6, 1937. 24. On Ziegler, see Fuhrmeister, “Adolf Ziegler (1892–1956).”


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

known as Mjölnir, were important members of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture) on the jury.25 So Goebbels could take Ziegler to task because he was president of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste (Reich Chamber of the Fine Arts) and hence Goebbels’s direct subordinate.26 Hitler’s reprimand represented an enormous loss of prestige for Goebbels, since it meant that the Führer’s central artistic representative had proved alarmingly incapable of sounding out and implementing the Führer’s aesthetic ideas. That accounts for the subsequent harsh rebuke by Goebbels.27 Hitler was truly distressed by the artistic submissions. Goebbels commented on this in his diary on June 7, 1937: “In train to Regensburg. Führer starts on the jury again. Would rather postpone the Munich exhibition a year than exhibit such crap. . . . He is in a complete rage.”28 Hitler himself remarked in his opening speech—in which he tellingly had to emphasize the quality of the graphic works submitted—that the development of a new German art would be a long process: “And when sacred conscientiousness once again comes to its right in this field, then, I have no doubt, the Almighty will rise out the mass of these honest creators of art up to the eternal firmament of the immortal, gifted artists of great times.”29 The Führer needed such empty rhetoric to console himself about the blatant failure of artists in the Third Reich because Nazi art policy had systematically destroyed art and the conditions for it. That policy was not capable of attracting important figures, even those who initially hesitated and had in some cases not even understood that they were being rejected and defamed, or even they would have been prepared to work together in some way with the new state. In subtly different ways, that was true of Max Beckmann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, and Oskar Schlemmer, for example, who did not go directly into the opposition or completely refused to cooperate. With Albert Speer, Arno Breker, and Leni Riefenstahl, competent but second-rate 25. See Paret, “God’s Hammer.” 26. Ziegler’s famous triptych Die vier Elemente hung above Hitler’s fireplace in the Führerbau in Munich for many years. On Ziegler’s paradigmatic work, see Frietsch, “Kulturproblem Frau.” 27. Also noteworthy and typical was the immediate consequence of the jury’s blatant failure: no aesthetic guidelines were formulated; rather, the jury was summarily replaced. Until 1944 it was Hitler’s personal photographer and the Reichsbildberichterstatter (photo chronicler of the Reich) Heinrich Hoffman who made the selection from several thousand submissions (in 1937 there were about fifteen thousand submissions, fifteen hundred of which were exhibited) for the sale exhibition, at which Hitler had the right of first refusal. On Hoffmann, see Herz, Hoffmann und Hitler. 28. Goebbels, Tagebücher, 3:167–68, entry for June 6, 1937. 29. Hitler, “Rede zur Eröffnung der ‘Grossen Deutschen Kunstausstellung,’ München, 18.7.1937,” in Schuster, Die “Kunststadt” München 1937, 242–52, esp. 252.

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figures stepped into the front row, and their artistic achievements are still disputed today.30 Along with the Schandausstellungen (exhibitions of shame), exhibitions of so-called degenerate art were presented regularly in the German Reich from 1933 onward.31 The supporters of the Kampfbund and those with völkisch views of art, despite Rosenberg’s relatively modest position of power in comparison with Goebbels, managed to apply indirect pressure. For example, they largely determined the categories used to judge art. Admittedly, that did not mean that Hitler accepted the backwoods positions of the völkisch, but it did have the consequence that the malicious campaign against so-called Jewish art bolshevism that was being fought in parallel was successful. So it was not Rosenberg’s aesthetic positions that gained acceptance but his negative objective: destroying modernism. Ironically, Goebbels, Rosenberg’s “mortal enemy” in the party, was responsible for implementing that policy.32 The exhibitions that are sometimes seen as precursors to Entartete Kunst do not by any means explain the specifics of how the 1937 exhibition in Munich, which today is rightly seen as synonymous with the cultural barbarism of the National Socialists, came to pass. Goebbels’s tactical initiative was crucial, which enables us to work out the real relationships and mechanisms of art policy in the Third Reich. There again were reminders of the failure of the jury of artists at the Haus der deutschen Kunst and of the role played by the jurors Ziegler and Schweitzer, who reported to Goebbels. The devastating impression during the visit to Munich took place at the end of the first week of June 1937. On June 30 the Führer handed Goebbels a decree that scandalously authorized this same Ziegler to impound paintings in German museums and thus to violate the authority of the ministry of culture under Bernhard Rust, who was merely informed about the decree, which was then disseminated by circular. It read: “The president of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste, Adolf Ziegler, professor at the Kunstkademie, has been charged by the Führer with impounding the products of the period of decay still found in the museums, galleries, and collections belonging to the Reich, the states, and the municipalities.”33 30. See Petropoulos, Artists under Hitler. 31. See Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst.” 32. Goebbels, Tagebücher, 1:502, entry for February 21, 1930. 33. Circular by the Baden regional office of the Reich Ministry for the People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda, August 7, 1937, in Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 207. This decree put in check an unauthorized rush forward by Hermann Göring, who had issued a decree to the Prussian minister of culture, Rust, who reported to him. The works of art were seized based on the Gesetz über Einziehung von Erzeugnissen entarteter Kunst (Law on Seizure of Products of Degenerate Art), Reichsgesetzblatt 1938, pt. 1, no. 88, 611–12.


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

In the general climate of disappointment with the GDK’s own official production of art, faced with the continuing campaigns of Rosenberg and his types, and after the dramatic loss of prestige suffered by members of the Reichskulturkammer and hence of Goebbels himself, the minister of propaganda cleverly seized the initiative from Rosenberg and Rust in order to make an impression on Hitler with an especially radical approach to the composition of the GDK’s jury. All this happened as a result of circumstances and was not planned. There was certainly no long-standing discussion of showing “German art” in Munich while settling accounts with “degenerate art.” The Entartete Kunst exhibition, which today is often mentioned in the same breath with and even regarded as a well-planned complement to the GDK, was not planned as the exhibition we know. Rather, put together ad hoc, it was stylized as the long-planned settlement of accounts with modernism. Its organization reveals, on the one hand, Goebbels’s concern about his position in the Nazi leadership and, on the other, the National Socialists’ purely propagandistic understanding of policy, which scarcely left room for long-term considerations. One crucial factor was that five days after the disaster in Munich Goebbels took up the book Säuberung des Kunsttempels (Purging of the Temple of Art) by the painter and art critic Wolfgang Willrich.34 The book was published by Lehmanns Verlag in Munich in 1937; it spoke of art bolshevism, art anarchy, and a “red contamination of art”; and it criticized the supposedly corrupt modern business of art. Above all, the collages of images of modern art published in the book, which were produced by Willrich himself, had a suggestive effect (fig. 3). The entire book was conceived as denunciation: Willrich placed great emphasis on identifying by name the artists, modern art journals, and museum directors acquiring modern art. The book’s sensationalist frontispiece was the author’s own painting of a pregnant blonde woman: Hüterin der Art (Guardian of the Species), which already associated the doctrine of genetics with the “degeneration of art.” Goebbels’s diary for June 11, 1937, states: “Reading: Willrich, Säuberung des Kunsttempels. That task is necessary and I will take it on.”35 This was opportunistic, since Hitler had already spoken out several times against the modern art Goebbels preferred but never called for anything specific to be done about it, but also tactical, since with his radical rush forward Goebbels once again seized the initiative in cultural policy. It was the action of an agile 34. Willrich, Säuberung des Kunsttempels. 35. Goebbels, Tagebücher, 3:171, entry for June 11, 1937.

Figure 3. Interior spread from Wolfgang Willrich’s book Säuberung des Kunsttempels (1st ed. 1937, 2nd ed. 1938)


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

propaganda minister who did not have the slightest problem throwing his own convictions overboard and making Rosenberg’s line his own. Goebbels had recognized that Hitler’s speech for the opening of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst would include ranting about the “art of decay” as the distorted counterimage to German art. Goebbels’s tactical skill is evident from these sentences in his diary on July 10: “Spoke for a long time about the fine arts. The Munich exhibition will be very good. Führer wants to give a harsh speech against the art of decay. And I will make my contribution through the exhibition on the art of decay.”36 Goebbels took action when it was effective and consolidated his own position of power and, unlike Rosenberg, not at inappropriate times and out of narrow-minded ideology. Significantly, there was initial resistance. On June 12 Goebbels wrote: “Worked in the field of the art of decay. Resistance everywhere. Now even from Speer and Schweitzer. I don’t understand it. But we will make a clean sweep.”37 Precisely one week later on June 19, and hence only a month before the opening, Munich was chosen as the site for the Entartete Kunst exhibition: Goebbels arranged this settling of accounts in complete haste, and as late as July 1 he was not certain himself that it could be completed to open in parallel with the GDK. Goebbels had the first idea for such an exhibition—albeit with Berlin as the venue—on June 4, 1937, on the day before a visit to Munich with Hitler to examine the jury’s selection. On that day he wrote in his diary: Hopeless examples of art bolshevism are presented to me. But now I’m intervening. The professors with Rust have to be dismissed. And I want to organize an exhibition in Berlin with works from the era of decay. So the people can see and understand. I have Ziegler to instruct the jury in Munich to look keenly and to establish stricter standards. . . . Discussed my measures against art bolshevism with Speer. He will help me with it.38

So initially Goebbels was thinking about dismissing art professors reporting to Rust, as part of internal power struggles, and only secondarily about an exhibition in the region of Greater Berlin, of which he was Gauleiter. Speer, who had become Hitler’s favorite architect after Troost’s death, seems to have backpedaled, and the instruction to Ziegler came too late. On the early morning of June 5 Hitler and Goebbels flew to Munich together, and the blowup described above took place. 36. Ibid., 3:198–99, entry for July 10, 1937. 37. Ibid., 3:172, entry for June 12, 1937. 38. Ibid., 3:166, entry for June 5, 1937.

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A look at the true starting point for the Munich exhibition illustrates the increasing radicalization of Goebbels’s art policy: Goebbels was engaged in the subject of degenerate art as early as the spring of 1937, in the context of a propaganda exhibition, Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit (Give Me Four Years’ Time), announced by Hitler on January 30, 1937.39 That show was intended to display the achievements of National Socialist Germany and, according to Hitler, to prepare through propaganda what had already been created or at least begun. It was always one of the National Socialists’ techniques for power—not least because a tally of their own achievements was often rather modest—to disparage their opponents, to produce a propagandistic image of the enemy in order to mobilize energy and effects, and to proclaim an apparent state of emergency. The exhibition was intended to be a kind of shop window displaying evidence of “degenerate art” that supposedly undermined the cultural identity of the German people. This shifted the focus to the ouster of modernism from the culture of the Third Reich, which had been forced into line politically. This seemed to answer in the negative the question of a possible “Nordic expressionism” as the art of the Nazi state, which was a controversial debate even within the Nazi movement. The selection and presentation were the responsibility of two completely insignificant painters who had perceived the broad acceptance of the avant-garde during the Weimar Republic as a setback and could not give free rein to their hatred: Willrich, discussed above, and Walter Hansen, a vocational and drawing instructor from Hamburg, whom the National Socialists themselves repeatedly described as amateurish. Armed with authorizations from the Reichspropaganda-Ministerium and the Gestapo, they both first gained admittance to the Kupferstichkabinett (Prints and Drawings Collection) of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and the Kronprinzenpalais (Crown Prince’s Palace), which held the modernist collection of the Nationalgalerie.40 They visited other museums and assembled their materials. It was characteristic of the Nazi leadership to employ dubious characters; in this case, Willrich and Hansen were both artistic amateurs and fanatic denouncers.41 With the powers they claimed, they radicalized a policy that those in power had neither planned nor anticipated in this form.42 39. See Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 169–76. 40. See Hentzen, Die Berliner National-Galerie im Bildersturm; and Janda and Grabowski, Kunst in Deutschland, 1905–1937. 41. On their biographies, see Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 371–76, 385–86. 42. A letter from Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, to Willrich makes it clear that extreme Nazi ideologues and proponents of the policy of extermination responded with reservations to the blind fanaticism of these failed, insignificant artists. See Himmler to Willrich, September 18, 1937, quoted in Wulf, Literatur und Dichtung, 143–44. On the art policy of the SS and its context, see essentially Kater, Das “Ahnenerbe” der SS; and Schulte, Die SS, Himmler und die Wewelsburg.


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

Despite intense research in recent years, no one has yet managed to determine whether the degenerate art shown in Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit, which was surprisingly modern in its presentation, consisted of originals or just illustrations in books. It has been established that the approach to the matter was highly uncoordinated and was disputed even within the propaganda ministry, since the Reichskulturkammer under Goebbels behaved rather hesitantly and even disapprovingly and prohibited, for example, the exhibition of artists from the Dresden association Die Brücke or the expressionist sculptor Ludwig Gies. In the spring of 1937 these discussions represented the final reflections within the Nazi administration about whether expressionism should be protected from intransigent Nazi fanatics, since both Gies and the Brücke artists were at the center of the Entartete Kunst exhibition in Munich in the summer of 1937. In the end, Willrich was even forced to resign in the late summer of 1937 after the SS leader Heinrich Himmler had already distanced himself from him, and Karl Kaufmann, the Reichsstatthalter (Reich governor) in Hamburg, refused to lend him works for his campaigns. Willrich’s radical line continued to be pursued successfully by others, however, and Hansen was given the opportunity by Rust—whom Goebbels attacked repeatedly—to establish an archive of degenerate art. Such initiatives illustrate once more how separate, competing centers of power within the Third Reich were trying through independent action to preserve the possibility of initiatives on the path they had set out even when the specific policy did not necessarily correspond to the protagonists’ most deeply held ideas. To sum up: With regard to the specific behavior of Goebbels in connection with organizing the Entartete Kunst exhibition, two crucial points emerge. First, the theme of degenerate art was chosen as the subject of a propaganda show, albeit on a modest scale, and was implemented despite internal resistance from the propaganda ministry as part of Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit in early 1937. In the process, Goebbels had to push a line through, owing to different positions in his ministry, where the leadership of the propaganda section and the Reichskulturkammer were at odds. Second, the minister, who had certainly sympathized with modernism, realized that Hitler would campaign harshly against modernism on the occasion of the opening of the GDK and was also decidedly dissatisfied with the work on the GDK jury done by the propaganda minister’s subordinates. To make amends, Goebbels suddenly became vehemently active on Entartete Kunst and pursued a radical line that could be certain of winning Hitler’s approval. The initiative came from Goebbels, who had Hitler approve an “exhibition on the art of decay,” rather than receiving that

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assignment from him. It is even reasonable to doubt whether Hitler would ever have come up with the idea of the Munich exhibition,43 which he visited for just under ten minutes only a few days before the opening.44 One day after Hitler ceremoniously opened the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung, Ziegler, as president of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste, gave the speech for the opening of the Entartete Kunst exhibition. He deeply despised modernism and observed: “You see around us monstrosities of madness, of impudence, of inability, and degeneration. What this show has to offer causes shock and disgust in all of us.”45 He railed at the representatives of modernism, whom he even called “pigs.” At the same time, however, he was honestly surprised that the museums were still full of modern art. Despite the Schandausstellungen, the reality of life in the Third Reich was not what the propaganda tried to suggest or what functionaries perceived.46 Against this backdrop, Ziegler announced a comprehensive purge of “degenerate art” from German museums. But even after the exhibition and the impounding of works, modernism and “degenerate artists” had by no means disappeared completely from the everyday lives of Germans.47 The Entartete Kunst exhibition was held in the rather cramped-seeming spaces of the plaster-cast collection of the Archäologisches Institut in the Hofgartenarkaden, not far from the newly constructed Haus der Deutschen Kunst (fig. 4). Around six hundred works (paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and books) were included in the exhibition,48 which since the mid-1980s has been reconstructed based on the essential research of Mario-Andreas von Lüttichau.49 All currents of modern art since 1905 were affected: expressionism, cubism, futurism, Dadaism, verism / Neue Sachlichkeit, and constructivism— but expressionism dominated. Among the perfidious strategies of the exhibition organizers was an introduction that appealed to the religious sensitivities of the audience. In the entrance one saw the famous, impressive, now-lost crucifix by Gies as well as works by Nolde and Beckmann. That the sometimes neopagan and emphatically anticlerical National Socialists would present, in the capital of Bavaria, modernism as supposedly mocking Christianity is one of the ironies 43. See essentially Mommsen, “Hitler’s Position in the Nazi System.” 44. See Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 184. 45. Adolf Ziegler, “Rede zur Eröffnung der Ausstellung ‘Entartete Kunst,’ München, 19.7.1937,” in Schuster, Die “Kunststadt” München 1937, 217–18, esp. 217. 46. See Schäfer, Das gespaltene Bewusstsein. 47. See, exemplarily, Nerdinger, Bauhaus-Moderne im Nationalsozialismus. 48. Information from Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 190. 49. See Schuster, Die “Kunststadt” München 1937, 120–82b; and Lüttichau, “‘Entartete Kunst,’ Munich, 1937: A Reconstruction.”


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

Figure 4. Installation view of the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition, Munich 1937, room 6. Photograph: bpk/Arthur Grimm (30024681)

of history. The fact that Judaism was addressed in a second room—supposedly religiously and racially fundamentally opposed to the Christian Occident— was scarcely coincidence. Christian tradition—which was partially appropriated by National Socialism—and Catholic-tinged anti-Semitic resentment were to be mobilized against modernism. There were also efforts to create a suggestive aesthetic for the exhibition, for example, when the dramatization strategies of the Dadaists were effectively copied or adapted on one smaller wall by exhibited works staggered together with simplistic keywords and quotations. Although the concept for the first Internationale Dada-Messe of 1920, which agitated through photographs and posters, was not implemented systematically but got lost in the lyric expressionism of the likes of Wassily Kandinsky, the exhibition design, which at the time seemed revolutionary, promised to shock and perplex. The prejudices that the majority of visitors already had were supposed to be confirmed and incited by this. By contrast, the image of the human being (Nolde, Brücke), antiwar themes (Otto Dix), and stylistic complexes in connection with the phenomena of primitivism, children’s drawings, and the art of the “mentally ill” as sources for the modern (Paul Klee) were presented in adjoining rooms in a comparatively conventional way in a crowded, two-row hanging. Evaluative comments,

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demagogic slogans, and exaggerated sales prices were also necessary to ensure that the viewers condemned what the painters expressed. Understandably, given how hastily it was organized, the exhibition was not accompanied by a catalog or guidebook. A bright red insert was, however, included in the catalog of the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung. It sensationally called for a visit to the nearby Femeschau (vehmic exhibition): “See it! Judge for yourself!” It delegated aesthetic judgment to an unprepared and uninformed mass audience that, owing to its incompetence, could only helplessly take refuge in judgments based on taste. Modernism, by contrast, was depicted here as a pathological undertaking strategically pushed through by a small Jewish clique at the expense of “German art.” Several contemporaries already recognized that the National Socialists’ propaganda show was playing up modernism to be something that had never existed in that form. On November 14, 1937, the Frankfurter Zeitung published an article by the critic Carl Linfert titled “Rückblick auf ‘entartete Kunst’”: “Nevertheless, the specific feature of this event is something else: the objective whose products are shown is at the same time reproduced here; indeed, produced even more here, in a strangely productive way, than before.”50 Perceptively, Linfert saw through the background of the entire event: the purely propagandistic and, in that sense, specifically fascist political understanding of the National Socialists constructed the alternative world of modern, “degenerate” art to obscure the weaknesses of its own artistic production. To sum it up pointedly as a thesis: it was primarily the disappointment over the desolate state of the arts in the Third Reich that led to the Entartete Kunst exhibition and action. Consequently, we have before us what historical scholarship has called the “realization of the negative elements of the worldview” of National Socialism: The hypertrophy of its own national value, depicted positively in racial theory, and the hypertrophy of its own social value, depicted positively in the concept of the exclusive, species-specific people’s community of the Germanic master race, could be specified and realized in political practice not in a positive form but only in a negative one: by rejecting and defaming everything “foreign” and “abnormal,” all “undesirable elements” that did not conform to the dictate of the middle-class, national values of order and performance. . . . The selection of negative elements of the worldview that took place during the process of seizing power and over the course of later developments in the Third Reich—they alone became objects of practical 50. Linfert, “Rückblick auf ‘entartete Kunst,’” Frankfurter Zeitung, November 14, 1937, in Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 197–99; and Hüneke and Linfert, “Entartete Kunst”: Kommentar 1989/1996.


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art” implementation; the positive utopias continued to be only distant goals and the objects of propagandistic edification—represented at the same time an increasing radicalization, perfecting, and institutionalizing of inhumanity and persecution.51

At the moment when their own overdrawn expectations failed and at the moment when they flagrantly lost face, Goebbels and Hitler sought refuge in revenge and radicalization. If they could not establish anything significant themselves, they could at least manage to destroy the hated counterimage. The audience was thus reinforced in its own prejudice, as the “instructive” design of the exhibition was intended to ensure as much as possible. The Entartete Kunst exhibition was supposedly attended by more than two million visitors. But because the Munich trade exhibition of 1912 attracted more than four million visitors, it seems probable, in my view, given the small size of the rooms and the need for nearly twenty-four thousand visitors per day to reach that number, that this was an exaggeration of propaganda.52 The Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung was, in any case, attended by only a quarter of that number, which demonstrates a comparatively small interest in the regime’s official art. Established by a law of May 31, 1938, there was a “commission to evaluate the products of degenerate art,” which was thinking about how to make money—that is, hard currency—from such art. This commission operated with Goebbels as its chairman, and its members included Franz Hofmann, Abteilungsleiter im RMVuP; Ziegler, president of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste; the art critic Robert Scholz, who was the new director of the Moritzburg in Halle, as an associate of Rosenberg; and the art dealer Karl Haberstock and the antiquities dealer Max Taeuber. This commission employed four art dealers, some of whom were well known, who attempted to sell or exchange the art and to offer it on commission as well. They were Bernhard A. Böhmer of Güstrow, Karl Buchholz of Berlin, Hildebrand Gurlitt of Hamburg, and Ferdinand Möller of Berlin, and they collected a commission of between 10 and 25 percent for their services. Even today, the morality of their actions is disputed (fig. 5).53 51. See the classic essay by Broszat, “Soziale Motivation und Führer-Bindung im Nationalsozialismus” (1970), esp. 28–29. 52. This attendance figure was published by the National Socialists themselves, in the Völkischer Beobachter, December 1, 1937; was repeated by Hansen in 1941; and has since been circulated uncritically. 53. The complex themes of Verwertung and the associated question of the provenance of degenerate art has dominated the discussion for some time and will continue to do so after the discovery of the famous Gurlitt trove. For the essential issues, see the series of texts published since 2007 by the Forschungsstelle “Entartete Kunst” (Berlin and Hamburg).

Olaf Peters


Figure 5. Confiscated “degenerate” art at the Schloss Niederschönhausen, Berlin, 1938–39, including works by Wilhelm Lembruck and Pablo Picasso. Photograph: bpk (30013450)

Subsequent developments reveal that in 1937 no one really had any idea how to deal with the works of art being impounded. First, the Entartete Kunst exhibition—for which there was by now an exhibition guide that referenced Hitler’s statements on art—was sent on tour, and by 1941 it had been shown in Berlin, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Salzburg, Hamburg, Stettin (now Szczecin), Weimar, Vienna, Frankfurt am Main, Chemnitz, Waldenburg, and Halle an der Saale. That was probably partly due to the large attendance at the Munich exhibition but above all to propagandistic considerations, such as the effort to intensify an image of the Jewish-bolshevist enemy in anticipation of military conflict.54 The works shown in the later exhibitions varied—partly because works with commercial value were removed—and were restructured: horrifying examples for comparison such as the art of the “mentally ill” were added, and the show was more closely linked to antibolshevist agitation in the context of World War II. This would be a different chapter of the history. 54. See Zuschlag, “Entartete Kunst,” 241.


From “Degenerate Art” to “Looted Art”

Figure 6. Theodor Fischer (far right) auctioning Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait, Grand Hôtel National, Lucerne, June 30, 1939. Courtesy of Neue Galerie, New York

In the context of confiscations and the attempt to profit from works of art as part of the Entartete Kunst action, which was legally sanctioned only later, the works of the “art of decay since 1910” removed from German museums numbered in the five figures.55 It is now estimated there were nearly twentytwo thousand works—admittedly, primarily graphic works—of which around a quarter were destroyed.56 They represented a terrible loss and destruction of German culture that in some cases has yet to be compensated today. In the wake of this so-called Verwertungsaktion (utilization action), there was a nowfamous auction in Switzerland, in Theodor Fischer’s gallery in Lucerne, at which 125 works were auctioned (fig. 6).57 French art in particular (Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso) fetched good prices at this auction, which was intended to reach international buyers in order to raise hard currency. There had been assurances that the profits would under no circumstances go to rearm the Third Reich. By far the most expensive lot was a self-portrait by van Gogh, which was auctioned at 55. See the transcript of the order to confiscate works in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, in Schuster, Die “Kunststadt” München 1937, 219. 56. See the database of the Forschungsstelle “Entartete Kunst.” 57. See Frey, “Die Auktion in der Galerie Fischer.”

Olaf Peters


175,000 Swiss francs; some of the German works were truly sold off cheaply, since the market for German art barely existed at the time.58 But between April 1939 and spring 1940, the Kunstmuseum Basel alone acquired twenty-one first-class works from German museums, including paintings by Emil Nolde, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Lovis Corinth, Marc Chagall, André Derain, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, and Oskar Kokoschka.59 The Verwertungsaktion, which was only supposed to last a few months, officially ended in 1941. The sale of the van Gogh closed a circle, since the antimodernist art policy of the National Socialists was based on arguments already circulating in Germany around 1910. In the famous/infamous Vinnen Dispute of 1911, van Gogh became the symbol for French art that seemed to be given preference in museum acquisitions; at the beginning of the Third Reich, he was stylized by some as a precursor of Germanic expressionism and interpreted in a völkisch vein by Martin Heidegger in his famous essay on the origin of the work of art from mid-1935–1936.60 Despite an ambiguous reception by the right wing, van Gogh’s fate was sealed. His art became a way to raise hard currency as well as the symbol of decay that had entered German museums from 1910 onward. Van Gogh was no longer considered an exponent of a Low German, Rasse eigene art. Once again the National Socialists contradicted themselves, and once again the destructive dynamic they unleashed was victorious. Here we enter the complex field of looted art, and in this process the symbolic act of degenerate art was overshadowed by the criminal act of looted art in the contexts of enrichment, corruption, persecution, and extinction. Translated by Steven Lindberg References Arndt, Karl. 1998. “Das ‘Haus der Deutschen Kunst’—ein Symbol der neuen Machtverhältnisse.” In Die “Kunststadt” München 1937: Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst,” edited by Peter-Klaus Schuster, 5th ed., 61–82. Munich: Prestel. Backes, Klaus. 1988. Hitler und die bildenden Künste: Kulturverständnis und Kunstpolitik im Dritten Reich. Cologne: DuMont. Barbian, Jan-Pieter. 1995. Literaturpolitik im “Dritten Reich”: Institutionen, Kompetenzen, Betätigungsfelder. Munich: dtv. Barron, Stephanie, ed. 1991. Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany. Exhibition catalog. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 58. See Jeuthe, Kunstwerte im Wandel. For a perspective on New York, see Langfeld, Deutsche Kunst in New York, 104–67. 59. See Kreis, “Entartete” Kunst für Basel. 60. See Heidegger, Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks, 7–74.


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Baumann, Kirsten. 2002. Wortgefechte: Völkische und Nationalsozialistische Kunstkritik, 1927–1939. Weimar: VDG. Bollmus, Reinhard. 2006. Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner: Studie zum Machtkampf im nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftssystem. 2nd ed. Munich: Oldenbourg. Brenner, Hildegard. 1963. Die Kunstpolitik des Nationalsozialismus. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt. Breuer, Stefan. 2001. Ordnungen der Ungleichheit: Die deutsche Rechte im Widerstreit ihrer Ideen, 1871–1945. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. ———. 2008. Die Völkischen in Deutschland: Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Broszat, Martin. 1988. “Soziale Motivation und Führer-Bindung im Nationalsozialismus.” In Nach Hitler: Der schwierige Umgang mit unserer Geschichte, 11–33. Munich: dtv. Clinefelter, Joan L. 2005. Artists for the Reich: Culture and Race from Weimar to Nazi Germany. Oxford: Berg. Cuomo, Glenn R., ed. 1995. National Socialist Cultural Policy. New York: St. Martin’s. Dahm, Volker. 1986. “Anfänge und Ideologie der Reichskulturkammer: Die ‘Berufsgemeinschaft’ als Instrument kulturpolitischer Steuerung und sozialer Reglementierung.” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 34, no. 1: 53–84. ———. 1995. “Nationale Einheit und partikulare Vielfalt: Zur Frage der kulturpolitischen Gleichschaltung im Dritten Reich.” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 43, no. 2: 221–65. Dresler, Adolf, ed. 1938. Deutsche Kunst und entartete “Kunst”: Kunstwerk und Zerrbild als Spiegel der Weltanschauung. Munich: Deutscher Volksverlag. Etlin, Richard A., ed. 2002. Art, Culture, and Media under the Third Reich. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Frey, Stefan. 1999. “Die Auktion in der Galerie Fischer in Luzern am 30. Juni 1939—ein Ausverkauf der Moderne?” In Überbrückt: Ästhetische Moderne und Nationalsozialismus; Kunsthistoriker und Künstler, 1925–1937, edited by Eugen Blume and Dieter Scholz, 275–89. Cologne: König. Frietsch, Elke. 2006. “Kulturproblem Frau”: Weiblichkeitsbilder in der Kunst des Nationalsozialismus. Cologne: Böhlau. Fuhrmeister, Christian. 2008. “Adolf Ziegler (1892–1956), nationalsozialistischer Künstler und Funktionär.” In Zweihundert Jahre Akademie der Bildenden Künste München: “. . . kein bestimmter Lehrplan, kein gleichförmiger Mechanismus,” edited by Nikolaus Gerhart, Walter Grasskamp, and Florian Matzner, 88–95. Munich: Hirmer. Gimmel, Jürgen. 2001. Die politische Organisation kulturellen Ressentiments: Der “Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur” und das bildungsbürgerliche Unbehagen an der Moderne. Münster: LIT. Goebbels, Joseph. 1987. Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels: Sämtliche Fragmente, edited by Elke Fröhlich. Munich: Saur. Heftrig, Ruth, Olaf Peters, and Ulrich Rehm, eds. 2013. Alois J. Schardt: Ein Kunsthistoriker zwischen Weimarer Republik, “Drittem Reich” und Exil in Amerika. Berlin: Akademie.

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Heiber, Helmut. 1965. Joseph Goebbels. Munich: dtv. ———, ed. 1991. Goebbels Reden, 1932–1945. Bindlach: Gondrom. Heidegger, Martin. 1994. Der Ursprung des Kunstwerks. Tübingen: Klostermann. Hentzen, Alfred. 1971. Die Berliner National-Galerie im Bildersturm. Cologne: Grotsche Verlagsbuchhandlung. Herz, Rudolf, ed. 1994. Hoffmann und Hitler: Fotografie im Dienste des Führer-Mythos. Exhibition catalog. Munich: Stadtmuseum. Hinz, Berthold. 1974. Die Malerei im deutschen Faschismus: Kunst und Konterrevolution. Munich: Hanser. ———. 1979. “Bild und Lichtbild im Medienverbund.” In Die Dekoration der Gewalt: Kunst und Medien im Faschismus, edited by Berthold Hinz, Hans-Ernst Mittig, and Wolfgang Schäche, 137–48. Giessen: anabas. Hitler, Adolf. 2004. Reden zur Kunst- und Kulturpolitik, 1933–1939, edited by Robert Eikmeyer. Frankfurt am Main: Revolver. Huener, Jonathan, and Francis R. Nicosia, eds. 2009. The Arts in Nazi Germany: Continuity, Conformity, Change. New York: Berghahn. Hüneke, Andreas, and Carl Linfert. 1997. “Entartete Kunst”: Kommentar 1989/1996 zum Kommentar 1937. Cologne: Internationaler Kunstkritikerverband. Janda, Annegret, and Jörn Grabowski, comps. 1992. Kunst in Deutschland, 1905–1937: Die verlorene Sammlung der Nationalgalerie im ehemaligen Kronprinzen-Palais; Dokumentation. Berlin: Gebrüder Mann. Jeuthe, Gisa. 2011. Kunstwerte im Wandel: Die Preisentwicklung der deutschen Moderne im nationalen und internationalen Kunstmarkt, 1925 bis 1955. Berlin: Akademie. Kashapova, Dina. 2006. Kunst, Diskurs und Nationalsozialismus: Semantische und pragmatische Studien. Tübingen: Niemeyer. Kater, Michael. 1997. Das “Ahnenerbe” der SS, 1935–1945: Ein Beitrag zur Kulturpolitik des Dritten Reiches. 2nd ed. Munich: Oldenbourg. Kreis, Georg. 1990. “Entartete” Kunst für Basel: Die Herausforderung von 1939. Basel: Wiese. Lane, Barbara Miller. 1986. Architektur und Politik in Deutschland, 1918–1945. Brunswick: Vieweg und Sohn. Langfeld, Gregor. 2011. Deutsche Kunst in New York: Vermittler, Kunstsammler, Ausstellungsmacher, 1904–1957. Berlin: Reimer. Linfert, Carl. 1995 (1937). “Rückblick auf ‘entartete Kunst.’” In “Entartete Kunst”: Ausstellungsstrategien im Nazi-Deutschland, edited by Christoph Zuschlag, 197–99. Worms: Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft. Lüttichau, Mario-Andreas von. 1988. “Entartete Kunst: München 1937.” In Stationen der Moderne: Die bedeutenden Kunstausstellungen des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, 289–98. Exhibition catalog. Berlin: Nicolai. ———. 1991. “‘Entartete Kunst,’ Munich, 1937: A Reconstruction.” In Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, edited by Stephanie Barron, 45–81. Exhibition catalog. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Makela, Maria. 1990. The Munich Secession: Art and Artists in Turn-of-the-Century Munich. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


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Mathieu, Thomas. 1996. Kunstauffassungen und Kulturpolitik im Nationalsozialismus: Studien zu Adolf Hitler u.a. Saarbrücken: Pfau. Meckel, Anne. 1993. Animation—Agitation: Frauendarstellungen auf der “Grossen Deutschen Kunstausstellung” in München 1937–1944. Weinheim: Deutscher Studienverlag. Merker, Reinhard. 1983. Die bildenden Künste im Nationalsozialismus: Kulturideologie— Kulturpolitik—Kulturproduktion. Cologne: DuMont. Mommsen, Hans. 1991. “Hitler’s Position in the Nazi System.” In From Weimar to Auschwitz, 163–88. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Nerdinger, Winfried. 1993. Bauhaus-Moderne im Nationalsozialismus: Zwischen Anbiederung und Verfolgung. Munich: Prestel. ———, ed. 1993. Bauen im Nationalsozialismus: Bayern, 1933–1945. Exhibition catalog. Munich: Prestel. Paret, Peter. 2001. “God’s Hammer.” In German Encounters with Modernism, 1840–1945, 202–28. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Peters, Olaf, ed. 2014. Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937. Exhibition catalog. New York: Neue Galerie. Petropoulos, Jonathan. 1996. Art and Politics in the Third Reich. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ———. 2014. Artists under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Petsch, Joachim. 1976. Baukunst und Stadtplanung im Dritten Reich: Herleitung, Bestandsaufnahme, Entwicklung, Nachfolge. Munich: Hanser. ———. 2004. “‘Unersetzliche Künstler’: Malerei und Plastik im ‘Dritten Reich.’” In Hitlers Künstler: Die Kultur im Dienst des Nationalsozialismus, edited by Hans Sarkowicz, 245–77. Frankfurt am Main: Insel. Piper, Ernst. 2005. Alfred Rosenberg: Hitlers Chefideologe. Munich: Blessing. Puschner, Uwe. 2001. Die völkische Bewegung im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich: Sprache, Rasse, Religion. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Puschner, Uwe, Walter Schmitz, and Justus H. Ulbricht, eds. 1999. Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung,” 1871–1918. Munich: Saur. Reuth, Ralf Georg. 1990. Goebbels. Munich: Piper. Ruppert, Wolfgang, ed. 2015. Künstler im Nationalsozialismus: Die “deutsche” Kunst, die Kunstpolitik und die Berliner Kunsthochschule. Cologne: Böhlau. Sarkowicz, Hans, ed. 2004. Hitlers Künstler: Die Kultur im Dienst des Nationalsozialismus. Frankfurt am Main: Insel. Schäfer, Hans Dieter. 1981. Das gespaltene Bewusstsein: Deutsche Kultur und Lebenswirklichkeit, 1933–1945. Munich: Hanser. Schlenker, Ines. 2007. Hitler’s Salon: The “Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung” at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, 1937–1944. Bern: Lang. Schmidt, Marlies. 2009. “Die ‘Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung 1937 im Haus der Deutschen Kunst zu München’: Rekonstruktion und Analyse.” 3 vols. PhD diss., Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Schmitz-Berning, Cornelia. 2007. Vokabular des Nationalsozialismus. 2nd ed. Berlin: de Gruyter.

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Schulte, Jan Erik, ed. 2009. Die SS, Himmler und die Wewelsburg. Paderborn: Schöningh. Schultze-Naumburg, Paul. 1938. Kunst und Rasse. 3rd ed. Munich: Lehmann. Schuster, Peter-Klaus, ed. 1998. Die “Kunststadt” München 1937: Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst.” 5th ed. Munich: Prestel. Steinweis, Alan E. 1991. “Weimar Culture and the Rise of National Socialism: The Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur.” Central European History 24, no. 1: 402–23. ———. 2006. Studying the Jew: Scholarly Antisemitism in Nazi Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. van Dyke, James A. 1994. “‘Neue Deutsche Romantik’ zwischen Modernität, Kulturkritik und Kulturpolitik, 1929–1937.” In Adolf Dietrich und die Neue Sachlichkeit in Deutschland, edited by Dieter Schwarz, 137–65. Exhibition catalog. Winterthur: Kunstmuseum; Oldenburg: Landesmuseum. Weingart, Peter, Jürgen Kroll, and Kurt Bayertz. 1988. Rasse, Blut und Gene: Geschichte der Eugenik und Rassenhygiene in Deutschland. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Willrich, Wolfgang. 1938. Säuberung des Kunsttempels. 2nd ed. Munich: Lehmann. Wulf, Joseph. 1989. Literatur und Dichtung: Eine Dokumentation. Vol. 3 of Kultur im Dritten Reich. Frankfurt am Main: Ullstein. Zuschlag, Christoph, ed. 1995. “Entartete Kunst”: Ausstellungsstrategien im NaziDeutschland. Worms: Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft.

Hildebrand Gurlitt and His Dealings with German Museums during the “Third Reich”

Meike Hoffmann

With the unexpected discovery of the “Munich Art Trove” in November 2013, the name of Hildebrand Gurlitt—previously known only to a few academics— became famous overnight through media stories around the world. Spanning four periods of German history, Gurlitt started as an art historian in the lateperiod German Reich and advocated for a change in cultural values under the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. After World War I, as an art critic and museum director, Gurlitt actively sought to help reanimate Germany as a leading cultural nation. He became a driving force behind a museum reform movement during the last years of the Weimar Republic, promoting a policy for arts and culture that supported the collection of contemporary art in German museums. After Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Gurlitt came into direct conflict with the Nazis’ political and racial ideology. Stepping down from his museum role, he started a career as an art dealer, first independently and later on behalf of Nazi authorities and Hitler himself. The extensive, international art network he had developed as a museum director and as a dealer became trade routes for looted and seized art, as well as the hedge for his comeback in post–World War II Germany. Decades later a coincidence brought Gurlitt’s secret legacy to light. In Munich his very old son Cornelius guarded a collection of works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Paul Klee, and many New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705685 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



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other well-known artists, more than fifteen hundred items. Who were the rightful owners of the works, and from which museums and private collections did they originate? Which human fates, which legal and moral wrongs, are connected with them? These are the most pressing issues of the global scandal on looted art, “degenerate art,” and restitution that Germany still has to clarify. The answers and explanations will, however, not close the Gurlitt case. Beyond a simple clarification of the facts, we need an account of how this case was used, if at all, to come to terms with the past and exorcise the ghosts. This means asking not only what Hildebrand Gurlitt did but how and under what conditions he acted. What was his family background? His personal disposition? How could it come to this? In which environments did this man move? I trace the fine lines between accomplishments, crime, and repression in the professional and biographical journey of Hildebrand Gurlitt. The Early Years Gurlitt came from a large, influential family of painters, theologians, archaeologists, writers, gallery owners, and art historians from all over Europe.1 On September 15, 1895, he was born in Dresden as Paul Theodor Ludwig Hildebrand Gurlitt. In a small villa at Kaitzerstraße 26 in an upper-middle-class residential area in the south of Dresden, he spent a secure childhood with his two siblings, Cornelia (1890–1919) and Wilibald (1889–1963). At that time Dresden was regarded as one of the leading German cities of the Arts and Crafts movement, and his father, Cornelius Gustav Gurlitt (1850–1938), professor of architecture at the Royal Saxon Technical University, played a crucial role in it. Through his father Hildebrand came into early contact with modern fine art as well. Even as a child, he met a few of the Brücke painters, who were architecture students of his father in Dresden.2 A little later they established expressionism in Germany. The prelude to their careers was a small, little-noticed exhibition in Dresden in 1906. Not far from Gurlitt’s home on Kaitzerstraße, a lamp producer made his sale space available to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880– 1938), Erich Heckel (1883–1970), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976), and Max Pechstein (1881–1958) to present their first artworks to the public. Hildebrand, then eleven years old, visited the exhibition with his mother.3 1. Herrmann, “Die Gurlitts.” 2. Hoffmann, Leben und Schaffen. See in particular “Cornelius Gurlitt: Ein weiterer Lehrer an der TH Dresden,” 31–33. 3. Gurlitt, “Aus dem Vorwort.”

Meike Hoffmann


Figure 1. Hildebrand Gurlitt and his sister Cornelia, undated. © Private Property, Berlin

Although he did not appreciate the revolutionary art in this early period, the works left a strong impression on him. Later, he always preferred the works of the Brücke artists to those of the Blaue Reiter group. Above all, however, it was his beloved sister, Cornelia, who taught him about expressionism (fig. 1). Cornelia was five years older than Hildebrand and had trained as a painter in Dresden. She had turned to expressionism early on. In 1913 she left Dresden to continue her training in Paris. Her idol was


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

Marc Chagall, but in 1914 she had to leave Paris prematurely because of the outbreak of World War I. During the war she was working as a nurse in a Red Cross hospital in Vilnius-Antekohl, Lithuania. As often as she could find time, she drew and painted the Baltic landscape, the Jewish people, and her daily routine in hospital with wounded soldiers.4 Hildebrand, who first served in the Saxon Infantry Regiment No. 100 on the western front, was wounded and relocated to the army’s press department and art section of Ober-Ost on the eastern front. At the end of 1917, he was stationed near Cornelia in Vilnius. His job was to make propaganda for German culture in the conquered eastern territories.5 Hildebrand organized exhibitions, with works by his sister among others. Here the two Gurlitt siblings met Paul Fechter (1880–1958), a Berlin art critic working in the press department as well, whose book on expressionism appeared in 1914. Later Fechter wrote that Cornelia was “the greatest talent of the younger expressionist generation.”6 In Ober-Ost Hildebrand Gurlitt also met one of the Brücke artists— Schmidt-Rottluff—in addition to other expressionist artists and poets, such as Magnus Zeller (1888–1972), Ludwig Renn (1889–1979), and Arnold Zweig (1887–1968). Through them he was admitted into a kind of intellectual conversation club, and he shared with them his fears and doubts about the German war efforts.7 The conversations with his comrades were fundamental to the development of Hildebrand’s own mind-set, and the fact that many of them were of Jewish origin, such as Zweig and Zeller, did not matter to him. Although Hildebrand himself had a Jewish grandmother, he grew up with a latent anti-Semitism, since his father, Cornelius, was a close friend of Julius Langbehn (1851–1907), a nationalist and cofounder of a culturally pessimistic anti-Semitism in Germany.8 During the war Hildebrand learned to free himself from the strong influence of his father. His new friendships were lifelong. After the end of the war, Cornelia, who in Vilnius had encountered and learned to appreciate Eastern European Jewry, did not find her way back into ordinary everyday life. She committed suicide in 1919 and left her art to her brother.9 From that point onward, Hildebrand saw expressionism as a sign of hope for a general cultural change. 4. Portz, Cornelia Gurlitt. 5. Hildebrand Gurlitt to Wilibald Gurlitt, September 9, 1918, TU Dresden, Archive: Estate Cornelius Gurlitt, no. 126/055. 6. Fechter, Menschen und Zeiten, 162. 7. Gronemann, Hawdoloh und Zapfenstreich, 44–48; Hildebrand Gurlitt to Wilibald Gurlitt, April 24, 1918, TU Dresden, Archive: Estate Cornelius Gurlitt, no. 126/049. 8. Gurlitt, “Der Rembrandtdeutsche.” 9. Many of the watercolors, drawings, and prints by Cornelia Gurlitt remain in the rediscovered Gurlitt collection in Munich.

Meike Hoffmann


Gurlitt could better deal with his experiences during World War I than his sister. He had now definitely decided to continue his studies of art history that he had started in 1914 in Dresden at the Technical University.10 But his hometown could no longer provide enough incentive for him. In the following years he studied in Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt. At the university Gurlitt was less interested in art history than in lectures in philosophy as well as the newly established disciplines of psychology of aesthetics and parapsychology. He also attended lectures on sociopolitical topics and engaged with current problems of the working class during the first years of the Weimar Republic. In addition, in Berlin he visited so-called factory exhibitions—at the time a very new idea of bringing art to the workers. Groups of artists who wanted to relate with their avant-garde art to the social revolution in Germany organized these exhibitions. To make access to the art easier for workers, the works were displayed in factory buildings. During his studies Gurlitt continued and expanded his contacts with avant-garde artists, seeking above all dialogue with those oriented toward social critique, such as Conrad Felixmüller (1897–1977), Dix (1891–1969), Ludwig Meidner (1884–1966), and others. He visited the artists in their studios, attended art events, joined progressive artists groups, and tried to promote them by writing articles about exhibitions in several newspapers and art magazines.11 At that time Gurlitt decided finally to become a museum director in an industrial city so that his work exhibiting and explaining art would have an effect on society. Director of the König-Albert-Museum in Zwickau In 1925 Gurlitt thought for the first time he had achieved his goal when he, aged thirty, was appointed as the director of the König-Albert-Museum in Zwickau. The small city in Saxony seemed precisely the right place for realizing his ambitious goals. Zwickau was dominated by industry and mining. Art and culture were not held in particularly high regard. Gurlitt had much to do. His first task was to restructure the museum. His main concern was to develop a collection of modern art. During his tenure, Gurlitt acquired works from impressionism to new objectivity. The focus of his collection was on expressionism, for which he had developed a special preference. One of the key Brücke artists, Pechstein, was from Zwickau, though he was hardly known there before Gurlitt assumed his post. The reordering and expansion of the museum’s holdings in Zwickau required a redesign of the exhibition space. Gurlitt under10. “Gurlitt, Hildebrand, Allg. Nr. 4306,” TU Dresden, Archive: Enrollment File. 11. Gurlitt, “Conrad Felixmüller,” “Von jungen Dresdner Künstlern,” “Moderne Malerei.”


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

Figure 2. Exhibition room in the König-Albert-Museum in Zwickau after the redesign (on display: paintings by Jacob, Griebel, Lachnit, Trepte), 1929. © Kunstsammlungen Zwickau— Max Pechstein Museum

stood the importance of a work’s exhibition for eliciting a positive reception by the public. He thus modernized the (actually quite new) museum building, adding a lecture hall and additional special exhibition rooms, and a new lighting system as well as a modern color scheme and modern furniture (fig. 2). He organized many special exhibitions not just to show art to the public but also to educate the museum’s visitors. While he was in Zwickau, there were fifty special exhibitions in five years! The program also offered weekly guided tours and a rich variety of lectures. To give his museum a stable identity in the public consciousness, advertisements and exhibition announcements were designed in a Bauhaus style to correspond with the museum’s new interior design—quite in the spirit of the emerging idea of corporate identity (figs. 3–4). With the new design and orientation, the Zwickau museum was very modern, and Gurlitt had managed to connect a provincial museum to the museum reform in Germany within a few short years. However, that was not popular everywhere in Zwickau. From the beginning Gurlitt faced opposition,

Figures 3–4. Flyer Museum Zwickau (front and back side), 1930. © Andreas Hueneke Archiv, Potsdam


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

and he therefore had to rely on support from museum circles. The first to stand up for him, wholeheartedly no less, was Hans Posse (1879–1942), at that time director of the State Gallery in Dresden. In 1926 Posse sent the mayor of Zwickau a report in which he praised Gurlitt’s reorganization of Zwickau’s museum collection, and two years later he again stressed Gurlitt’s “extraordinarily high earnings” for the city of Zwickau “through his promotion of modern art.”12 Of course, Gurlitt knew Posse from Dresden, where he was a guest now and then in his parents’ house.13 In his Zwickau years Gurlitt established a collegial connection to Posse, from which he later benefited when Posse became the director of the Sonderauftrag Führermuseum Linz. However, the difficulties in Zwickau did not stop, despite the prominent support. In 1929 there was a dispute in the local press about Gurlitt’s directorship, started by the reactionary forces in the city. Gurlitt was accused of preferring modern “trash” and “mass products” over venerable art.14 Soon representatives of the local chapter of the Nazi Party, which had existed in Zwickau since 1921, joined the fight, arguing that Gurlitt’s acquisition policy promoted the “degradation of the traditions and culture of the nation.”15 This time Gurlitt turned to the Association of German Museums (Deutscher Museumsbund; DMB), of which Posse was also a member, and asked for support. As an umbrella organization, the DMB represented all German museums of art and cultural history and promoted museums’ work in the spirit of the reform movement. In addition to Posse, such outstanding directors as Carl Georg Heise (1890–1979) from Lübeck, Max Sauerlandt (1880–1934) and Gustav Pauli (1866–1938) from Hamburg, and Max J. Friedländer (1867– 1958) from Berlin agreed to help Gurlitt. The chairman sent several letters to the city of Zwickau and also intervened directly, attesting to Gurlitt’s outstanding expertise and wise museum policies. Even the internationally renowned director of the National Gallery in Berlin, Ludwig Justi (1876–1957), pioneer of the museum reforms in the Weimar Republic, interfered in the dispute and brought the “Zwickau scandal” to the public’s attention through journal articles.16 By this time the scandal had reached such a level that leading politicians noticed. Edwin Redslob (1884–1973), as Reichskunstwart in the Ministry of

12. Hans Posse to the arbitration court for community disputes, December 6, 1928, Kunstsammlungen Zwickau, Archiv. 13. Marie Gurlitt to Wilibald Gurlitt, January 12, 1922, TU Dresden, Archive: Estate Cornelius Gurlitt, no. 224/140. 14. Kayser, “Museumswürdig.” 15. Zimmermann, “Der Kampf um das Zwickauer Museum.” 16. Justi, “Der Zwickauer Skandal.”

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Culture assigned to all questions concerning art, promised Gurlitt that he would pay a visit to Zwickau and try to appease the counterparty.17 But it was too late to stop Gurlitt’s dismissal. In April 1930 he was forced to leave his job and left Zwickau—in the view of the population there, in disgrace; in the view of the museum community, as a martyr and hero. The struggle, which extended over a year and a half, had made Gurlitt known to all his colleagues as well as to cultural politicians. The networks that he had established in these times proved reliable later: they read like traces of the trade routes of confiscated and seized artworks during the Nazi period, and mark the fine line between merit and crime that Gurlitt negotiated after 1933. Kunstverein Director and Gallerist in Hamburg Before that, however, he entered another struggle to champion modern art: on May 31, 1931, Gurlitt took over as executive director and director of exhibitions at the Kunstverein in Hamburg. He got the job through members of the German museums’ association. After Zwickau, Hamburg must have seemed a true blessing, where modernism, especially expressionist art, had long been legitimized and established with works exhibited both at the Kunsthalle and at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. Furthermore, Hamburg had a committed community of wealthy collectors, and the Kunstverein had an exhibition space, freshly renovated in the Bauhaus style, at Neue Rabensstraße 25. But in Hamburg, too, the Far Right was already active. In 1932 the sculptor Ludolf Albrecht (1884–1955), chairman of the local branch of the Militant League for German Culture (Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur), started a press campaign against Gurlitt. Albrecht gained more power after the change in government in January 1933, and on March 30 he closed the twelfth exhibition of the Hamburgische Sezession only a couple of weeks after it had opened. That was the first prohibition of an art exhibition in the “Third Reich.” Gurlitt reacted with pragmatism: he had the flagpole on the roof of the Kunstverein taken down to avoid raising the swastika flag.18 But this did nothing to improve relations with the city’s politicians. To forestall the inevitable dismissal, he resigned on August 14.19 The entire board resigned with him. For the second time Gurlitt saw his career in shambles. 17. Edwin Redslob to Hildebrand Gurlitt, February 25, 1930, Kunstsammlungen Zwickau, Archiv. 18. Rolf Nesch to Reinhard des Arts, August 10, 1933, in Bruhns, Rolf Nesch, 143; Otto Blumenfeld, “Erklärung an Eides statt,” October 9, 1946, Städel Frankfurt, Archiv: Akte 663; Karl Ballmer to Hildebrand Gurlitt, May 4, 1947, private archive. 19. “Vorstandssitzung July 28, 1933,” Kunstverein Hamburg, Archiv: Protocoll der Vorstandsversammlung 1932–1933.


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

Internally, he made a conscious change. He knew that he could no longer oppose the Nazi regime officially. But he was not ready to give up his ambitions and leave the country. A few years earlier he had been hailed by the most important museum directors and cultural politicians. Within a short time he was better-known than his father had been in his entire tenure. Gurlitt wanted to regain this power, and Germany seemed the right soil for it. Thereafter he still advocated for modern art, but at the same time he offered his services to the government. On this path he lost his moral compass. In 1935 Gurlitt moved to Klopstockstraße 35 in Hamburg, where in November he opened the Kunstkabinett Dr. H. Gurlitt.20 He had by this time many previous dealings with art. He had organized several sales exhibitions and had bought works for private collectors and for himself. The profession of an art dealer was a tradition in the Gurlitt family. His cousin Wolfgang Gurlitt (1888–1965) was an art dealer in Berlin (fig. 5). He took over the running of his father’s famous Gallery Fritz Gurlitt in 1907 and specialized in impressionism and expressionism. The two cousins had only occasional business contact with each other, since the Dresden family branch was in conflict with the Berlin branch after the death of Fritz senior in 1893.21 In his Kunstkabinett, Hildebrand Gurlitt continued to show works by avant-garde artists and to promote them by lecturing. He also exhibited Jewish artists and those who suffered from political persecution and were not permitted to have exhibitions, such as Otto Griebel (1895–1972), Anita Rée (1885–1933), and others. To bolster sales, Gurlitt added nineteenth-century art. After initial difficulties, business picked up. In 1936 Gurlitt moved his Kunstkabinett to Alte Rabenstraße 6 in an expensive neighborhood with grand houses west of the Außenalster. The Irish writer Samuel Beckett (1906–89) visited Gurlitt’s Kunstkabinett in 1936. Beckett was traveling in Germany, stopping at places with the most important collections of German avant-garde art that were still accessible. He attended evening events at the Kunstkabinett, where according to his German diaries, Hamburg’s entire progressive museum and collectors’ community met.22 On November 13, 1936, Beckett saw a Max Beckmann exhibition at Gurlitt’s Kunstkabinett—the last in the Third Reich before Beckmann emigrated to Amsterdam in 1937 (fig. 6). 20. Flyer, November 1935, “Neu eröffnet. Kunstkabinett Dr. H. Gurlitt. Hamburg 36, Klopstockstraße 35,” private archive. 21. Fritz Gurlitt (1854–93) was the brother of Hildebrand’s father, Cornelius. After Fritz’s death, inheritance disputes developed between Fritz’s widow, Annarella, and Cornelius, together with his sister Elsa. Cornelius Gurlitt to Wilibald Gurlitt, June 23, 1922, TU Dresden, Archive: Estate Cornelius Gurlitt, no. 033/074. 22. Quadflig, Beckett Was Here.

Meike Hoffmann


Figure 5. Wolfgang Gurlitt in his flat in Berlin, ca. 1926. © Privatarchiv Berlin/Munich

For Gurlitt, the situation in Nazi Germany became treacherous. In the fall of 1935 the Nazi regime enacted the so-called Nuremberg race laws. All members of the Reich Chamber of Culture (Reichskulturkammer) had to provide a certificate of Aryan descent—including art dealers, who were obliged to register in the Reich Chamber of Fine Arts (Reichskammer der bildenden Künste). Gurlitt was considered a “second-degree mixed breed” or “quarter Jewish” because his paternal grandmother was Jewish. At first Gurlitt had no problems with the race laws, since “Quarter Jews” were not systematically persecuted to maintain the economy.23 He also could appeal through his participation in World War I to the front-line fighters privilege.24 But his father, classified “Half Jew,” was immediately dismissed in 1935 from the Reich Chamber and all honorary posts.25 His brother, married to a Jewish woman 23. Steiner and von Cornberg, “Willkür in der Willkür,” 158. 24. Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums, April 7, 1933, Reichsgesetzblatt 1: 3.2, 175. 25. Dr. Gaber to Cornelius Gurlitt, December 5, 1935, TU Dresden, Archive: Estate Cornelius Gurlitt, no. 224/140.

Figure 6. Invitation Card “Kunstkabinett Dr. H. Gurlitt / Ausstellung / Max Beckmann / Neue Gemälde und Aquarelle,” 1936. © Privatarchiv, Berlin

Meike Hoffmann


Figure 7. Hildebrand Gurlitt with Helene and his two children, Cornelius and Benita, undated. © Privatarchiv, Berlin

and therefore classified as “closely related Jewish” (jüdisch versippt), lost his professorship in musicology at the University in Freiburg and was with his family under surveillance by the Nazis.26 Before Kristallnacht it was also high time for Gurlitt to take action. Although he had already received permission from several offices to carry on his business, in October 1938 he was ordered again to submit pedigree certificates for himself and his wife.27 To protect his family and livelihood, Gurlitt signed over his Kunstkabinett to his “Aryan” wife, Helene (1895–1968), and acted henceforth only as its general manager (fig. 7).28 But in fact, art dealers who were “partly Jewish” could continue in their positions only if they could ensure foreign currency income to the government. In this situation, Gurlitt curried favor with the Nazi regime. 26. Hagedorn, “Unheimliches Abendland.” 27. Hildebrand Gurlitt to Werner Thiede, November 12, 1938, private archive. 28. Registration Card Index Trade, Staatsarchiv Hamburg: 231-7 A 12, box 14.


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

Dealer of “Degenerate Art” After hearing that the works of “degenerate art” were to be sold abroad, Gurlitt immediately petitioned the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda) for permission to sell confiscated artworks. Starting in the summer of 1937, Joseph Goebbels, acting on Hitler’s decree, had all modern art removed from German museums. More than twenty-one thousand works classified as degenerate were seized. Some were used for propaganda purposes, others destroyed. About 32 percent of confiscated works were considered “internationally exploitable” and were to be sold abroad for hard currency. In 1938 they were brought to Schloss Schönhausen north of Berlin (fig. 8). After an initial offering at the now-legendary auction of 125 masterworks at the Grand Hôtel National in Lucerne in June 1939, the open sale of individual works was basically in the hands of four art dealers: in addition to Gurlitt they were Ferdinand Möller (1882–1956) and Karl Buchholz (1901–92) from Berlin, and Bernhard A. Böhmer (1892–1945) from Güstrow. Gurlitt took most of the works. According to what we know today, there he obtained 78 paintings, 278 watercolors, 52 drawings, no sculptures, but, because of his private preference, 3,471 fine prints—a total of 3,879 works. Möller, on the other hand, took only 848, Buchholz 883, and Böhmer 1,187 works.29 Gurlitt did not just take the works on commission, however, as the media have frequently claimed recently. On the contrary, Gurlitt was the only one of the four dealers who either bought almost all his works from the ministry or exchanged works of older eras for them. Eight contracts between him and the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda survived.30 For his own purchases Gurlitt had to come up with the necessary foreign currency himself. He paid exclusively in Swiss francs, which points to his close business relationships in that country that his son Cornelius continued later on. When in 1941 it became increasingly difficult for Gurlitt to get foreign currency, he began making offers of exchange: in other words, he offered works from before 1900 in exchange for “degenerate art.” He proved quite inventive. The official policy was that the propaganda ministry take possession of exchange objects. Gurlitt, however, turned directly to museums and suggested to their directors that they should acquire works from him that the museums had planned to acquire anyway, and then count these as compensation for the seized “degenerate art.”31 29. Database “Degenerate Art.” 30. File Gallery Gurlitt, Federal Archive Berlin: R 55/21015. 31. Hildebrand Gurlitt to Walter Passarge (City Art Hall Mannheim), October 15, 1940, Kunsthalle Mannheim, Archive:_Ordner+471+S-1+434–476.

Meike Hoffmann


Figure 8. The garden hall of Schloss Schönhausen in Berlin with “degenerate” art seized from German museums by the Nazis in 1937, 1938–39. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Zentralarchiv

Dresden, Hamburg, and Cologne accepted this suggestion, and Gurlitt acquired a self-portrait by Moritz Retzsch for the State Gallery in Dresden, three fine prints by Dürer and Jacob Cornelisz van Amsterdam for the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, and two landscape paintings for the City Art Hall in Hamburg. Gurlitt charged the propaganda museum 12,700 reichsmarks for these works and received in return forty-two masterworks of German classical modernism, for example, paintings by Beckmann, Emil Nolde, Oskar Kokoschka, Dix, Lyonel Feininger, and others.32 32. Exchange contract between Hildebrand Gurlitt and Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, March 12, 941, Federal Archive Berlin: R 55/21015, fols. 86–90.


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

These exchanges were probably the most profitable business for Gurlitt. And they were cleverly arranged. The participating museums could be certain that they would be compensated for works lost because of the “degenerate art” action with works that actually fit into their collections and met their quality standards. At the same time, Gurlitt maintained and used his good contacts with the leading museums. That the propaganda ministry agreed to play along with all of this must have been because of Gurlitt’s good reputation, since these transactions entailed a loss of control for the ministry. The “capitalization” of the confiscated “degenerate art” ended officially in the summer of 1941. But prior to this date Gurlitt had offered the government further services. After Posse was appointed first director of the Sonderauftrag Linz in June 1939, Gurlitt contacted him more frequently and sold him paintings for the Führermuseum either directly or through the art dealer Karl Haberstock (1878–1956).33 In addition, Gurlitt tried to extend his reach to the occupied territories. Only a few months after the occupation of France, the propaganda ministry recommended Gurlitt to the German Institute in Paris.34 The institute—the cultural department of the German embassy—took up its work on September 1, 1940. Its mission was to do cultural propaganda and reinforce German cultural influence in France. Gurlitt became active in this mission and got in touch with French artist circles. According to Karl Epting (1905–79), the director of the institute, Gurlitt was also instructed to observe the French art market and acquire works that he considered suitable for German museums. At that time the German ambassador Otto Abetz had seized artworks belonging to emigrated collectors from their abandoned villas; these were stored in the German embassy and adjacent buildings. Abetz had earmarked these works for German museums, and museum experts had traveled from Berlin to take an inventory.35 So far, no proof exists that Gurlitt was involved in these transactions. Given his connections to the German Institute, however, it is impossible that he did not know about them. Gurlitt started dealing with works from the occupied territories on a large scale only in March 1943. At that time, the director of the Landesmuseum in Wiesbaden, Hermann Voss (1884–1969), was appointed second director for the Sonderauftrag Linz. Voss succeeded Posse, who had died at the end of 33. Hans Posse, Travel Diaries, 1936–1942, German Art Archive, Nuremberg: DKA NL Posse, Hans_IB1-0001-0203; Gurlitt, Stock Books 1937–1945; Database Führermuseum Linz. 34. Request from Karl Epting for a French visa for Hildebrand Gurlitt, May 6, 1943, private archive. 35. Bargatzky, “Bericht über die Wegnahme.”

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1942. Gurlitt and Voss had known each other since the 1920s from the German museum association, when Voss worked as a curator with Friedländer at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum in Berlin. Unlike Posse, Voss did not travel to the occupied territories himself but relied completely on the expertise of the art dealers working for him. Voss had intended for Gurlitt to be the chief dealer for the Sonderauftrag in France. Soon his area was expanded to include other western occupied territories, above all because of the influence of the art historian Erhard Göpel (1906–66).36 Since 1942 Göpel had been active as a representative of the Sonderauftrag with the Reichs-Commissioner in the occupied Dutch territories. He was one of the few staff members that Voss retained from Posse. Göpel, too, knew Gurlitt from before, when both wrote art reviews for the Berlin Vossische Zeitung long before 1933. Gurlitt’s business transactions are linked to the names of the best-known art dealers, auction houses, and French gallery owners, such as Gustav Rochlitz (1889–1972), Tableaux Raphaël Gérard (Paris), Hôtel Drouot (Paris), and Mensing en Zoon (Amsterdam). However, Gurlitt preferred to get his works from much less well-known intermediaries such as Jean Lenthal and Philippe Adrion, Hugo Engel, Victor Mandl, and Martin Fabiani.37 From the beginning, he always turned first to the Dutchman Theo Hermsen Jr. (1905–44), who had offices in The Hague and Paris. As a special service, Hermsen provided the necessary export permission documents, and he was also willing to take works back if the final customer was not happy on receipt of the original.38 About 75 percent of the works Gurlitt acquired in the occupied western territories were bought from Hermsen. Thus, for the Gurlitt acquisitions, the provenance chain documented in the Property Cards of the Central Collecting Point in Munich and all publications that follow this source are incomplete.39 For example, the paintings by Jan Miense Molenaer (Two Children with Cat), Alessandro Magnasco (Lace-Making Nuns), and Jan Fyt (Large Still Life with Dead Heron) were not acquired from private sellers directly by Gurlitt, as stated in the cards,40 but from Hermsen, as is evident from the foreign 36. Request from Erhard Göpel to Visa Department at German Embassy, Paris, December 21, 1943, private archive. 37. Gurlitt, Stock Books 1937–1945. 38. Hildebrand Gurlitt, “Sworn Statement,” Restitution Research Records, 1945–1950 (National Archives Identifier 3725274), RG 260, NARA M1946, Roll: 134. retrieved via fold3 (24.3.2013). 39. Schwarz, Hitlers Museum; Voigt, Kunsthändler und Sammler. 40. Molenaer, Federal Archive Koblenz B 323/656; Fyt, Federal Archive Koblenz B 323/616; Magnasco, Federal Archive Koblenz B 323/672.


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

currency papers now housed in the Federal Archive in Berlin, which researchers have rarely used so far.41 After the end of World War II, Gurlitt was named the “chief dealer” of the Sonderauftrag by the Allies. Between March and June 1944 alone, Gurlitt acquired sixty-nine paintings, ten Gobelin tapestries, and eighty-two drawings, valued at 3.6 million reichsmarks, for the Sonderauftrag.42 In the following month, he managed to close a top deal with six tapestries and three paintings for the similar sum of 3.13 million reichsmarks. As late as August—shortly before the Allies liberated Paris—Gurlitt made purchases for 610,000 reichsmarks, but now had to try to have the works transferred to Germany via Brussels. After the French art market was closed to him for good, he planned to move his acquisition trips to Hungary, which was allied with Germany.43 To this day the exact number of works that Gurlitt had acquired for the Sonderauftrag Linz is not certain. Years ago in the literature the number of works was claimed to have been 168,44 but this figure is definitely too low. However, compared with those of other chief dealers, Gurlitt’s acquisitions rank at the bottom. The Munich art dealer Maria Almas-Dietrich sold 930 works to the planned Führermuseum; the same unholy museum project purchased 315 works from the Vienna auction house Dorotheum and 204 works from Haberstock. When we consider these numbers, we have to keep in mind that they only cover the works intended for Hitler’s museum. The Sonderauftrag comprised far more works, because in addition to the holdings of the Führermuseum, there was also a mass of works to be distributed elsewhere. In addition to his work for the Sonderauftrag, Gurlitt still endeavored to acquire artworks from the occupied territories for German museums—indeed, he regarded this as his true mission. He collaborated with colleagues whom he still knew from his time as a member of the German museum association, although in the course of the enforced conformity measures (Gleichschaltung), numerous museum directors were sacked, mainly the directors of collections of modern German art. The rest remained in their positions, or former curators were moved up. Gurlitt sold the highest number of works to Cologne. For example, as far as we know today, he sold twenty-nine paintings and four sculptures from the 41. Federal Archive Berlin: R 8 XIV/12, vol. 2. Kathrin Iselt referred to the currency papers for the first time (Sonderbeauftragter des Führers). 42. Report from Reich Office Paper (Reichsstelle Papier) to Reich Ministry of Economics, September 11, 1943; list from Dresdner Bank of bills and currency certificates, March 7, 1944, Federal Archiv Berlin: R 8 XIV/12, vol. 2. 43. Hermann Voss to Reich Office Paper, 1944, Federal Archiv Berlin: R 8 XIV/12, vol. 2. 44. Löhr, Das Braune Haus der Kunst, 117.

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occupied western territories to the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. He also sold around fifty paintings and works on paper to the Kölnischer Kunstverein, and a quite large number of vases and other craft objects to the Römisch-Germanische Museum.45 This amounts to more than one hundred works of art alone sold to Cologne institutions. Gurlitt also had frequent business dealings with museums in Hamburg, Munich, Weimar, Leipzig, Lübeck, Wiesbaden, and other cities. Haberstock, who was hired before Gurlitt by Posse for the Sonderauftrag in France, sold only eighteen works of art from the occupied western territories to German museums between 1941 and 1944.46 So if we want to assess Gurlitt’s dealing of artworks from the occupied territories, it is essential that we keep in mind the changed focus of his work. In his career as an art dealer, Gurlitt did amass quite a fortune. He himself attributed his increase in income to his generally valued expertise, to which numerous museum directors also attested.47 Indeed, in Gurlitt’s favor is also an expert opinion about the gains in profit and wealth among art dealers during the war years, which was ascribed to people taking recourse in tangible assets, a gambit that led to an explosion of increased prices for art. But it remains completely incomprehensible how this could lead to the conclusion that this “phenomenon had in its entirety nothing to do with politics,” that there was no discernible material benefit from the political situation, as the expert claimed.48 Since Gurlitt, as a “half-breed of the second degree,” was also considered a victim of persecution; since he was never a member of the Nazi Party; and since he carried numerous favorable references on his person, in January 1948 he was able to supply the Spruchkammer Bamberg-Land (German civilian court handling denazification) with evidence that led to his exoneration. His art collection, which had been confiscated in Wiesbaden, was returned to him at the end of 1950 and in early 1951; only one work was repatriated.49 For Gurlitt, this meant the end of the Third Reich chapter of his life. He had been already appointed director of the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und 45. Terlau, “Das Wallraf-Richartz-Museum”; “Antrag einer Devisenbescheinigung für die Wareneinfuhr sowie zur Bezahlung der entstehenden besonderen Nebenkosten,” October 8, 1944, Federal Archiv Berlin: R 8 XIV/12, vol. 2. 46. Haug, “sucht ständig zu kaufen.” 47. For example, references from Leopold Reidemeister (director of the museums in Cologne), Guido Schönberger (New York University), Kurt Martin (State Art Hall Karlsruhe), Friedrich SchreiberWeigang (City Art Collection Chemnitz), Public Record Office Coburg: Spk BA Land G 251. 48. Bamberger Verlagshaus, February 17, 1947, “Gutachterliche Äußerung über Gewinn- und Vermögenszunahmen bei Briefmarkenhändler, Buchantiquaren und Kunst- u. Antiquitätenhändlern innerhalb der Kriegsjahre,” Public Record Office Coburg: Spk BA Land G 251. 49. OMGUS Headquarters Records, Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point Records, Out Shipment 243, December 15, 1950, retrieved via fold3 (24.3.2013).


Hildebrand Gurlitt and German Museums

Westfalen in 1948. “According to a statement by Konrad Röthel,” the chief conservator at the Munich Central Collecting Point, Gurlitt assisted actively in the research on the provenance of works for the Sonderauftrag Linz.50 We also know today that he loaned works from his own collections to exhibitions around the world; that is to say, he did not hide his collection.51 However, when former owners made inquiries, he pretended not to know where the artworks were. In this way he became guilty a second time, and he passed on this guilt to his family. References Bargatzky, Walter. 1965 (1945). “Bericht über die Wegnahme französischer Kunstschätze durch die deutsche Botschaft und den Einsatzstab Rosenberg in Frankreich.” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 13, no. 3: 291–337. Bruhns, Maike, ed. 1993. Rolf Nesch: Zeugnisse eines ungewöhnlichen Künstlerlebens in turbulenter Zeit. Gifkendorf: Merlin. Database “Degenerate Art.” n.d. Freie Universität Berlin. /en/e/db_entart_kunst/index.html (accessed October 31, 2015). Database Führermuseum Linz. n.d. Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. www.dhm. de/datenbank/linzdb (accessed October 31, 2015). Fechter, Paul. 1949. Menschen und Zeiten. Gütersloh: Bertelsmann. Gronemann, Sammy. 1924. Hawdoloh und Zapfenstreich. Berlin: Jüdischer Verlag. Gurlitt, Cornelius. 1908. “Der Rembrandtdeutsche.” Die Zukunft 16, no. 18: 139–48. Gurlitt, Hildebrand. 1921. “Moderne Malerei in Frankfurt und Darmstadt.” Neue Blätter für Kunst und Literatur 4, nos. 3–4: 37–40. ———. 1922. “Conrad Felixmüller: Eine Ausstellung im Kunstsalon Arnold, Dresden.” Dresdner Woche 12: 7. ———. 1926. “Von jungen Dresdner Künstlern.” Das Kunstblatt 10: 260. ———. 1954. “Aus dem Vorwort zu einer Wanderausstellung deutscher Aquarelle der letzten fünfzig Jahre in den USA.” Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, 159-2-22.000. ———. n.d. Stock Books 1937–1945, German Lost Art Foundation. /041_KunstfundMuenchen/DE/Buecher (accessed October 31, 2015). Hagedorn, Volker. 2009. “Unheimliches Abendland, der Fall Eggebrecht erschüttert die Musikwissenschaftler vor allem menschlich.” Die Zeit, December 17. Haug, Ute. 2008. “sucht ständig zu kaufen—Karl Haberstock und die deutschen Kunstmuseen.” In Karl Haberstock: Umstrittener Kunsthändler und Mäzen, edited by Horst Kessler, 41–55. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag. 50. Hans Konrad Röthel, February 14, 1947, “Eidesstattliche Erklärung,” Public Record Office Coburg: Spk BA Land G 251. 51. Exhibitions: Lucerne, Gallery Fischer, 1953, Meisterwerke des 20. Jahrhunderts; Hannover, State Gallery, Hamburg, Art Association, Düsseldorf, Art Association, Bremen City Art Hall, 1954, Max Liebermann; Essen, Folkwang Museum, 1954, Werke französischer Malerei und Grafik des 19. Jahrhunderts; New York, American Federation of Arts, 1956, German Watercolors, Drawings, and Prints, 1905–1955.

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Herrmann, Hilde. 1954. “Die Gurlitts.” Neue deutsche Hefte 1: 770–83. Hoffmann, Meike. 2005. Leben und Schaffen der Künstlergruppe “Brücke,” 1905 bis 1913. Berlin: Reimer. Iselt, Kathrin. 2010. Sonderbeauftragter des Führers: Der Kunsthistoriker und Museumsmann Hermann Voss (1884–1969). Vienna: Böhlau. Justi, Ludwig. 1930. “Der Zwickauer Skandal.” Museum der Gegenwart 1, no. 2: 48–60. Kayser, Johannes. 1929. “Museumswürdig: Ein Wort zu der letzten Ansprache des Museumsdirektors Dr. Gurlitt in Zwickau.” Zwickauer Zeitung, October 21. Löhr, Hanns Christian. 2005. Das Braune Haus der Kunst: Hitler und der Sonderauftrag Linz. Berlin: Akademie. Portz, Hugo. 2015. Cornelia Gurlitt: The Journey of the Heart. Landau: Knecht. Quadflig, Roswitha. 2006. Beckett Was Here: Hamburg im Tagebuch Samuel Becketts von 1936. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe. Schwarz, Birgit. 2004. Hitlers Museum: Die Fotoalben Gemäldegalerie Linz, nos. XXX/13, XXVII/25, XXVIII/38. Vienna: Böhlau. Steiner, John M., and Jobst Freiherr von Cornberg. 1998. “Willkür in der Willkür: Befreiungen von den antisemitischen Nürnberger Gesetzen.” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 46, no. 2: 143–87. Terlau, Katja. 2007. “Das Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in der Zeit zwischen 1933–1945.” In Museen im Zwielicht: Ankaufspolitik, 1933–1945 / Die eigene Geschichte: Provenienzforschung an deutschen Museen, 31–50. Magdeburg: Graphisches Centrum Cuno. Voigt, Vanessa Maria. 2007. Kunsthändler und Sammler der Moderne im Nationalsozialismus: Die Sammlung Sprengel 1934 bis 1945. Berlin: Reimer. Zimmermann, Karl. 1930. “Der Kampf um das Zwickauer Museum.” Zwickauer Zeitung, February 21.

Have German Restitution Politics Been Advanced since the Gurlitt Case? A Journalist’s Perspective

Julia Voss

When a German magazine, Focus, broke the news on November 4, 2013, that more than a thousand artworks had been found in the apartment of a former National Socialist (NS) art dealer’s son, the German public was in shock.1 The magazine cover pictured Adolf Hitler posing with an iconic painting by the expressionist painter Franz Marc and featured the headline “Der NaziSchatz” (“The Nazi Treasure”). As the article revealed, among the artworks was Henri Matisse’s Femme assise, which originally belonged to the French dealer Paul Rosenberg, who fled Paris when the Nazis invaded France. Rosenberg’s collection was plundered, and the majority of it remained missing after World War II.2 The Matisse painting was a clear case of looted art. In Munich, it seemed, the robbers (or at least profiteers) had managed to preserve and store their treasures as if hidden in a time capsule for more than seventy years, right in the city center. And they passed them on from one generation to the next, from father to son, from Hildebrand Gurlitt (1895–1956) to Cornelius Gurlitt (1932–2014). How was this possible, one wondered? Was this an isolated case? Or was it symptomatic of Germany’s stance on looted art more broadly, both in private and in public collections? Had restitution politics failed? 1. Krischer and Röll, “Der gerettete Schatz.” 2. Sinclair, My Grandfather’s Gallery. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705694 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



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Responses to the Gurlitt Case in German Politics and Media German politicians were quick to react. The Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund was established in November 2013 and funded by both the Federal Government of Germany and the Free State of Bavaria “to ascertain which of these works had been expropriated from their owners by the National Socialist (Nazi) regime between 1933 and 1945.”3 But the task force was not merely a new bureaucratic entity. More important, it introduced a novelty into the handling of looted art in Germany. For the first time, international experts and representatives of Jewish organizations were asked to join a consulting body. Most of the members of the task force were announced in early 2014, including provenance researchers, museum professionals, contemporary historians, art historians, and jurists from Germany, Austria, France, Hungary, Israel, Poland, and the United States, as well as Agnes Peresztegi, a member from the Commission for Art Recovery, founded by Ronald S. Lauder in 1997. Also in November 2013, only three weeks after the Gurlitt case went public, Bavarian justice minister Winfried Bausback announced a proposal for changing the German state’s law. He asked the Federal Justice Department to evaluate whether the thirty-year statute of limitations could be revoked if an artwork’s owner acquired or inherited an object in bad faith. His proposal is still under examination. The Gurlitt case not only triggered attention from German politicians but also changed art coverage in the media completely. Before the scandal, restitution and its politics formed only a small fraction of stories reported from the art world. Cases of looted art almost never surfaced in the rainbow press. After Gurlitt, the topic surged. The case combined many elements of a compelling narrative that engaged a broad audience. Some of these elements turned out to be false or at least exaggerated. For example, Focus’s original title, “Der Nazi-Schatz,” seemed at first to imply that the majority of the 1,280 works found in the Munich apartment had to be considered looted art. Although it is still unknown just how many works were looted, it seems more likely that it is only a minority. The cases where it could not be determined whether a work was confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution have been posted on the database Lost Art. They amount to 499 postings. The remaining artworks are under no suspicion of having been expropriated from private persons. Some were classified as “degenerate art,” that is, works that had been confiscated by the National Socialists from German museum collections, while others were created after 1945, or they “were created by members of the Gurlitt family, or were directly dedicated or given as a gift by the artist to a 3. Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, “Facts and Figures.”

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member of the family.”4 So far about three hundred letters have been sent to the task force, and about two-thirds of them include inquiries about specific artworks. Five provenance reports have been published on the website. These pictures—including the Matisse—are the cases of looted art documented so far.5 According to informed sources, the number of clearly looted art cases is estimated at about a dozen. The worth of Gurlitt’s collection in the Munich apartment, the so-called Milliardenschatz, was also miscalculated. Removing one zero from that number gives a more realistic estimate, since what has been found in Munich consists mainly of works on paper. The most precious part of the collection was stored in Cornelius Gurlitt’s house in Salzburg. The existence of additional artworks was announced by his legal representatives in February 2014, two months after the revelations about the first trove. A list of the more than seventy artworks has been published by the Kunstmuseum Bern and includes paintings by Paul Cézanne, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Pablo Picasso.6 Finally, the enigma of Cornelius Gurlitt’s personality attracted broad attention. Rumors about a possible personality disorder spread quickly. It was reported that his apartment in Munich resembled a garbage dump, while the windows of his Salzburg house were found nailed up with large wooden boards. The open questions surrounding his character and biography have already inspired a theater play on the case that had its world premiere in Berlin in October 2015. The Oscar-winning British author Ronald Harwood portrays Cornelius in Entartete Kunst as a lubricious, infantile, disturbed but also savvy old man.7 According to what is known about the art dealer’s son, Harwood’s fictional portrayal seems unlikely.8 Born in 1932, Cornelius never had a career but earned his income by selling artworks from his inheritance. He never married, had no children, and lived reclusively. His sister, Benita, was one of the few people he had contact with, and since her death in 2012 he seems to have become more unstable. In December 2013, about a month after the case had been publicized, the Munich district court assigned a temporary legal custodian to take care of Cornelius’s personal affairs and estate. Whether he was mentally fit to write his will afterward is disputed.9 After he bequeathed his 4. Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, “Which Artworks.” 5. Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, “Provenance Reports.” 6. Kunstmuseum Bern, “Nachlass Gurlitt—Salzburger Kunstfund.” 7. Voss, “Fuppen und Foppen.” 8. Two biographies were published recently on Hildebrand Gurlitt. Both treat Cornelius Gurlitt’s biography briefly. See Hoffmann and Kuhn, Hitlers Kunsthändler; and Hickley, Gurlitts Schatz. 9. Voss, “Unordnung und spätes Leid.”


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collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern, Uta Werner, a cousin of his, ordered a psychological evaluation. Werner denies that he was capable of writing a will. Since neither Cornelius nor Benita had any children, the extended family will inherit his belongings if his will should be declared invalid.10 A psychological evaluation was ordered by the Munich district court in May 2015. As of this writing no decision had been handed down. Although press reports may have overblown parts of the story, they have sparked wider interest in the subject, leading to hundreds of newspaper articles, television shows, and scholarly symposia. Newspapers were reporting daily on findings and discoveries. Focus was the first to reveal the existence of the Schwabing trove, which the public prosecutor’s office in Augsburg had already confiscated in March 2012. Although it remains unclear why the collection was confiscated, it seems likely that the action was initiated because of tax offenses. After the Focus piece was published, the French weekly Paris Match tracked down Cornelius Gurlitt on a shopping tour in Munich and published its first photograph of him on November 9, 2013. Finally, the German newsweekly Der Spiegel conducted the first interview with him, in which he declared: “I won’t speak with them, and I won’t voluntarily give back anything, no, no. The public prosecutor has enough that exonerates me.”11 As with many details in this case, the ultimate meaning of Gurlitt’s announcement remains obscure. When Gurlitt’s legal custodian assigned three lawyers to take care of his client’s affairs in January 2014, one of them claimed that the interview had misrepresented Gurlitt’s statement. The video of the interview was interrupted by several cuts. According to this lawyer, Gurlitt’s statement referred to the works his father had acquired legally.12 The press not only covered the latest developments. Journalists and researchers dived deep into historical archives. On November 6, 2013, we at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung put online the list of the artworks Gurlitt’s father had given to the Allies in order to claim them as his own property.13 A few days later my colleague Andreas Rossmann met with Karl-Heinz Hering, Hildebrand Gurlitt’s former assistant at the Kunstverein for the Rhineland and Westphalia based in Düsseldorf, and thus one of the few witnesses to the course of the elder Gurlitt’s postwar career.14 By the end of November I pub10. Uta Werner represents only part of the family; another part explicitly supports the decision pronounced in the will to name the Kunstmuseum Bern the sole beneficiary. 11. Gezer, “Die Liebe seines Lebens.” 12. For the magazine’s reaction to the accusation, see the online video by Der Spiegel: “In eigener Sache.” 13. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “Gurlitts Liste.” 14. Rossmann, “Keine Fahne am Mast.”

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lished an article on his loans of artworks to exhibitions and the network of former NS dealers in postwar Germany.15 Looted art was even a topic on Günther Jauch, Germany’s most popular talk show on public television, broadcast every Sunday evening.16 Cornelius Gurlitt’s lawyers set up a website to cope with the overwhelming amount of inquiries from all over the world.17 Before the case there was a joke that circulated among provenance researchers. “What exactly is this ‘Provence research’ you are doing?” After Gurlitt the number of people who know that “provenance” was not a region in France had definitely been enlarged. The case fell like a huge stone into the murky waters of restitution politics. As a result, large rings were spreading. The discussion did not stop with Gurlitt but also affected German museums and has raised questions about what has been achieved with restitution so far. For instance, the scandal brought wider attention to an exhibition that opened in the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt in late November 2013, titled 1938—Art, Artists, Politics. A key aim of the exhibition was to depict the broader infrastructure of art looting; it was the museum’s second exhibition on the subject.18 When Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of culture, took office in 2014, she devoted her first official visit to the Frankfurt museum and the exhibition. In her first public interview on that occasion, she announced her plans for a German Lost Art Foundation (Stiftung Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste), which was founded about a year later in Magdeburg.19 Why Gurlitt Is Not a Singular Case The exhibition 1938 had come out of an uneasiness that we—a team of curators and editors of the catalog—shared about curators and art historians’ singular focus on the year 1937 and the confiscation of “degenerate art” from German museums.20 In our view there are at least two problems with presenting this year as paradigmatic for the art world in fascist Germany. First, German public institutions and not private persons were the central targets of the 15. Voss, “Ablasshandel mit der Moderne.” 16. Das Erste, “Der Milliardenschatz.” 17. This website,, has been removed. 18. The first was in cooperation with the Jewish Museum in Berlin. See Bertz and Dorrmann, Raub und Restitution. 19. Voss, “Kulturstaatsministerin Monika Grütters.” 20. The list is endless. For the German discussion, see Rave, Kunstdiktatur im Dritten Reich; Claus, Entartete Kunst; Schuster, Arndt, and Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst”; Zuschlag, Entartete Kunst; Kellein, 1937; Fleckner, Angriff auf die Avantgarde; and Ladleif and Schneider, Moderne am Pranger.


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ban on “degenerate art.” In contrast to private collections, these institutions belonged to the German state, and often their directors profited from collaborating with the regime.21 Second, judging solely by the number of the confiscated works, the artists most affected by the action seem to be German expressionist painters like Emil Nolde. However, it is evident that neither German expressionists nor their producers were the most heavily persecuted by the Nazis when one compares their fate to that of Jewish artists. The famous Malverbot issued for Nolde, for example, was a myth of the postwar period.22 German museums and German expressionists appear to have been the most severely affected victims in the art world only when the scope of analysis is restricted to the year 1937. Contrary to this narrative, we tried to show that some of the most significant actions took place in 1938. Moreover, these changes paved the way for many postwar careers in the art world, such as Hildebrand Gurlitt’s. While his biography was not part of our exhibition, the exhibition showed that he could not be considered an isolated case or an exception. What happened in 1938? And why would it matter for the Gurlitt case? It was in this year that teams of art experts were assigned to German museums to evaluate collections of Jewish proprietors and select the works that they considered “museum quality.”23 Thus, even though many works deemed “entartet” had left German museums the year before, museum collections grew again in 1938. It was also the year of the so-called Anschluss Österreich, after which Jewish collections were plundered and their owners imprisoned, exiled, or murdered. Shortly afterward, in June 1938, the Führervorbehalt was enacted, which guaranteed Hitler first option to keep any pieces from all confiscated art collections.24 The same day the law was instituted Hitler met with Hans Posse, the former director of the Dresdner Gemäldegalerie. Posse was chosen head of the Sonderauftrag Linz, the monumental museum project, for which Gurlitt later become one of the most important buying agents. In November, during the pogroms, art collections were plundered throughout the entire German Reich. Among the thousands of Jewish citizens who lost their lives were internationally renowned figures of the art world such as Hugo Helbing, who with Bruno Cassirer owned one of the most famous auction houses in Germany.25 The work of the “Jüdischer Kulturbund” was 21. See Christian Fuhrmeister’s and my contributions to the catalog: Fuhrmeister, “75 Jahre Gegensätze?”; Voss, “Die Verdrängung von 1938.” 22. Soika and Fulda, “‘Deutscher bis ins tiefste Geheimnis.’” 23. See Voss, “Die Verdrängung von 1938,” 166. 24. Schwarz, “Sonderauftrag Linz und ‘Führermuseum,’” 127. 25. See Hopp, “Kunsthandel 1938.”

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massively restricted after the pogroms, and thus the limited space in which Jewish artists could show their work was lost.26 By the end of 1938 there were no Jews left in the German art world: no collectors, dealers, artists, art lecturers, critics, art historians, or museum employees, let alone museum directors. A process begun by the National Socialists in 1933 was brought to its fruition. In 1933 the Law of the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service banned civil servants who were not of “Aryan descent,” as well as political opponents of the Nazi regime. Six years later the complete “Aryanization” of the art world was in force. The positions of all people who had been removed were now taken over. Pedigree was the most important category for inclusion. Even artists whose works were branded “entartet” could keep painting, selling, and showing their work as long as they could produce proof of their “Aryan pedigree.” Artists such as Nolde and Otto Dix remained members of the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste.27 Prices for “Aryan” modern art on the German market actually rose during 1938 and 1939, as the art historian Gesa Jeuthe has pointed out.28 Otto Freundlich, in contrast, a Jewish modernist artist, who was also defamed as “entartet,” was murdered in 1943 in the concentration camp Lublin-Majdanek. Thousands of Jewish collectors, gallerists, dealers, critics, artists, and other members of the art world shared his fate. Because of the concomitant plunder, the art market in general was booming.29 Gurlitt’s career also took off in 1938. Previously he had been subject to repeated reprisals by the National Socialists. In 1930 he was dismissed as museum director in Zwickau, after his promotion of avant-garde art had been the target of a campaign by the Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur. He became director of the Kunstverein in Hamburg, but was removed from that position two years later when the National Socialists came to power. He then stayed in Hamburg and worked as an art dealer; his gallery was known as the “Kunstkabinett Dr. H. Gurlitt.”30 In a statement to the Allies after the war, Gurlitt said that he feared persecution, as his grandmother was Jewish. The fate of his brother must have supported his fear. Wilibald Gurlitt (1889–1963), a musicologist and professor in Freiburg, was forcefully removed from his university post in 1937. According to the Nuremberg racial laws, he had previously been classified as “mixed race (second degree)” and thus could keep a Reich citizenship— as had Hildebrand. Yet Wilibald was married to a Jewish woman, a union that 26. Smith, “Die Arbeit des jüdischen Kulturbunds.” 27. Jeuthe, Kunstwerte im Wandel, 259. 28. Ibid., 321. 29. David and Oosterlinck, “War, Monetary Reforms, and the Art Market.” 30. Kracht, “Im Einsatz für die deutsche Kunst.”


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was declared illegal by 1935. Hildebrand’s wife was not Jewish. Nevertheless, he had good reasons not to feel safe. For Hildebrand Gurlitt, the situation developed differently. In 1938 he was appointed as one of the four dealers licensed to sell “degenerate art” outside Germany. Of the more than twenty-one thousand works that had been confiscated from German museums, Gurlitt took thirty-seven hundred works on paper on commission. Some of it he sold—against regulations—inside Germany. From 1943 on, he was one of the main suppliers to Hitler’s “Special Project: Linz.” Gurlitt focused on the French market and was equipped with special passes that allowed him to travel freely to Paris. Not only did he buy for the special project, but between 1941 and 1944 he was commissioned by numerous German museums to acquire works in France. Gurlitt also used his privileged status to obtain works for private collectors, including Joseph Goebbels. Finally, he bought works that he kept for himself.31 When interrogated by the Allied forces, he asserted that most of his own collection was destroyed in the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945. The artworks that he claimed to be his own were given back to him by the US Army in December 1950. It is evident that he did not shy away from lying about their origin. “None of paintings,” he declared, “were taken from Jewish proprietors or came from abroad.”32 Yet, for example, Max Liebermann’s Zwei Reiter am Strand was on Gurlitt’s list, and it had actually been looted from the Jewish collector David Friedmann in Breslau in 1939. It was restituted to the heirs in May 2014.33 In 1948 Gurlitt was appointed director of the Kunstverein for Rhineland and Westphalia based in Düsseldorf. Already by 1949 he loaned works from his collection to exhibitions such as the prestigious show Der Blaue Reiter in Munich’s Haus der Kunst. It was the founding year of the Federal Republic of Germany. The art that had been defamed was now supposed to become official state art. Germany sent modern art to the Venice Biennale in 1950 and 1952; it was shown at the documenta in Kassel in 1955. Gurlitt was one of many who continued their careers in postwar Germany. The rise of modern art in the postwar era allowed for a double dealing: on the one hand, it was used to signify to the world that Germany had broken with its National Socialist past. On the other, the restitution of looted art was combated. Art dealers, gallerists, collectors, and museums concealed what they kept in storage. Museum direc31. Koldehoff, Die Bilder sind unter uns, 31–33; Iselt, “Sonderbeauftragter des Führers,” 289–97. 32. Quoted from Koldehoff, Die Bilder sind unter uns, 35. 33. Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, “Provenance Reports.”

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tors as well as dealers publicly called for an end to restitution.34 In several cases the engagement with modern art was instrumentalized to whitewash a career in the Nazi era. The Gurlitt case illustrates this phenomenon. Gurlitt died in 1956. His collection passed to his wife. She reiterated in 1966 that everything was destroyed in Dresden during the fire of February 13, 1945. After her death, the collection passed to Cornelius and his sister, Benita. When she died in 2011, Cornelius was the only direct heir. Restitution before the Gurlitt Case With the “Schwabing Art Trove,” Germany suddenly had a big case of looted art again. Never before were so many artworks belonging to a single person suspected to have been looted. Never before were the public and politicians so unified in the belief that these works should be returned to their owners. In the past, looted art belonging to a public collection had triggered very different reactions. In 2006, for example, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting Berliner Straßenszene from 1913 was restituted. The picture had been in the Brücke Museum and was returned by the Berlin Senate to the daughter of Hans Hess. The restitution claim was based on the fact that the sale had been executed after the Nuremberg racial laws were in effect. Hess, the son of a Jewish art collector from Erfurt who had died in 1931, was fired from his position at the Berlin publishing house Ullstein Verlag as soon as Hitler came to power. He fled to Paris in 1933 and migrated to London two years later; his mother initially stayed in Germany but then left in 1939. In 1936 the painting was sold by her and was acquired by Carl Hagemann (1867–1940), a retired chemist and the former manager of IG Farben. Hess died in January 1975. In 2004 Anita Halpin, his daughter born in 1944, requested the return of Kirchner’s painting. The restitution was in line with the Washington Principles that Germany had signed in 1998. Nevertheless, it was followed by an often hostile debate. When the painting was sold for almost thirty million dollars at Christie’s in New York, Bernd Schultz, the owner of the Berlin auction house Villa Grisebach, held a speech at the Kanzleramt in which he railed against the “unscrupulous lawyers.” In a complete reversal of the situation, he accused the victims and their lawyers of plundering German museums out of greed. He stated: “One says Holocaust and means money.” Schultz charged that the claimants and their supporters “posthumously disavow the life achievement” of those people who built up democracy after 1945 in Germany.35 Even in 2015 Peter 34. Voss, “Ablasshandel Moderne,” 1177. 35. Schultz, “Man sagt Holocaust und meint Geld.”


German Restitution Politics since the Gurlitt Case

Raue, a German lawyer and founding member of the prestigious Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie, continues to dispute the legitimacy of the restitution. In an interview published in the booklet to Harwood’s play Entartete Kunst, Raue states that in the case of the Kirchner painting, a “remote relative” had asked for restitution and Berlin had followed this “most problematic claim” without negotiating. Who would seriously call the granddaughter of the original owner of a painting a “remote relative”?36 The discussion was more nuanced when a Munich museum was accused of keeping looted art. The work in question was much less valuable, and the accusation was not made public by a lawyer or a claimant but by a museum employee who turned to the press after the Bavarian authorities had tried to make restitution impossible. In 2010 Andreas Strobl, a specialist in nineteenthcentury art at the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, made public that he and his colleagues at the public collection in Munich wished to return a Rudolf von Alt watercolor, Der alte Nordbahnhof (Vienna, 1851). It originally belonged to Valerie Heissfeld, a Jewish woman who was forced to leave the work behind when she fled from Austria to Czechoslovakia in 1939. She was murdered in Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942. Her descendants claimed the work. When reporting the case to the Bavarian ministry of culture, Strobl was informed about a unique Bavarian law that protects capital reserves. Under this law the museum would have to pay compensation for the restitution, Strobl was told. Until that year the Bavarian state ministry of finance had required Bavarian museums to reimburse the state the value of any works returned to their rightful owners. Von Alt’s watercolor was estimated to be worth between ten thousand and twenty thousand euros. How could a looted work be counted as part of a state’s capital reserve, Strobl wondered? And why would a museum run by the Bavarian state reimburse the state of Bavaria? Strobl went public at a conference at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as well as the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in favor of the restitution and criticized the Bavarian law.37 In 2011 the Landtag of Bavaria amended the constitutional requirement that the state must be compensated for any lost assets. How Gurlitt Changed Politics Did Gurlitt have comparable consequences? Should it have? Some effects are easily observed. In reaction to Gurlitt, Grütters proposed to increase funding for provenance research, to employ more people in that field, and to found a federal institute for property losses. These promises were kept. In 2015 six 36. Harwood, “Keine Sympathie aber Mitleid.” 37. Voss, “Bayerisches Bollwerk”; Mazzoni, “Immer schön korrekt.”

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million euros were granted for provenance research, and there is now a federal institute for property losses located in Magdeburg. It has an international board that also includes representatives from Jewish organizations. This is undoubtedly a positive achievement. The question, however, remains: to what degree do developments such as Grütter’s Zentrum and Bausback’s announcement influence German restitution politics, which heretofore has allowed no easy path for claimants? According to the German constitution, Kultur is “Ländersache,” and thus restitution is also “Ländersache,” that is, the responsibility of the states. Every “Bundesland,” from Bavaria to Saxony, can decide how to process cases. The only overarching body in Germany is the so-called Limbach Commission (Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property). It was founded in 2003 to give advice in disputed cases in which claimants and museums could not reach an agreement. Since its founding, the commission has been headed by Jutta Limbach (1934–2016), the former vice president of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. The commission consists of eight members, among them politicians, historians, and art historians. Only recently Grütters announced that the commission would be enlarged by two representatives of the Jewish community. In November 2016 the government appointed Raphael Gross, former director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and designated director of the Deutsche Historische Museum in Berlin, and Gary Smith, former director of the American Academy in Berlin. The panel decisions are not legally binding. So far, the Limbach Commission has given advice in about a dozen restitution cases; in no case has a museum refused the advice. However, there are other ways to avoid the commission altogether. It can act only if both parties agree. If the museum declines to bring a case to the commission, the case is for all practical purposes closed. The various outcomes that can possibly ensue are illustrated by the Flechtheim case. Beginning in 2009, the heirs of Alfred Flechtheim (1878–1937), one of the most influential art dealers of the avant-garde in Germany, have claimed eleven paintings and six works on paper from German museums, including paintings by Picasso, Max Beckmann, and Paul Klee. Flechtheim, of Jewish origin, left Germany in 1933 and died in exile in 1937. The galleries in Düsseldorf and Berlin run by the Flechtheim GmbH had to close. The museums’ responses to the Flechtheim case have varied widely. The Kunstmuseum Bonn was the first to negotiate with the claimants. In 2012 the museum and the claimants published a statement together about Paul Adolf Seehaus’s Lighthouse with Rotating Beam from 1913.38 38. Kunstmuseum Bonn, “Paul Adolf Seehaus.”


German Restitution Politics since the Gurlitt Case

The museum reimbursed the heirs for half its market value and thus was able to keep the painting. The Ludwig Museum, which reports to the city of Cologne, agreed to bring the claim for Oskar Kokoschka’s portrait of Tilla Durieux before the Limbach Commission. After the commission recommended its return in 2013, it was handed over to the heirs. One year later the Kunstsammlung NRW in Düsseldorf turned to the commission in the case of a painting by Juan Gris. The Limbach Commission advised the museum not to return the painting. All these cases were processed in the state of Nord-Rhein-Westfalen. Bavaria has a different take on restitution. So far it has agreed only once to go to the Limbach Commission, for the painting The Three Graces (Drei Grazien, 1902–4), by Lovis Corinth. It was claimed by the heirs of Clara Levy, yet the Limbach Commission recommended against restitution in 2014. Concerning paintings by Beckmann, Gris, and Klee that once belonged to Flechtheim, Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne has repeatedly declined to ask the Limbach Commission for advice. Instead, the museum itself commissioned a book, Alfred Flechtheim: Raubkunst und Restitution. Published in English and German, the book assembles research from art historians and historians. It is edited by Andrea Bambi, an art historian, provenance researcher, and employee of the Bavarian State Painting Collections; and by Axel Drecoll, a historian and employee of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. Adalbert Weiß, director general of the Bavarian State Ministry of Education, Sciences and the Arts, wrote the foreword, where he points out Bavaria’s accomplishments in restitution politics. According to Weiß, it is noteworthy that “the Bavarian State Painting Collections set up its own department for provenance research in 2008” and that twelve paintings had been already restituted since the joint declaration of 1999.39 Nowhere does he mention the unique Bavarian law that protected capital reserves and was in effect until 2011. The contributions in the book do not lobby for or against the restitution of particular paintings. However, Drecoll and Anja Deutsch argue that Flechtheim’s loss of his galleries was most likely not a case of “Aryanization.”40 His galleries were taken over in several stages from 1933 to 1935 by Alexander Vömel, the former manager of Flechtheim’s gallery in Düsseldorf, a member of the SA and, as of 1937, of the NSDAP.41 While the scientific qualifications and expertise of the editors and contributors is indisputable, the overall approach must be questioned. Flechtheim’s heirs have asked for restitution or 39. Weiß, “Foreword by Adalbert Weiß,” xiii. 40. Drecoll and Deutsch, “Fragen, Probleme, Perspektiven,” 95. 41. Ibid., 94.

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at least for the verdict of an independent body. Instead, the Bavarian State Painting Collections has given them a book, edited by an employee and featuring a foreword by a Bavarian politician. In the Flechtheim case, Bavaria demonstrates that it does not shy away from acting as judge and jury. This is not the only disputed case from Bavaria. The situation in Schweinfurt is worse. The local Museum Georg Schäfer stores the Portrait of Martha Liebermann, painted by Max Liebermann. As is well known, in 1933, the Nazis forced Liebermann to resign as president of Prussian Academy of Arts. He died two years later, bequeathing all his work to his wife. Martha Liebermann stayed in Berlin. In 1943 she committed suicide to avoid being deported to a concentration camp. Among the works confiscated in her apartment was the portrait. In the 1950s the work was acquired by Georg Schäfer (1896–1975), a German industrialist and art collector who made a fortune from the production of ball bearings during World War II. After the war he assembled a prestigious collection of nineteenth-century paintings from the academy art centers of Munich, Berlin, Dresden, and Vienna. In 2000 a museum was opened to house the collection of the Schäfer Foundation. When a new director was recently appointed, a press conference was held that was also attended by representatives of the foundation and the mayor. The foundation once again declared that it would not return any paintings. Confronted with the Liebermann case, foundation officials stated that “Dr. Georg Schäfer did not steal any art but bought it.”42 As a private body, the foundation would not have to act according to the Washington Principles. Yet the museum is not as private as it seems. The building was financed by the state of Bavaria. Operational expenses are funded by the city of Schweinfurt. Sebastian Remelé, the mayor of Schweinfurt, attended the press conference in silence. Will there be any change? These cases—more could be added—have shown that even seventy years after World War II and almost twenty years after the Washington Declaration, some museums in Germany, particularly in Bavaria, still fail to find “just and fair solutions.” It is up to the museums and the government of the land to decide whether to refer unclear cases to an external body like the Limbach Commission—or whether to act as judge and jury and close the case. Whether Bausback’s approach will be successful is an open question, as is whether an alternative proposal by the federal cultural ministry will have any effect.43 According to the latter, Bavaria’s proposal is in conflict with constitutional law. 42. Voss, “Keine Raubkunst?” 43. Bahners, “Raubkunstgesetz.”


German Restitution Politics since the Gurlitt Case

A federal restitution law does not seem promising. First, again it would apply only to the federally owned museums, not, for example, to the Bavarian cases. Second, a new initiative on a restitution law would bring all open negotiations to an end until the reform is decided. As Gross in an interview, to propose a law would “mean a further loss of time for the victims and the often elderly claimants.”44 One feasible solution seems to accompany a proposal from Bambi during the presentation of the Flechtheim book in Munich. It stipulates that in addition to the Limbach Commission there should be commissions in each state as well. This would leave the “Kulturhoheit der Länder” untouched. Such a jury could advise in disputed cases faster and more efficiently. Moreover, it would also be a body to which claimants could turn without the museum’s consent. Having independent members, including some from Jewish organizations, would be indispensable. Yet the future existence of such state-based juries is unknown. None of the politicians who dealt with the Gurlitt case has been unsettled by the fact that Bavaria and the Bund have demanded much more goodwill and transparency from a private person than from any public museum. The German publisher Elisabeth Sandmann, based in Munich, has pointed out in her recent book the importance of the public press in the famous restitution of Gustav Klimt’s painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I. In Der gestohlene Klimt: Wie sich Maria Altmann die Goldene Adele zurückholte, she writes: “Without Czernin it would have been impossible to achieve this juridical triumph.”45 It was Hubertus Czernin, an Austrian investigative journalist who died in 2006, who first gained access to the archives at the Austrian Gallery, the country’s national museum. He published his findings in a series of articles about looted art in Vienna’s newspaper Der Standard in 1998. On the basis of his research, Maria Altmann claimed the restitution of five works by Klimt that had belonged to her uncle, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. In 2004 the US Supreme Court ruled that Altmann could sue Austria in US courts for restitution of the paintings. In 2006 they were returned to Altmann. One of them was the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907), which was bought by Ronald Lauder for $135 million and has since been on display in his Neue Galerie in New York. The story of Altmann has recently been turned into a movie, Woman in Gold; Czernin was played by German actor Daniel Brühl. 44. The original German quote: “Eine Gesetzesvorlage wäre also eher ein Zeitverlust für die Opfer oder ihre inzwischen auch oft hochbetagten Erben” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “‘Wir wollen nichts Geraubtes in unseren Museen’”). 45. “Ohne Czernin wäre es nicht möglich gewesen, diesen juristischen Triumph zu erringen” (Sandmann, Der gestohlene Klimt, 90).

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Why is it important to tell Czernin’s story here? Because in Germany the only authority to turn to in unclear cases is often the press. If a museum boycotts the Limbach Commission and decides to act as judge and jury, the case is practically closed. Journalists like Czernin are still needed. This prime role of journalists in Germany might be good news for the media, as it once more underlines the importance of independent newspapers in a time of declining subscriptions. But it is a shameful confession of failure for German restitution politics. References Atlan, Eva, Raphael Gross, Julia Voss, Herwig Engelmann, and the Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, eds. 2013. 1938—Kunst, Künstler, Politik. Göttingen: Wallstein. Bahners, Patrick. 2015. “Raubkunstgesetz: Bayern kritisiert den Bund.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 29. Bertz, Inka, and Michael Dorrmann. 2008. Raub und Restitution: Kulturgut aus jüdischem Besitz von 1933 bis heute. Göttingen: Wallstein. Claus, Jürgen. 1962. Entartete Kunst: Bildersturm vor 25 Jahren. Munich: Ausstellungsleitung München e.V. Haus der Kunst. David, Geraldine, and Kim Oosterlinck. 2015. “War, Monetary Reforms, and the Art Market.” Financial History Review 22, no. 2: 157–77. Drecoll, Axel, and Anja Deutsch. 2015. “Fragen, Probleme, Perspektiven—zur ‘Arisierung’ der Kunsthandlung Alfred Flechtheim.” In Alfred Flechtheim: Raubkunst und Restitution, edited by Andrea Bambi und Axel Drecoll, 83–100. Berlin: de Gruyter. Das Erste. 2013. “Der Milliardenschatz—wohin mit Gurlitts Bildern?” November 24. Fleckner, Uwe, ed. 2007. Angriff auf die Avantgarde: Kunst und Kunstpolitik im Nationalsozialismus. Berlin: Akademie. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 2009. “‘Wir wollen nichts Geraubtes in unseren Museen.’” June 25. ———. 2013. “Gurlitts Liste.” November 6. Fuhrmeister, Christian. 2013. “75 Jahre Gegensätze? Zur Gegenwart der Vergangenheit.” In Atlan et al., 301–16. Gezer, Özlem. 2013. “Die Liebe seines Lebens.” Der Spiegel, November 18. de/spiegel/print/d-121741554.html. English translation at Harwood, Ronald, ed. 2015. “Keine Sympathie aber Mitleid: Ein Gespräch mit Peter Raue über Cornelius Gurlitt.” In Entartete Kunst: Der Fall Cornelius Gurlitt, Unpublished play. Hickley, Catherine. 2016. Gurlitts Schatz: Hitlers Kunsthändler und sein geheimes Erbe, translated from the English by Karin Fleischander. Vienna: Czernin. Hoffmann, Meike, and Nicola Kuhn. 2016. Hitlers Kunsthändler: Hildebrand Gurlitt, 1895–1956. Munich: Beck.


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Hopp, Meike. 2013. “Kunsthandel 1938.” In Atlan et al., 151–75. Iselt, Kathrin. 2010. “Sonderbeauftragter des Führers”: Der Kunsthistoriker und Museumsmann Hermann Voss (1884–1969). Cologne: Böhlau. Jeuthe, Gesa. 2011. Kunstwerte im Wandel: Die Preisentwicklung der deutschen Moderne im nationalen und internationalen Kunstmarkt. Berlin: Akademie. Kellein, Thomas, andKunsthalle Bielefeld. 2007. 1937: Perfektion und Zerstörung. Exhibition catalog. Tübingen: Wasmuth. Koldehoff, Stefan. 2014. Die Bilder sind unter uns: Das Geschäft mit der NS-Raubkunst und der Fall Gurlitt. Berlin: Galiani. Kracht, Isgard. 2010. “Im Einsatz für die deutsche Kunst: Hildebrand Gurlitt und Ernst Barlach.” In Werke und Werte: Über das Handeln und Sammeln von Kunst im Nationalsozialismus, edited by Maike Steinkamp and Ute Haug, 41–60. Berlin: Akademie. Krischer, Markus, and Thomas Röll. 2013. “Der gerettete Schatz.” Focus, November 4. Kunstmuseum Bern. 2015. “Nachlass Gurlitt—Salzburger Kunstfund.” www.kunstmuseum /1021/141127_gurlitt_salzburg.pdf?lm=1417098980 (accessed October 20, 2015). Kunstmuseum Bonn, Erben von Alfred Flechtheim. n.d. “Paul Adolf Seehaus, Leuchtturm mit rotierenden Strahlen: Einigung zwischen den Erben von Alfred Flechtheim und dem Kunstmuseum Bonn; Gemeinsame Erklärung des Kunstmuseums Bonn und der Erben von Alfred Flechtheim.” /12-04-12%20PM%20Restitution%20Flechtheim%20Bonn.pdf?__blob=publication File (accessed October 13, 2016). Ladleif, Christiane, and Gerhard Schneider, eds. 2012. Moderne am Pranger: Die NS-Aktion “Entartete Kunst” vor 75 Jahren; Werke aus der Sammlung Gerhard Schneider. Aschaffenburg: Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg. Mazzoni, Ira. 2010. “Immer schön korrekt: Bayern lässt sich für restituierte Kunst entschädigen—von seinen Museen.” Süddeutsche Zeitung, October 8. Rave, Paul Ortwin. 1949. Kunstdiktatur im Dritten Reich. Berlin: Gebrüder Mann. Rossmann, Andreas. 2013. “Keine Fahne am Mast, nur Fähnchen im Wind?” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 11. -gurlitt/das-zweite-leben-des-hildebrand-gurlitt-keine-fahne-am-mast-nur-faehnchen -im-wind-12657418-p2.html. Sandmann, Elisabeth. 2015. Der gestohlene Klimt: Wie sich Maria Altmann die goldene Adele zurückholte. Munich: Elisabeth Sandmann. Schultz, Bernd. 2007. “Man sagt Holocaust und meint Geld.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 10. Schuster, Peter-Klaus, Karl Arndt, and Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst. 1987. Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst”: Die “Kunststadt” München 1937. Munich: Prestel. Schwarz, Birgit. 2008. “Sonderauftrag Linz und ‘Führermuseum.’” In Raub und Restitution: Kulturgut aus jüdischem Besitz von 1933 bis heute, edited by Inka Bertz and Michael Dorrmann, 127–33. Göttingen: Wallstein. Sinclair, Anne. 2014. My Grandfather’s Gallery: A Family Memoir of Art and War. London: Macmillan.

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Smith, Dana. 2013. “Die Arbeit des Jüdischen Kulturbunds.” In Atlan et al., 241–59. Soika, Aya, and Bernhard Fulda. 2014. “‘Deutscher bis ins tiefste Geheimnis seines Geblüts’: Emil Nolde und die nationalsozialistische Diktatur.” In Emil Nolde, Retrospektive, edited by Felix Krämer, 45–55. Munich: Prestel. Der Spiegel. 2015. “In eigener Sache: Der Spiegel hat Cornelius Gurlitt korrekt zitiert.” -rueckgabefrage-a-946340.html. Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund. 2015. “Facts and Figures.” www.taskforce-kunstfund. de/en/about_us.htm (accessed October 20, 2015). ———. 2015. “Which Artworks Have Been Classified as the Legitimate Property of Cornelius Gurlitt?” (accessed October 20, 2015). ———. 2015. “Provenance Reports.” htm#c39 (accessed November 1, 2015). Voss, Julia. 2010. “Bayerisches Bollwerk: Münchner Museen klagen Restitutionspraxis.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, October 8. ———. 2012. “Ablasshandel Moderne: Wie Deutschland die ‘entartete Kunst’ hinter sich brachte.” Merkur: Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken 66, no. 12: 1171–78. ———. 2013. “Ablasshandel mit der Moderne.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 27. -mit-der-moderne-12682274.html. ———. 2013. “Die Verdrängung von 1938 in der Kunstgeschichtsschreibung bis heute.” In Atlan et al., 317–35. ———. 2014. “Kulturstaatsministerin Monika Grütters im Gespräch: Der Fall Gurlitt hat Privatleute ermutigt.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 29. /aktuell/feuilleton/kulturstaatsministerin-monika-gruetters-im-gespraech-der-fall -gurlitt-hat-privatleute-ermutigt-12774049-p3.html?printPagedArticle=true#page Index_3. ———. 2015. “Fuppen und Foppen.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, November 6. ———. 2015. “Keine Raubkunst? Provenienzforscher in Schweinfurt gesucht.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 9. -raubkunst-provenienzforscher-in-schweinfurt-gesucht-13792015.html. ———. 2016. “Unordnung und spätes Leid.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, January 14. -von-justiz-und-politik-14012768.html. Weiß, Adalbert. 2015. “Foreword by Adalbert Weiß.” In Alfred Flechtheim: Raubkunst und Restitution, edited by Andrea Bambi and Axel Drecoll, xiii–xiv. Berlin: de Gruyter. Zuschlag, Christoph. 1995. Entartete Kunst: Ausstellungsstrategien im Nazi-Deutschland. Worms: Werner.

Restitution as Diagnosis: Political Aspects of the “Trophy Art” Problem and Russian-German Relations

Konstantin Akinsha

During World War II the Soviet Union did not join the Allied restitution effort. Instead, in 1943 the so-called Bureau of Experts, led by the well-known art historian Igor Grabar, was established.1 The bureau’s initial task was to compose lists of the losses of Soviet museums looted by the Nazis. Quite soon, however, the bureau’s objective changed: the experts were interested less in compiling inventories of paintings looted from Pskov or Kyiv than in drafting wish lists of cultural property that could be taken from Axis countries after the war in compensation for Soviet losses. The possibility of postwar restitution in kind—the replacement of destroyed or disappeared artworks with equivalents—led to the composition of lists of masterpieces that could be taken to Moscow after the victory over the Third Reich. The lists were put to use. More than two and a half million objects (not counting millions of books) were transported to the Soviet Union from its zone of occupation in Germany and from other European countries occupied by the Red Army.2 The hoard of “trophy art” included the collections of such museums as the Dresden Gallery–Grünes Gewölbe, as well as ones in Leipzig, Gdansk (Danzig), and Poznan (Posen), and 108,338 artworks from private 1. Akinsha, Kozlov, and Hochfield, Beautiful Loot, 19–42. 2. Ibid., 158–67. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705703 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



Restitution as Diagnosis

collections (including 915 paintings).3 The Soviet trophy brigades involved in confiscating and transporting cultural trophies were not interested in their provenance: paintings belonging to German collections were sent to the USSR in the same trains as artworks confiscated by the Nazis from victims of the Holocaust. The arrival of the trophies overwhelmed Soviet museums, which lacked appropriate facilities to deal with the avalanche of treasures. But if museum directors hoped to enhance their collections with the Pergamon Altar, the Sistine Madonna, or Edgar Degas’s Place de la Concorde, they were disappointed. By 1948 the trophy art, instead of being proclaimed “compensation for the losses of Soviet museums,” had been consigned to secret storage.4 The decision was taken under pressure of the political situation in general and events in Germany in particular. The establishment of the German Democratic Republic was imminent, and to announce at such a moment that almost all the museum collections removed from the Soviet zone of Germany would become “compensation” for Soviet losses and would remain in the Soviet Union did not seem like a wise step. Cultural trophies were kept in secret storage until 1954, when the Dresden Gallery collection was returned to the German Democratic Republic.5 Soon after, collections from western Poland were restituted to the Polish government. In 1957 the massive return of art treasures from other East German museums followed.6 The decision to return art trophies to the GDR and to Poland was taken by the USSR leaders because they feared that the fate of the confiscated cultural property might become an important card in the Cold War confrontation: both American and West German officials knew that the missing treasures from East German museums had been transported to the USSR.7 However, the decision of the USSR Council of Ministers on the return of cultural property prohibited the restitution of art trophies belonging to West German museums, third countries, and private collections.8 So the legendary Schliemann treasure and the impressionist masterpieces from German and Hungarian collections remained in special Soviet repositories.9 Throughout the postwar period, Soviet museums actively purchased and accepted donations of 3. Ibid., 206. 4. Ibid., 183–86. 5. Ibid., 192–202. 6. Ibid., 203–16. 7. Bundesministerium für gesamtdeutsche Fragen, Die Verluste der öffentlichen Kunstsammlungen. 8. Akinsha, Kozlov, and Hochfield, Beautiful Loot, 208–9. 9. Akimova, Tolstikov, and Treister, Treasures of Troy; Genieva et al., Catalogue of Art Objects.

Konstantin Akinsha


so-called private trophies—artworks looted from occupied European territories by Red Army personnel.10 Such acquisitions were sent to the repositories. Information about the hidden trophy art became available only at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. There were the revelations of Viktor Baldin, a Soviet military engineer who picked up 362 drawings belonging to the Bremen Kunsthalle while he was stationed in the castle of Kranzow and later deposited in the Museum of Architecture in Moscow. There were the publications by this author and his colleague, Grigorii Kozlov, in ARTnews magazine, which created an international scandal.11 The Germans reacted to these revelations with a mixture of fascination and disbelief: such experts as, for example, Klaus Goldmann believed that the Trojan treasure had been secretly removed by the Americans, and many invested much energy in the construction of plots and theories. The Soviet reaction was denial. Both Nikolai Gubenko, the last minister of culture of the Soviet Union, and Irina Antonova, the director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, at best refused to comment and at worst stated that they knew nothing about the location of the Schliemann treasure and other trophy artworks. (Not until 1994 did the officials of the Pushkin Museum finally reveal the Trojan gold to German experts.)12 At the beginning of the 1990s, publications about trophy art appeared frequently in liberal Russian newspapers. After the fall of the Soviet Union, public opinion considered the secret repositories a crime of the communist government. People interviewed by Russian journalists usually expressed the opinion that the looted cultural treasures should be returned to their countries of origin. On the eve of the fall of the Soviet Union, the united Federal Republic of Germany and the USSR concluded a Treaty on Good-Neighborliness, Partnership and Cooperation, which became known as the Genscher-Shevardnadze pact, signed on November 9, 1990. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation recognized the treaty as the legal foundation of relations with Germany. Provision 16 of the treaty stated that “the sides declare that stolen or illegally removed cultural valuables discovered on their territories will be returned to the rightful owners or their heirs.”13 It appeared that legal grounds for restitution were established, but events proved that optimism on the German 10. Akinsha, Kozlov, and Hochfield, Beautiful Loot, 217–18. 11. Schoss, Viktor Baldin; Akinsha, “Why Can’t Private Art ‘Trophies’ Go Home from the War?”; Akinsha and Kozlov, “Spoils of War.” 12. Akinsha, Kozlov, and Hochfield, Beautiful Loot, 255–56. 13. Kennedy Grimsted, “Russian Legal Instruments,” 442.


Restitution as Diagnosis

side was premature. The beginning of the presidency of Boris Yeltsin promised democratic reforms at home and integration into the international community, but resistance to both inside the country was overwhelming. Information about the content of the trophy repositories remained secret until 1995, when the Hermitage finally arranged the first exhibition of trophy art, Hidden Treasures Revealed.14 It featured seventy-four French impressionist canvases, with Degas’s famous Place de la Concorde taking pride of place. This exhibition was followed by a display of trophy art organized by the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, where sixty-three paintings and drawings, most of which had belonged to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust, were exhibited. This show was called Twice Saved because, according to the organizers, the exhibited masterpieces had been saved first by the victorious Red Army and then by skilled Russian museum conservators. (The show was renamed by the international press Twice Stolen.)15 One year later, the Schliemann treasure was finally exhibited in the Pushkin Museum. These displays broke the long silence of the Russian museum establishment and put a spotlight on the high points of the looted collections, but access to the hundreds of thousands of art trophies hidden in museum repositories remained restricted. By 1995 the Netherlands, Hungary, and Poland, among other countries, knew that artworks from their collections that had been confiscated by the Nazis were now in Moscow. In addition to art collections and libraries, Russia held archives confiscated by the Nazis in France, Belgium, Poland, Austria, and other European countries.16 The return of the archives started in 1994. Some, such as the archive of the Jewish Community of Thessalonica, are still in Moscow.17 Various European governments claimed cultural property held in Russia, but no attempt was made to create a unified policy or to involve European Union structures in resolving the problem. One Dutch official told me, “We are not Germans. The Russians will treat us differently.” Such hopes proved mistaken: a part of the famous Franz Koenigs collection of drawings, purchased by Hans Posse from the Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam for the Führermuseum in Linz and claimed by the Netherlands, is still in Moscow.18 Numerous claims provoked fierce resistance from museum directors who opposed restitution and from opposition parties in the State Duma (the 14. Kostenevich, Hidden Treasures Revealed. 15. Hochfield, “Twice Stolen.” 16. Kennedy Grimsted, Hoogewoud, and Ketelaar, “Returned from Russia.” 17. Kerem, “Confiscation of Jewish Books in Salonika,” 62–63. 18. Teteriatnikov, Problem of Cultural Treasures; Elen, Missing Old Master Drawings.

Konstantin Akinsha


Russian parliament). Since 1994 the Russian oppositional press had been protesting restitution. The main slogan of the campaign, initiated by the so-called red-brown opposition, was, “We will not permit Russia to be robbed a second time.” The campaign was aimed at President Yeltsin, who, according to both communists and nationalists, was catering to Western interests. Soon the very term restitution began to be associated with Yeltsin’s government, which in the eyes of his opponents was nothing short of an “occupation regime.”19 The hysteria was intensified by the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. For many nationalists, the art trophies had become the last symbol of Soviet victory. East Germany and the satellite countries of Central Europe were lost together with the grandeur of the Soviet Union; only the Schliemann treasure and the former East Prussian city of Königsberg (renamed Kaliningrad) remained as material reminders of the glorious past. Among the most vocal opponents of restitution were Antonova and Gubenko, who was elected to the Duma on the Communist Party ticket in 1995. Antonova’s position on restitution was summarized in her article “We Don’t Owe Anybody Anything,” published in March 1995.20 Two months later, the Duma discussed the fate of the Schliemann gold. As a result of this discussion, the parliamentary opposition to the president adopted a moratorium on the return of cultural valuables before the corresponding law on restitution could be adopted. This moratorium effectively blocked any restitution attempts planned by the Yeltsin government.21 In December 1995 Gubenko, who was appointed head of the Duma Commission on Culture, began to work on the Federal Law on Cultural Valuables Displaced to the USSR. This law, adopted by the Duma on July 5, 1996, had to be voted on by the Federation Council (the upper house of the parliament) and then signed by the president within a month. But Yeltsin vetoed it.22 The law proposed the confiscation of all cultural valuables belonging to enemy states removed to the USSR after World War II. Such valuables would become Russian state property and could not be returned to the rightful owners. Exceptions were made only for the property of religious organizations, property of charities not connected to the Nazi Party, and private property of victims of Nazi persecution. This law not only creatively interpreted the postwar peace treaties and the London Declaration of 1943 but also, in the opinion of the presidential 19. Anonymous, “Myths of the Occupiers.” 20. Antonova, “We Don’t Owe Anybody Anything.” 21. Kennedy Grimsted, “Russian Legal Instruments,” 461. 22. Rodin, “Duma Did Not Agree with the President.”


Restitution as Diagnosis

administration, violated the constitution of the Russian Federation as well as numerous international treaties. When the Russian Federation joined the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 1996, one condition of Russian membership was the rapid solution of the problem of trophy art.23 The law developed by Gubenko made this impossible. The presidential veto provoked even more exacerbated discussion in the press. In 1998 the law was adopted by the parliament for a second time. In 1999 the Constitutional Court recognized that the law was “correct in general.”24 The restitution of cultural property once belonging to German museums became impossible. During the discussions of 1994–98, the nationalist-communist opposition worked out the main points of the antirestitution campaign, which were not only instrumental in killing the restitution process but also became the foundation of the new ideology adopted by the Russian state during Putin’s second presidential term. The focal point of this ideology was the elevation of the Soviet victory in World War II as the “useful past” that would be exploited to cement the new Russian nationalism. An important element of this interpretation of history was the Russian “nationalization” of the war. The conflict had been fought heroically by the peoples of all fifteen Soviet republics, but now it became the “Russian war.” The participation of Ukrainians, Byelorussians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and all the other Soviet peoples was completely disregarded. This “nationalization” was reflected in the restitution disputes: Antonova and other opponents of the return of cultural trophies often cited (and continue to cite) the numbers of museums looted and destroyed by the Nazis. But their statistics represented the total number of devastated institutions for all Nazi-occupied regions of the USSR, which included Ukrainian, Byelorussian, Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian museums. Another remarkable element of the antirestitution campaign was the dissemination of historical falsifications and the manifestation of rabid antiAmericanism. Supporters of the nationalization of cultural trophies asserted that the Allied Control Council had permitted restitution in kind and that the Soviet removal of cultural treasures was therefore legal. In fact, the Control Council never authorized such removals.25 Gubenko stated repeatedly that the Americans had secretly sent Russian cultural treasures looted by the Nazis to the United States and hidden them in vaults in Fort Knox (where they presum23. Parliamentary Assembly, “Opinion 193 (1996).” 24. Kennedy Grimsted, “Russian Legal Instruments,” 463–64. 25. Kozlov and Akinsha, “Diplomatic Debates.”

Konstantin Akinsha


ably remain until today).26 Russian officials declared that the Allies never returned to the USSR cultural property looted by the Nazis and recovered in the American and British zones of occupation of Germany. In fact, more than half a million objects were returned by the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) to Soviet representatives.27 In the second part of the 1990s, such jingoist escapades looked like a sign of the phenomenon nicknamed during that time the “Weimar Russia.”28 The nationalist opposition was influential and dangerous, but at this time its Weltanschauung remained marginal. It was difficult to imagine that in less than ten years it would become the official ideology of the Russian Federation. The resignation of President Yeltsin and the transfer of power to Putin changed the landscape of Russian restitution. During his first presidential term, Putin was eager to build bridges with the West in general and Germany in particular. His personal friendship with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder led to a new restitution policy, which could be defined as a policy of “gestures of goodwill.” Putin understood that restitution could be used as a political instrument by exploiting exceptions to the law. By returning private trophies, which were not regulated by the law, Putin tried to achieve political aims not connected to restitution as such. In May 2000 Germany returned to Russia a mosaic panel from the decoration of the destroyed Amber Room, looted by a German soldier (fig. 1).29 The return was timed to coincide with the opening of the reconstructed room, which was financed by the German company Ruhrgas.30 At the same time, Shvydkoi, minister of culture of the Russian Federation, officially permitted Michael Naumann, his German counterpart, to export to Germany 101 drawings from the collection of the Bremen Kunsthalle (fig. 2).31 The drawings had been deposited in 1991 in the German embassy in Moscow by me and my colleague Grigorii Kozlov at the wish of a former Red Army soldier who had looted them in Germany.32 In 2001 the Russian Federation transferred to Germany a cycle of stained-glass windows from the Marienkirche in Frankfurt (Oder). The windows, depicting the story of the Antichrist, had been transported to the Hermitage at the end of the war and mistakenly registered as depicting the life 26. Gubenko, “Interview”; Iamshchikov, “Troubled Spring of Europe.” 27. Kennedy Grimsted, U.S. Restitution of Nazi-Looted Cultural Treasures to the USSR. 28. Gati, “Weimar Russia.” 29. Greenfield, Return of Cultural Treasures, 186, 188. 30. Rudnev, “Amber Room Unites People.” 31. Akinsha, “Why Can’t Private Art ‘Trophies’ Go Home from the War?,” 269. 32. Hochfield, “Under a Russian Sofa.”


Restitution as Diagnosis

Figure 1. Mosaic panel from the decoration of the destroyed Amber Room, looted by a German soldier; returned to Russia in 2000

of Christ.33 Because they belonged to a religious congregation, they fell under an exception of the federal law. In 2003 the Ministry of Culture began publication of trophy artworks on the website Around ten thousand artworks were posted by cultural institutions, including the Pushkin Museum.34 Ministry officials promised that by 2005, five hundred thousand objects would be posted on the website and that lists of trophy artworks with unclear provenances would then be published in the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. After publication in the newspaper, people would have seventeen months to file their claims. Immediately after the first paintings were posted on the website, some heirs of Holocaust victims and a few Polish museums recognized artworks looted from their collections by the Nazis. However, these owners never had a chance to claim their art. All information about looted artworks was removed from the website. 33. Schoen, “Die Rückgabe der kriegsbedingt nach Russland verbrachten Fenster.” 34. Kishkovsky, “Glasnost on War’s Looted Art.”

Konstantin Akinsha


Figure 2. Mikhail Shvydkoi (A. Savin, Wikimedia Commons, WikiPhotoSpace)

This unexpected U-turn was apparently the result of an equally unexpected restitution debacle. In 2009 the so-called Baldin collection of drawings from the Bremen Kunsthalle was about to be returned to Germany. According to the agreement, the German side was prepared to donate important works from the collection to the Russian side as a gesture of gratitude. However, Gubenko succeeded in preventing the planned return by organizing a campaign directed against Shvydkoi. Shvydkoi came under vicious attack, with “patriots” even comparing him to Joseph Goebbels.35 The state prosecutor’s office was involved in the attack on the minister, and the MPs sent a letter to Putin demanding to stop the return.36 In the end, Shvydkoi was fired in 2004.37 This punishment was particularly ironic because Putin had personally authorized the return of the 35. Petrov, Mikhail Shvydkoi Better than Goebbels. 36. Akinsha, “Why Can’t Private Art ‘Trophies’ Go Home from the War?,” 273–74. 37. Ibid., 281.


Restitution as Diagnosis

collection. Shvydkoi was rewarded for his public humiliation by being appointed head of the Federal Agency on Culture and Cinematography and in 2008 as Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation.38 The last successful attempt at a “gesture of goodwill” was the return to Hungary of the library of Sárospatak Protestant College in 2006 during Putin’s visit to Budapest to sign an important energy deal with the Hungarian government.39 That was the end of Russian restitution. In September 2006 Minister of Culture Aleksandr Sokolov stated: “There will be no restitution—return of cultural property. The very word should be taken out of circulation.”40 It seems that the minister sensed the change in the political wind. Five months later Putin gave his famous speech at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, which became the Russian president’s first challenge to the existing world order.41 The restitution process in Russia became a mirror reflecting the brewing storm of nationalism and dangerous ideological changes. Unfortunately, Western observers did not take the symptoms of the illness seriously; Europe never learned to talk to the Russians in a unified voice. The demand for the solution of the trophy-art problem as a precondition of Russian membership in the Council of Europe was conveniently forgotten. Only the annexation of Crimea and the Russian military adventure in eastern Ukraine succeeded in provoking a reaction from the council, which suspended the voting rights of the Russian delegation.42 The transformation of Russia from an inefficient democracy into a semitotalitarian state was not a secret and did not happen overnight. It was more than visible—but the sight was so unpleasant that numerous politicians in the West and in Germany in particular simply preferred not to notice it. References Akimova, Ludmila, Vladimir Tolstikov, and Mikhail Treister. 1998. Treasures of Troy. Milan: Leonardo Arte. Akinsha, Konstantin. 2010. “Why Can’t Private Art ‘Trophies’ Go Home from the War? The Baldin-Bremen Kunsthalle Case: A Cause Célèbre of German-Russian Restitution Politics.” International Journal of Cultural Property 17, no. 2: 257–90. Akinsha, Konstantin, and Grigorii Kozlov. 1991. “Spoils of War: The Soviet Union’s Hidden Art Treasures.” ARTnews 90, no. 4: 130–41.

38. President of Russia, “Mikhail Shvydkoi Appointed Special Representative.” 39. Kennedy Grimsted and Akinsha, “Sárospatak Case.” 40. Shtutina, “Delicate Definitions of Trophies.” 41. Shanker and Landler, “Putin Says U.S. Is Undermining Global Stability.” 42. Parliamentary Assembly, “Resolution 1990 (2014).”

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Akinsha, Konstantin, Grigorii Kozlov, and Sylvia Hochfield. 1995. Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe’s Art Treasures. New York: Random House. Anonymous. 1997. “The Myths of the Occupiers” (in Russian). Zavtra, December 25. Antonova, Irina. 1995. “We Don’t Owe Anybody Anything” (in Russian). Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 5. Bundesministerium für gesamtdeutsche Fragen. 1954. Die Verluste der öffentlichen Kunstsammlungen in Mittel- und Ostdeutschland, 1943–1946. Bonn: Deutscher Bundesverlag. Elen, Albert J. 1989. Missing Old Master Drawings from the Franz Koenigs Collection Claimed by the State of the Netherlands. The Hague: SDU Publishers/Netherlands Office for Fine Arts. Gati, Charles. 2015. “Weimar Russia, 1995–2015.” National Interest, June 29. Genieva, Ekaterina, et al., eds. 2003. Catalogue of Art Objects from Hungarian Private Collections. Moscow: Rudomino. Greenfield, Jeanette. 2007. The Return of Cultural Treasures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gubenko, Nikolai. 1997. “Interview” (in Russian). Echo Moskvy, April 22. programs/beseda/12405. Hochfield, Sylvia. 1993. “Under a Russian Sofa: 101 Looted Treasures.” ARTnews 92, no. 4: 120–25. ———. 1995. “Twice Stolen.” ARTnews 94, no. 4: 85–86. Iamshchikov, Savva. 2003. “The Troubled Spring of Europe” (in Russian). Zavtra, April 22. Kennedy Grimsted, Patricia. 2001. U.S. Restitution of Nazi-Looted Cultural Treasures to the USSR, 1945–1959: Facsimile Documents from the National Archives of the United States. CD-ROM. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. ———. 2010. “Russian Legal Instruments Relating to Cultural Valuables Displaced as a Result of the Second World War, 1990–2009.” International Journal of Cultural Property 17, no. 2: 427–91. Kennedy Grimsted, Patricia, and Konstantin Akinsha. 2006. “The Sárospatak Case: Rare Books Return to Hungary from Nizhnii Novgorod; A New Precedent for Russian Cultural Restitution?” Art Antiquity and Law 11, no. 2: 215–49. Kennedy Grimsted, Patricia, F. J. Hoogewoud, and Eric Ketelaar, eds. 2007. Returned from Russia: Nazi Archival Plunder in Western Europe and Recent Restitution Issues. Builth Wells, UK: Institute of Art and Law. Kerem, Yitzchak. 2001. “The Confiscation of Jewish Books in Salonika in the Holocaust.” In The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, edited by Jonathan Rose, 59–65. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Kishkovsky, Sophia. 2003. “Glasnost on War’s Looted Art.” New York Times, March 12. Kostenevich, Albert. 1995. Hidden Treasures Revealed. London: Phaidon. Kozlov, Grigorii, and Konstantin Akinsha. 2002. “Diplomatic Debates about Restitution of Cultural Valuables in 1945–1946” (in Russian). In Cultural Map of Europe: The Fate of the Replaced Cultural Valuables in the Third Millennium (in Russian), 42–50. Moscow: VGBIL.


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Parliamentary Assembly. 1990. “Resolution 1990 (2014) from the Council of Europe Suspending Russia: Reconsideration on Substantive Grounds of the Previously Ratified Credentials of the Russian Delegation.” ———. 1996. “Opinion 193 (1996): Application by Russia for Membership of the Council of Europe.” &lang=en. Petrov, Boris. 2005. Mikhail Shvydkoi Better than Goebbels (in Russian). Moscow: Algoritm. President of Russia. 2008. “Mikhail Shvydkoi Appointed Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation” (in Russian). August 1. Rodin, Ivan. 1997. “The Duma Did Not Agree with the President” (in Russian). Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 5. Rudnev, Pavel. 2000. “The Amber Room Unites People” (in Russian). Nezavisimaya Gazeta, April 13. Schoen, Susanne. 2008. “Die Rückgabe der kriegsbedingt nach Russland verbrachten Fenster der Marienkirche aus politischer Sicht.” In Der Antichrist: Die Glasmalereien der Marienkirche in Frankfurt (Oder), edited by Ulrich Knefelkamp and Frank Martin, 197–202. Leipzig: Edition Leipzig. Schoss, Rainer B. 2006. Viktor Baldin—der Mann mit dem Koffer: Die Odyssee der 1945 nach Moskau verbrachten Blätter der Kunsthalle Bremen. Bremen: Hachmannedition. Shanker, Thom, and Mark Landler. 2007. “Putin Says U.S. Is Undermining Global Stability.” New York Times, February 11. Shtutina, Yulia. 2006. “Delicate Definitions of Trophies” (in Russian). Lenta Ru, September 27. Teteriatnikov, Vladimir. 1996. The Problem of Cultural Treasures Displaced as a Result of the Second World War: Proof of the Russian Right to the “Koenigs Collection” (in Russian). Moskva: Obozrevatel’.

A Persian Tapestry Looted by the Nazis from the Princes Czartoryski Museum, Kraków

Amy Walsh

In October 2001 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) received an official claim from the Princes Czartoryski Foundation in Kraków, Poland, for the return of a sixteenth-century Persian figural tapestry in the museum’s collection (figs. 1–2). The tapestry had disappeared from the Czartoryski Collection during the German occupation of Poland. The claim by a Polish noble family for the return of a Persian tapestry illustrates that in Poland the targets included nobles, intellectuals, politicians, the clergy and churches as well as Jews and others devalued and considered enemies of the Nazi regime. Also, it was not only paintings, sculptures, and decorative and graphic arts swept up by the Nazis from prewar collections but also historic armaments, tapestries, and libraries. Far more difficult to identify, many of those objects remain in the hands of unsuspecting collectors. The provenance of every object, not only This article was written at the invitation of Avinoam Shalem after a conversation over coffee about the conference I was unable to attend at Columbia University in the spring of 2015. A summary history of the Nazis’ seizure of and technical information about the tapestry appears in Gluckman, McLean, and Walsh, “Princely Concerns.” I am grateful to many people in Poland and Los Angeles for their assistance in resolving the Princes Czartoryski Museum’s claim of the Gołuchów makata, especially Andrew Ciechanowiecki; J. Patrice Marandel; Wojciech Kowalski, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Monika Kuhnke, Ministry of Culture; and Krzysztof Kasprzyk, consul general, and Roman Czarny, deputy consul, Polish consulate, Los Angeles. At LACMA the director and CEO, Andrea Rich, and the board of directors were responsible for approving and facilitating the return of the makata to the Princes Czartoryski Museum. I also wish to thank Kathleen Luhrs for her editorial comments on this article. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705712 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.


Figure 1. Gołuchów makata. Twill-weave tapestry, silk and metallic threads, 84 × 108 in. (213.36 × 274.32 cm). Princes Czartoryski Museum, Kraków, formerly Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.71.52. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Figure 2. Detail of the Gołuchów makata. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art


Persian Tapestry

paintings, that changed hands in Europe between 1933 and 1945, therefore, should be scrutinized and carefully researched. History of the Czartoryski Claim The first contact between the Czartoryski Foundation and LACMA came in late 1998, when the museum received a request for the loan of a Persian figural tapestry in its collection. The loan was denied because of problems with the tapestry’s condition, which had a dark stain, but the museum provided the foundation with information about its acquisition and exhibition and publication history. LACMA had purchased the tapestry for five thousand dollars on September 24, 1971, from Loewi-Robertson, prominent textile dealers originally from Venice who had relocated to New York and later to Los Angeles prior to World War II. At the request of his daughter and business partner Kay Robertson, Adolph Loewi bought the tapestry at the December 8, 1970, Sotheby’s sale in London of property from the Kevorkian Foundation, New York.1 Although the catalog provided no provenance, Robertson recognized the tapestry from the color illustration in the multivolume Survey of Persian Art published in 1939 by Arthur Upham Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, who identified the owner as the Czartoryski Collection (figs. 3–4).2 The tapestry had not been mentioned in any subsequent scholarly publication and had been lent by LACMA only once, to the Cleveland Museum in 1971.3 About two years after LACMA received the request to lend the tapestry to Kraków, Andrew Ciechanowiecki, head of Heim Gallery London and a member of the board of the Czartoryski Foundation, wrote to his friend J. Patrice Marandel, chief curator of European art at LACMA, requesting information about a Persian tapestry stolen by the Nazis from the Princes Czartoryski Museum during World War II that he understood was at LACMA. Based on information LACMA provided the foundation, in May 2001 the Polish consul general in Los Angeles, Krzysztof Kasprzyk, requested a color photograph of the tapestry. LACMA provided the photograph and suggested that the foundation submit a formal claim for the tapestry detailing the basis of that claim. 1. The Kevorkian Foundation sale, London, Sotheby’s, December 8, 1970, lot 172: “A Persian woven silk panel with a design of lobed and cruciform tiles in dark polychrome colours on a wine-red ground filled with figures, birds and animals. 100 ¼ in. (254.6 cm) × 81 ¾ in. (207.6 cm). 17th/18th century AD.” 2. Vol. 12, plates 1090 and 1091. The publication of the series in New York and London continued until 1958 and has been reissued in later editions. 3. The tapestry was included in an exhibition at LACMA (no catalog), Tapestry, Tradition, and Technique, March 23–June 20, 1971 (lent by Loewi-Robertson), and as part of the permanent collection in May 1983. It was lent to the Cleveland Museum of Art, September 23–December 27, 1971.

Figure 3. Title page, Arthur Upham Pope et al., A Survey of Persian Art, vol. 6 (1939). Courtesy of Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Figure 4. Vol. 6, plate 1090, in Pope et al., A Survey of Persian Art. Courtesy of Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, California. Photograph courtesy of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Amy Walsh


The museum knew that the tapestry had formerly belonged to the Czartoryski Collection, but how and when it had left the collection was unknown. Many of the objects included in Pope’s book had been in the major exhibition of Persian art at the Royal Academy of Art, London, in 1931. The delicate tapestry composed of silk and gold threads could have remained in London, where members of the family now live, or later could have been removed from Poland and sold by a member of the Czartoryski family. The only known postwar owner of the tapestry was Hagop Kevorkian (1872–1962), a respected Armenian archaeologist, collector, and dealer of ancient Near Eastern art who had lived in New York since the late nineteenth century. His source is unrecorded.4 To respond to the claim sent by the Czartoryski Foundation on October 11, 2001, it was necessary to understand the history of the collection and that of the tapestry. The Czartoryski Collection The Czartoryski Collection, on public display in the Princes Czartoryski Museum in Kraków, is the oldest and one of the richest in Poland and Kraków’s most important private princely collection. The internationally acknowledged jewels of the collection are Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man, and Rembrandt’s Good Samaritan, but the collection also includes Greek, Egyptian, and Etruscan antiquities, mementos of Polish heroes, and armor seized after the victory over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, as well as a collection of manuscripts and books, tapestries, and Persian rugs.5 The Czartoryski Collection was founded in Puławy (eastern Poland) in 1796 by Princess Izabela Czartoryska (1746–1835).6 An avid traveler, fascinated by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, she began collecting in 1790. When Poland was partitioned at the end of the eighteenth century, her goal became the preservation of Polish culture.7 Her son Prince Adam Jerzy 4. Kevorkian, who sold and gifted numerous Middle Eastern objects to the Metropolitan Museum, including the Damascus Room and the famous Shah Jahan Album, probably recognized the piece from Pope’s book and may also have seen the textile in Kraków before the war. Little is known about his sources. According to Ralph Minasian, the president of the Kevorkian Foundation (pers. comm., 2001), Kevorkian left no written records of his purchases. The information was either “kept in his head” or was destroyed. 5. ĩygulski, “Princess Isabel.” 6. Born Isabel Flemming, in 1761 she married Adam Casimir Czartoryski, who established an enormous library of books, manuscripts, prints, and maps. See ĩygulski, “Princess Isabel.” 7. The partition of Poland by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and Habsburg Austria began in 1772; the third partition took place in 1795. Not until 1918, 123 years later, was a sovereign Polish state reestablished.


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(1770–1861) acquired the masterpieces by Raphael and Leonardo in Italy before 1798. Other important works were added during the French Revolution and especially by Izabela’s grandson Prince Władysław (1828–94). The Czartoryski Museum at Puławy opened in 1809 and flourished until 1830, when the family fled to Paris after the November Insurrection, in which Adam Jerzy was deeply implicated.8 In Paris the collection was installed in the Hôtel Lambert, the family’s residence, which became the center of political activities of Polish exiles. In 1871, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Prince Władysław transported the collection to Kraków, where in 1874, at the invitation of the city, it was installed in the Old Arsenal. The museum later moved into adjacent buildings remodeled for the collection. World War II The Czartoryski Collection was specifically targeted by the Nazis, who coveted the three famous paintings and other treasures. In spring 1939, as anxiety grew over the threat of a German invasion, the Princes Czartoryski Museum began to make plans to protect the collection.9 On April 6, 1939, Stefan Komornicki, a docent at the Jagiellonian University and curator of the museum since 1920, distributed a memo to the staff directing that in an emergency the Leonardo, Raphael, and Rembrandt were to be taken to the museum’s cellar. A month later, Prince Augustyn Czartoryski (1907–46) recommended that the most valuable works of art be transferred to the family’s palace at Sieniawa in southeast Poland. Despite the opposition of Komornicki and the prince’s mother, Princess Maria Ludwika (1883–1958), the most precious objects in the museum were packed in sixteen crates and sent to Sieniawa, where they arrived on August 24 and 25 and were hidden in the cellar of one of the palace’s outbuildings, sealed off by a fake wall. Barely one week later, on September 1, 1939, 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland on three fronts. Within three days, England and France declared war on Germany, and on September 17, Soviet troops invaded Poland from the east.10 German soldiers arrived at Sieniawa on September 15. Three days later the palace’s housekeeper, Zofia Szmit, discovered that soldiers, informed by a 8. The November Insurrection of 1830–31 was an unsuccessful Polish rebellion to overthrow Russian rule. 9. The following account, which differs in some details from others, is based on that in Czartoryski Foundation, Princes Czartoryski Museum, 152–59. 10. The German-Soviet Treaty of Nonaggression of 1939 divided Poland between Germany and Russia: the Soviets controlled the eastern half of Poland, Byelorussia, and West Ukraine, while the Germans incorporated Pomerania, Posnania, and Silesia. The rest was designated the Generalgouvernement, ruled from Kraków by Hans Frank.

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local miller of German descent, had found the hiding place and broken into the crates, looting all the gold, silver, and jewels that they could put in their pockets and knapsacks: 156 antique objects, 104 goldsmith works, and 35 coins disappeared. Other treasures were damaged or destroyed. The masterpieces by Rembrandt, Raphael, and Leonardo were left behind, but the corner of the Leonardo was broken by the heel of a soldier’s boot. After the soldiers departed, members of the household returned and hid the remaining treasures in their private quarters. Prince Augustyn and his wife, Princess Dolores, returned to Sieniawa on September 22. Fearing that the approaching Soviet troops would take what remained of the collection, he ordered the evacuation of the cases to nearby Pełkinie on the opposite side of the river San, the dividing line between the Russian and German zones. By September 27 Russian troops occupied Sieniawa. On October 30 the Germans summoned Komornicki; the following day he left for Pełkinie with SS-Standartenführer Kajetan Mühlmann. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, vice chancellor of Germany, had recently appointed Mühlmann special delegate for the securing of artistic treasures in the former Polish territories, granting him wide-ranging powers to secure all artworks belonging to Jews, to the former Polish state, and to other enemies of the National Socialists, including the Roman Catholic Church.11 Arriving at Pełkinie, Mühlmann and Komornicki learned that the Gestapo had removed nine cases, including the three masterpieces, and taken them to Rzeszów. Furious, Mühlmann took off for Rzeszów with Komornicki and reclaimed the crate with the coveted paintings, which he personally took back to Kraków. The remaining crates were also taken to Kraków, where they joined other confiscated objects in a new building of the Jagiellonian University Library, which had been turned into a depot for confiscated works of art. In October the Gestapo, responding to General Francisco Franco’s concern for a member of the former Spanish royal family, detained Prince Augustyn and Princess Dolores, the daughter of the infante, and sent them into exile in Spain.12 During Prince Augustyn’s absence the responsibility for the collection was assumed by his cousin, Prince Witold Czartoryski and Augustyn’s plenipotentiary, Wiktor Sarnecki. The Princes Czartoryski Museum was closed and placed under the control of the Germans. The museum’s Polish personnel, however, remained, which enabled them to protect the collections, inventory the 11. Petropoulos, Faustian Bargain, 186. 12. The Infante María de los Dolores of Bourbon-Orleans (1909–96) was the daughter of the Infante Don Carlos of Bourbon, Prince of the Asturias, during the minority of the future King Alfonso XIII of Spain. At the time of the German invasion, she was pregnant with her first child, Adam Karol, the current Prince Czartoryski, born in Seville on January 2, 1940.


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stolen objects, hide the most valuable works, and mislead the occupying authorities. Komornicki initially oversaw the Czartoryski Collection, but on November 6, 1939, he was among a group of professors and docents who entered a German trap and were deported to Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp used for political prisoners, including members of the Polish intelligentsia, clergy, and political leaders.13 The Nazis were ruthless toward Poland, indeed to all Slavic people, whom they considered an inferior race. In a speech in Obersalzberg, Bavaria, on August 23, 1939, a week before the German invasion, Adolf Hitler ordered his high commanders, “Be merciless! Do not spare Poland!”14 The leaders of the Third Reich and the creators of the “New Order” viewed Poland as a field for Teutonic colonization, where any act of violence, any plunder, was justified.15 Objects that related to the German contribution to the historical, cultural, and economic development of the country were to be confiscated and given to German museums or sold. Non-German items of superior quality, such as the Leonardo, which were deemed too good for the inferior Slavs, were also to be confiscated. There was large-scale plunder and demolition of whole towns. Churches, archives, museums, and private collections were pillaged. Between December 1939 and March 1940, over forty-three historic churches, seventy-four palaces, ninety-six manors, one hundred libraries, fifteen museums, and many art galleries were plundered, and the booty carefully packed and sent to Germany. Eighty percent of Warsaw was destroyed, while Kraków, which the Nazis considered a “wahre deutsche Stadt,” was spared, although the most valuable art was confiscated. The Nazis’ declared goal was not only to eliminate the Jews and Jewish culture but also to eradicate Polish culture and, indeed, the Slavic race.16 By the end of the war, approximately six million people, one-fifth of the prewar population of Poland, died under the Nazis and Soviets: three million Polish Jews and three million ethnic Poles. The pillage of Poland was methodically planned. Beginning about 1933 in German institutions and universities, there was a growing interest in Poland and its culture, including scientific institutions and art collections.17 During his 13. Seriously ill, Komornicki was released from Sachsenhausen after one year but imprisoned in Kraków. Later freed by the authorities, he was killed by a bandit in 1942. 14. PruszyĔski, “Poland: The War Losses,” 50. 15. Estreicher, Cultural Losses of Poland, v. Regarding the legal premises by which the Nazis justified confiscation, see Kowalski, “Machinery of Nazi Art Looting.” 16. According to the General Plan Ost, the Nazis’ grand plan for ethnic cleansing, which sought to Germanize Poland, among other things, 80–85 percent of Poles were to be sent to Siberia and dispersed there among the local population so that they could not form a Polish block of influence. See Gumkowski and Leszczynski, “Hitler’s Plans for Eastern Europe.” 17. Estreicher, Cultural Losses of Poland, v.

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interrogation by the Roberts Commission after the war, Günter Grundmann18 testified that in 1934 he was part of a group of German scholars, including Dagobert Frey19 and Eberhard Hempel,20 who had traveled through Poland with a Polish student as an interpreter. The purpose of the trip, Grundmann insisted, was to identify items of German culture, art, and literature among the cultural treasures of Poland. By car and following an itinerary set by Frey, these professors covered several thousand miles and visited innumerable monuments, usually guided by regional Polish curators. Frey’s photographs and notes were later deposited at the University of Breslau. Although the notion was denied by Grundmann, Karol Estreicher, Polish liaison officer to the American Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) group, suspected that Frey had planned the trip as a deliberate survey for some later use, even if his companions may not have been aware of it.21 After the German invasion of Poland, Frey returned with other art historians and systematically directed the confiscation of Polish collections, which were brought to the depot at the Jagiellonian University for evaluation and selection.22 Hans Posse, director of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie, and head of acquisitions for Hitler’s planned museum at Linz, visited Kraków and Warsaw between November 25 and December 4, 1939. On December 14, 1939, Posse sent a report about his trip to Poland and the progress of the “safeguarding” of art objects from public, clerical, and private property, which he noted had been in full swing since 6 October . . . and nearly completed. The greater part of the work consisted in salvaging the art and cultural values of Warsaw, especially from the gravely damaged Royal Castle. . . . Almost every day wagons arrived in Cracow carrying safeguarded art objects from public, clerical, and 18. According to the US Office of Strategic Services Detailed Interrogation Report on Günter Grundmann (National Archives and Record Administration [NARA], Washington, DC, Record Group 260, 390/45/26/2, box 471), Grundmann studied art history in Munich and earned his PhD from Breslau University in 1916. In 1919 he was made provincial curator for Lower Silesia. In 1936 Grundmann was assigned to teach the care and preservation of historical monuments at the Institute of Technology in Breslau. Two years later he was appointed chair for the history of architecture. He applied for membership in the Nazi Party in 1938 and was accepted two years later. 19. Dagobert Frey, a Viennese scholar of Renaissance and baroque art in Austria and Italy, was appointed professor of art history at Breslau in 1931. After the Nazi invasion of Poland, Frey was one of three scholars chosen by the Nazi high command to declare Poland a “Teutonic land” deserving of German invasion and to rewrite Polish history, eliminating references to Jewish contributions. See Sorenson, “Frey, Dagobert.” 20. Hempel was a German architectural historian from Dresden. A specialist of baroque architecture, he published the first book on Francesco Borromini in 1924. See Sorenson, “Hempel, Eberhard.” 21. NARA, Record Group 260, 390/45/26/2, box 471. (Boxes 471–73 concern art looting in Poland and the Baltic countries from 1939 to 1948.) 22. Estreicher, Cultural Losses of Poland, xi, identifies the participants.


Persian Tapestry private property. The works of art were brought to the new building of the Jagiellonian Library . . . where by next February they will be properly arranged. As soon as this arrangement and the related inventorying is concluded, so that a complete survey can be taken of the entire Polish art property, I shall once again go to Cracow in order to comply with my orders.

Although not yet prepared to make a detailed recommendation about the distribution of the artworks, Posse said, “I should like to propose now, that the three pictures of the Czartoryski Collection by Raphael, Leonardo, and Rembrandt, which are at present located in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, be reserved for the Art Museum at Linz.”23 As director of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie during World War I when the Czartoryski Collection had been on temporary exhibition at the Gemäldegalerie, Posse had coveted the paintings and resisted returning them to Poland in 1920. In January 1940 the Germans staged an exhibition of the requisitioned objects, accompanied by a five-volume catalog, Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, which included 524 items “safeguarded” by the Germans and slated for export to Germany (fig. 5). Of these, eighty-five were from the Czartoryski Collection: fifteen paintings, including the works by Leonardo, Raphael, and Rembrandt; twelve decorative textiles and tapestries; thirty-three illuminated manuscripts; and old weapons and handcrafted art works. LACMA’s tapestry was not included. Officially the “safeguarded” works were intended for Hitler’s museum at Linz and for the personal collection of Göring, an avaricious collector.24 A number of confiscated works, however, ended up in the apartments of other Nazi officials, especially that of Hans Frank, governor general of occupied Poland. The three coveted paintings became a political “football,” taken first to Berlin, intended for Linz, and then returned by Frank to Poland. The pictures hung in Frank’s headquarters at Wawel Castle, Kraków, until January 17, 1945, when he fled with the paintings first to Seichau in Silesia and then to his villa at Schliersee near Neuhaus, where he was arrested by the Americans on May 4, 1945. 7KH´*RãXFKyZ0DNDWDµ In response to LACMA’s request for documentation on the history of the tapestry prior to, during, and after the Nazi occupation of Poland, the Princes Czartoryski Museum through the offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 23. The report was included as an attachment to a letter written by Posse from Dresden to Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Berlin. The English translation of the German was made for the American MFA&A. NARA, Record Group 260, 390/45/26/2, box 471. 24. See Yeide, Beyond the Dreams of Avarice.

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Figure 5. Sichergestellte Kunstwerke im Generalgouvernement, published in Kraków in 1940 by Kajetan Mühlmann. Digital image of copy at the Jagiellonian Library, Kraków, courtesy of Europeana

Poland provided LACMA with copies of original documents and notarized translations in which the tapestry is referred to as the “Gołuchów makata.”25 The trail begins with the handwritten “Book of Deposits of the Princes Czartoryski Museum” (fig. 6), which indicates on page 3 that the makata was placed on deposit by Princess Maria Ludwika Czartoryska (1883–1958) at the museum in Kraków in late September 1931:26 25. The translations of Polish documents quoted in this article are based on the official translations made by Zofia Wislocka, Kraków, January 14, 2001, and certified by the American embassy, Warsaw. 26. Princess Maria Ludwika (née Countess KrasiĔka) was the widow of Prince Adam Ludwik Czartoryski (1872–1937) and mother of Prince Augustyn Józef Czartoryski. Gołuchów is northwest of Kraków.


Persian Tapestry no. 158. Second half of September: Collections of the Princes Czartoryski Castle in Gołuchów [residence of Princess Maria Ludwika], Makata in silk, interwoven with gold and silver thread, 2.757 × 2.12 m, multicolored, woven in a pattern of 8-armed rosettes (6 whole and 10 half at the edges) and stars (8 whole, 6 half at the edges) and stars (8 whole, 6 half, and 4 quarters), touching by their ends or separated with small medallions—mandorlas [illustrated with drawing] (24). In the central rosette, the figure of a prince sitting on a low throne, in the other rosettes and stars, winged figures [geni], against silver thread backgrounds; in the mandorlas beasts of prey or antelopes against light blue or green backgrounds. The background between the rosettes and stars (pink borders) cherry red, with a bird on every field. The decorative border narrow, light blue, with stylized twigs in flowers. Lining— crimson silk taffeta. Purchased from General Bystrzonowski.27

The makata remained on deposit at the museum throughout the 1930s. A letter written to Princess Maria Ludwika on August 19, 1931, by a member of the museum’s staff (probably the curator Komornicki) mentions that they had received a request to publish a color photograph of the Gołuchów makata in a book by Pope to accompany a forthcoming exhibition of Persian art in London. There is no mention of the makata being lent to the exhibition. Additional correspondence about the illustration of the makata in Survey of Persian Art (not published until 1939) was exchanged in 1934. In an unrelated letter dated January 18, 1934, Komornicki wrote to the princess saying that he would like to display the Gołuchów makata in the museum in place of two Persian rugs being lent to an exhibition in Munich. Documents indicate that the Gołuchów makata, a personal favorite of the princess’s, was among the most valuable objects from the Princes Czartoryski Museum transported to Sieniawa in August 1939, just days before the German invasion. The inventory of crates taken to Sieniawa specifically mentions the Gołuchów makata (fig. 7): “[crate] M.XX.CZ.8: Intact tube containing two Persian carpets, 3 antependia [altar frontal] tapestries, a small Flemish arra from the early sixteenth century, and 1 Persian makata, pattern of stars [gwiazd] and rosettes in which are winged geni [with] beasts in the fields between stars and birds.”28 The “Journal of Events in the Princes Czartoryski Museum,” kept by Countess Pelagia Potocka, a close friend of the princess who served as curator 27. The “Book of Deposits” records deposits made to the museum beginning October 20, 1924. 28. The list of crates was sent to Countess Pelagia Potocka on December 16, 1939. The heading of the list notes that Eugeniusza Latacza had seen the objects “there” in mid-October. The reference appears to be to Sieniawa, but by late September the crates, including the three paintings and other objects on the list, had been moved to Pełkinie and then taken by the Gestapo to Rzeszów, Poland (Czartoryski Foundation, Princes Czartoryski Museum, 156).

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Figure 6. Page from the “Book of Deposits of the Princes Czartoryski Museum,” showing the makata as no. 158 from the collections of the Princes Czartoryski Castle in Gołuchów (Wielkopolska). Property of the XX [Princes] Czartoryski Foundation in Kraków

Figure 7. List of crates taken from the Czartoryski Museum to Sieniawa and returned from there in October 1939. “Crate M.XX.Cz.8” contained the makata; “crate L R R——b” contained the Leonardo, Raphael, and Rembrandt paintings. Property of the XX [Princes] Czartoryski Foundation in Kraków

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of the collection following Komornicki’s arrest, indicates that the Gołuchów makata was among the objects left behind at Sieniawa by the marauding soldiers and ultimately brought to the Jagiellonian University Library. An undated entry in the journal shows Potocka negotiating with the Nazi officials for the return of objects taken from the collection, including the Gołuchów makata: And so Jacob [unidentified] came at 12 o’clock. 1. I gave him Ustawa Ordynacka [the charter of the estate], and reminded him also that 2. Prince Augustyn’s wife is a daughter of Don Carlos, the Spanish Infante, 3. I asked that he endeavor to recover the Polish items from confiscation, 4. As well as the private property of the Czartoryski family deposited in the Museum, in particular Makata Gołuchówska. He said that the rugs were to be at the Museum the following day, [and] that Dr. Mühlmann had asked to tell me not to worry about that.29

Potocka evidently succeeded in having the Gołuchów makata, and probably other items, but not the three paintings, returned. A handwritten annotation in the margin of entry 158 (the makata) in the “Book of Deposits” notes, “Treasury July 10, 1940.” An entry in the “Register of Incoming Letters, the Princes Czartoryski Museum,” confirms the return date of the Gołuchów makata to the museum: No. 30. July 17 [1940]. Princess Ludwika Czartoryska, Kredytowa 12, Warsaw wrote: On July 10 certain items from the Sieniawa trunks were returned to the Museum. Out of the Princes’ property the following items were returned: 1. Silk rug (Persian) [makata], 2. Six folders with engravings, 3. A parcel containing lace. The items from Sieniawa which did not arrive at the governor general’s [included]: 1. folder with engravings by Dürer and five engravings from other folders, 2. the entire chest marked ZZG/2 (apart from the lace). Gold items in a leather bag were held for further decision as to whether and which ones were to be returned.30

29. Potocka, “Journal of Events,” 24. 30. The register was established on January 4, 1932. See “Register of Incoming Letters.”


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On July 22 the registry of letters notes that Princess Maria Ludwika had written Potocka requesting that the parcel containing lace and the makata be sent to her. The following day, Tuesday, July 23, 1940, Potocka recorded the letter’s contents in the “Journal of Events in the Princes Czartoryski Museum”: A letter from Princess Ludwika Czartoryska, in which she requests that, to the extent possible, the following items be returned to her in Warsaw: Persian makata (animals and genii) and the parcel containing lace. The said items had been sent to Sieniawa together with others, and now have been returned by the Sonderbeauftragten. However, the makata bears a (large) dark stain so that Director Komornicki decided to show it to Ms. Mejro, so that she could decide what to do with it.31

A second handwritten annotation in the margin of item no. 158 (the makata) of the “Book of Deposits” indicates that the Gołuchów makata was “sent on October 5, 1940 to Princess Ludwika from the family KrasiĔski, spouse of Adam Czartoryski, against confirmation of receipt, as no voucher had been sent.” The annotation was signed by Komornicki, who had been released from Sachsenhausen and was again acting as the conservator of the collection. The documentation for the Gołuchów makata ends with the statement that it was sent October 5, 1940, to Princess Maria Ludwika, who was then living in her palace on Kredytowa 12, Warsaw. It is presumed that the makata was among the treasures from Gołuchów that she hid under the palace gate. In December 1941 the Nazis, directed by A. Schnellenberg, discovered the hiding place and took the eighteen crates to the National Museum in Warsaw, where the contents were placed on deposit. In late 1944, as Russian troops approached, items from the Czartoryski Collection and others stored at the National Museum Warsaw were hurriedly packed and taken away by SS-Obersturmführer Arnhardt and shipped to Silesia and then to Central Germany.32 During the war Estreicher, a Polish art historian exiled in London who kept a record of the lost and confiscated art and cultural items reported to him from Poland, was instrumental in making the Americans aware of the destruc31. Potocka, “Journal of Events,” 60. 32. See Romanowska-ZadroĪna and ZadroĪny, Straty wojenne malarstwo obce . . . = Wartime Losses, 1:127. Many of the paintings and other art objects taken from Poland during the war, including objects from the Czartoryski Collection, were later moved to Schloss Fischhorn, at Zell-am-Zee, Land Salzburg, owned by H. H. Gildemeister. Between 1945 and 1946 twelve freight cars of art objects were returned from Fischhorn to Poland.

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tion of cultural property in Poland. In Cultural Losses of Poland: Index of Polish Cultural Losses during the German Occupation, 1939–1944, published in London in 1944, Estreicher described the Nazi activities in Poland and enumerated the losses of property.33 After the war, as liaison to the MFA&A, Estreicher worked closely with the Americans to locate and return works of art and other items stolen from Poland during the Nazi occupation, including the Leonardo and the Rembrandt, which were included in the first Polish shipment.34 Through Estreicher’s efforts to retrieve stolen artworks, the Czartoryski Museum reclaimed ten pictures, two Gobelin tapestries, a Persian animal carpet (Tierteppich), virtually all the illuminated manuscripts, and several dozen crafts objects (kunsthandwerkliche Gegenstände). LACMA’s makata was not among them. It is unknown when or from whom Kevorkian acquired the makata. His expertise in Persian art indicates that he would have known the tapestry had been part of the Czartoryski Collection. It is unlikely, however, that he knew it had been taken by the Nazis, since it is not mentioned in Erstreicher’s book. Until the end of the Soviet era, there were few efforts to retrieve war losses. After the war and freeing of Poland in 1945, the Polish Ministry of Culture and Art took control of the Princes Czartoryski Museum. The museum reopened after renovations in 1950 as the Czartoryski Collection of the National Museum of Kraków. The former director, Stanisław Jan Gasiorowski, resumed his position. In 1992, after the end of communist rule in Poland, the collection and museum were turned over to the Czartoryski Foundation established by Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, the son of Prince Augustyn and Princess Dolores, who was born in exile in Seville in January 1940. Although the documentation for the makata between October 1940, when it was shipped to Princess Maria Ludwika in Warsaw, and 1970, when it was sold from the estate of Hagop Kevorkian, remains incomplete, LACMA’s decision to return the makata to the Princes Czartoryski Museum was based on the preponderance of evidence that it was illegally removed from the collection by the Nazis and never returned. In a ceremony that took place May 10, 2002, in the Old Arsenal in Kraków, in the presence of the Polish minister of foreign affairs, the American ambassador Christopher Hill, and other dignitaries, the makata was officially presented to Prince Adam Karol 33. His lists do not include the Czartoryski makata. 34. See


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Czartoryski, grandson of Princess Maria Ludwika. It was only the twelfth object returned to the collection through the joint efforts of the Polish Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture. Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man continues to elude restitution. References “Book of Deposits of the Princes Czartoryski Museum, established October 20, 1924.” 1924–. Archives of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, Kraków. Czartoryski Foundation. 2001. The Princes Czartoryski Museum: A History of the Collections. Kraków: Czartoryski Foundation. Estreicher, Charles [Karol], ed. 1944. Cultural Losses of Poland: Index of Polish Cultural Losses during the German Occupation, 1939–1944. London. Gluckman, Dale Carolyn, Catherine McLean, and Amy L. Walsh. 2002. “Princely Concerns.” Hali Magazine, no. 122: 11–13. Gumkowski, Janusz, and Kazimierz Leszczynski. 1961. “Hitler’s Plans for Eastern Europe.” In Poland under Nazi Occupation, 7–33. Warsaw: Polonia Publishing House. Kowalski, Wojciech W. 2001. “The Machinery of Nazi Art Looting: The Nazi Law on the Confiscation of Cultural Property. Poland: A Case Study.” Art, Antiquity and Law 6, no. 2: 217–31. List of crates taken to Sieniawa. 1940. Archives of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, Kraków. Miscellaneous letters. 1940. Archives of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, Kraków. Petropoulos, Jonathan. 2000. The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany. New York: Oxford University Press. Pope, Arthur Upham, and Phyllis Ackerman, eds. 1938–58. Survey of Persian Art. 7 vols. London: Oxford University Press. Potocka, Pelagia. 1940. “Journal of Events in the Princes Czartoryski Museum” (“Dziennik Wydarzen w Muzeum X.X. Czartoryskich”). Typewritten. Archives of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, Kraków. PruszyĔski, Jan P. 1997. “Poland: The War Losses, Cultural Heritage, and Cultural Legitimacy.” In The Spoils of War: World War II and Its Aftermath; The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property, edited by Elizabeth Simpson, 49–52. New York: H. N. Abrams in association with the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts. Record Group 260, 390/45/26/02, box 471. National Archive and Records Administration, Washington, DC. “Register of Incoming Letters, the Princes Czartoryski Museum, established January 4, 1932.” 1932௅. Archives of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation, Kraków. Romanowska-ZadroĪna, Maria, and Tadeusz ZadroĪny. 2000. Straty wojenne malarstwo obce . . . = Wartime Losses, Foreign Painting . . . Lost between 1939௅1945 within Post-1945 Borders of Poland, Excluding the Western and Northern Territories (Polskie dziedzictwo kulturalne. Seria A, Straty kultury polskie). PoznaĔ: Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego, Biuro Pełnomocnika Rzaࡥdu do Spraw Polskiego Dziedzictwa Kulturalnego za Granicaࡥ.

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Sorenson, Lee. n.d. “Frey, Dagobert.” Dictionary of Art Historians (website). dictionaryof (accessed September 20, 2015). ———. n.d. “Hempel, Eberhard.” Dictionary of Art Historians (website). dictionaryofart (accessed September 20, 2015). Yeide, Nancy H. 2009. Beyond the Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection. Dallas, TX: Laurel. ĩygulski, Zdzisław, Jr. 1973. “Princess Isabel and the Czartoryski Museum.” Connoisseur, no. 731: 15–24.

The Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art and Other Cultural Property: Have We Gone Too Far or Not Far Enough?

Lawrence M. Kaye

Without doubt, the question of who owns Nazi-looted art is rooted in law, history, and morality. Since the mid-1990s this issue has been vigorously debated at a multitude of international conferences and symposia as well as in parliamentary bodies and most certainly in the press. In the past twenty years we have seen property disputes between wartime victims and current owners played out in courts and tribunals throughout the world, and there will be more to come. But we are still short on satisfactory answers and fair solutions. Adolf Hitler’s campaign to eradicate Jewish communities throughout Europe included the appropriation of millions of artworks from private collections and museums. The value of the plundered art alone, excluding books, manuscripts, and other cultural artifacts, exceeded the total value of all artwork in the United States in 1945: some $2.5 billion worth of art, which in today’s values would be many multiples of that.1 In all, the Nazi art confiscation program is considered the greatest displacement of art in human history.2 Hitler was obsessed with art. The Nazis favored the old masters and other representative works by those deemed of Germanic and related heritage 1. Bazyler, Holocaust Justice, 202. 2. Ibid. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705721 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



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like Rembrandt3 and Lucas Cranach the Elder.4 Hitler and his second-incommand, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, actually competed with each other to acquire such works, as the Nazi forces confiscated them en masse. At the same time, Hitler set out to rid the nation of “degenerate” cultural influences that helped contaminate the pure Aryan culture of Germany.5 This tied directly into the Nazis’ extreme anti-Semitism. The Allies recovered huge numbers of looted artworks after the war, often far from their countries of origin. While some collections were found intact, the contents of many others were scattered in warehouses or buried in rubble, mines, or bombed-out churches. It was Allied policy to return these works to the governments of the countries from which they had been looted.6 Postwar restitution commissions and agencies were then set up by the governments to consider claims for these works, but Nazi victims’ attempts to recover their property were often met with a cold and bureaucratic eye, and many works actually ended up in national collections.7 Moreover, huge numbers of looted artworks were not recovered. Some French, Swiss, and German dealers collaborated with the Nazis to sell many so-called degenerate artworks, reaping enormous profits.8 These remained in the collections of the purchasers or were resold to others, both private collectors and museums all over the world. Other works simply disappeared. In the aftermath of the war, Holocaust victims often did not pursue their claims, even when their artworks could be located, especially if they were rebuffed by their own governments.9 Or they simply could not take on the enormous task of trying to find the lost works. Often, survival was the only thing on their minds; few wanted to talk about those terrible years, let alone actually research what might have happened to their families’ property. Unfortunately, except for some restitution efforts immediately after the war, which were short-lived and had limited success, there were few private or public efforts to recover the large amounts of art and cultural property stolen by the Nazis. Indeed, it was not until the mid-1990s that a confluence of factors 3. Feliciano, Lost Museum, 18–19. 4. Nicholas, Rape of Europa, 47. 5. See Edsel, Rescuing Da Vinci; Feliciano, Lost Museum; Nicholas, Rape of Europa; Simpson, Spoils of War. 6. Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, Plunder and Restitution, 8. 7. See Nicholas, “Plenary Session on Nazi-Confiscated Art Issues”; Lerman, “Opening Ceremony Remarks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.” 8. Nicholas, Rape of Europa, 5. 9. Lerman, “Opening Ceremony Remarks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.”

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led survivors and others to reexamine what happened to the still-missing artworks. With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain, previously classified archives maintained by governments and others became publicly available, providing critical information to those who wanted to look into the fate of individual artworks and collections.10 Scholars and journalists took advantage of the opening of these previously closed archives and published books that examined the remarkable extent of the Nazi looting, including Lynn H. Nicholas’s pioneering study, The Rape of Europa (1994); Beautiful Loot: The Soviet Plunder of Europe’s Art Treasures, by Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorii Kozlov (1996); and The Lost Museum, by Hector Feliciano (1997). Just as important, the advent of the Internet revolutionized the ability to conduct research in this area.11 In 1998 the US government convened the now-famous Washington Conference, attended by government officials, art experts, museum officials, and other interested parties from around the world, to consider the issues raised by the continuing discovery of Nazi-looted assets, including artworks.12 The conference promulgated the Washington Principles, eleven tenets addressing Nazi-confiscated art, which were adopted by forty-four nations and, among other things, stated that “pre-War owners and their heirs should be encouraged to come forward and make known their claims to art that was confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted.”13 Once owners do so, “steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution, recognizing this may vary according to the facts and circumstances surrounding a specific case.”14 The participating countries acknowledged, perhaps for the first time, that the staggering volume of artworks stolen by the Nazis from both museums and private, mainly Jewish, collections throughout Europe was not a mere incident of war but an official Nazi policy. One of the most significant events of the 1990s was the start of a legal case involving Portrait of Wally, by Egon Schiele, which a Nazi agent in Austria had taken from Lea Bondi Jaray.15 State and then federal prosecutors 10. Cuba, “Stop the Clock,” 449. 11. Bazyler, Holocaust Justice, 262–63. 12. US Department of State, “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.” 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid. 15. United States v. Portrait of Wally, 105 F. Supp. 2d 288 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), granting motion to dismiss; No. 99 Civ. 9940 (MBM), 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18713 (Dec. 28, 2000), permitting amendment of complaint; 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6645 (S.D.N.Y. 2002), denying motions to dismiss; 663 F. Supp. 2d 232 (S.D.N.Y. 2009), denying motions for summary judgment.


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seized Portrait of Wally from New York’s Museum of Modern Art, after it was brought to MoMA as part of an exhibition of Schieles in the possession of Vienna’s Leopold Museum.16 It took more than ten years for the Wally case to be resolved. It was finally settled on July 20, 2010, one week before the trial was scheduled to begin, with the payment of nineteen million dollars in compensation to the Bondi heirs, an amount that, by all accounts, reflected the painting’s then-market value.17 The case had an enormous international impact from the moment it started. The fact that an artwork loaned to MoMA could be seized by US government authorities sent shockwaves around the world and was a major factor in causing governments, museums, collectors, and families of Holocaust victims to focus their attention on Nazi-looted art. Shortly after the Wally case began, another effort to recover Holocaust loot was under way in the Netherlands.18 It began as a quixotic attempt by one woman from Greenwich, Connecticut, to seek restitution of her father-in-law’s collection, but evolved into what is really a microcosm of the post–Washington Conference restitution world. Jacques Goudstikker, a Dutch Jew, was one of the foremost art dealers in Europe. He amassed an extraordinary collection of about fourteen hundred works, mostly Dutch, Flemish, and Italian old master paintings, and just days after the Nazi invasion of Holland, Göring himself came to the steps of the Goudstikker gallery eager to take the works to Germany. Shortly after, Göring’s agents arranged for a “forced sale” of the gallery and its stock. Jacques, who had fled the Netherlands ahead of the Nazi invasion, with his wife, Dési, and their young son, Edo, managed to take with him a small black leather notebook, which contained an inventory of much of his collection. Although Jacques’s flight from the Nazis was cut short—he tragically fell to his death aboard the ship carrying him and his family to safety— Dési was able to retrieve the book from Jacques’s pocket, and it would prove to be the key document used to establish the family’s claims to their Nazi-looted artworks many decades later. More than two hundred of the roughly eight hundred Goudstikker works looted by Göring were recovered by the Allies and sent to the Central Collecting Point in Munich. These and other artworks that the Nazis had stolen from the Netherlands were then returned to the Dutch government, to be held in trust for their lawful owners.19 Dési returned to the Netherlands in 1946 with 16. United States v. Portrait of Wally, 663 F. Supp. 2d at 246. 17. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “The United States of America.” 18. Hollander, De zaak Goudstikker. 19. Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, Plunder and Restitution.

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the expectation that she would be able to reclaim Jacques’s stolen property. She was met instead with great hostility by the postwar Dutch government and was confronted by a “restitution” regime that did everything in its power to make it difficult for Jews to recover their property.20 As a result, Dési was unable to recover the stolen Göring works, and, in the end, the Dutch government kept the works in its national collection. For almost sixty years most of the recovered Göring works were held in this way. In 1996 both Dési and Edo died. Ironically, shortly after their deaths, the Dutch government adopted new policies that allowed claimants to pursue the restitution of artworks returned to the Netherlands after the war that were still in the government’s custody. Thus it fell to Marei von Saher, Jacques’s daughter-in-law and sole living heir, to fight to recover what had been taken from her family.21 Marei first presented her claim for the artworks in 1998, the same year as the Washington Conference, but it would take many years for her to win the battle to recover her family’s property. Finally, in 2006 the government agreed to return to Marei two hundred paintings held in its custody.22 It was one of the largest restitutions ever of Nazi-looted artwork. So, after many years of legal battle, and over sixty years since the Nazi looting, some form of justice—though certainly not perfect—was achieved. But this was not the end of Marei’s journey. The recovered artworks represented only a fraction of the missing paintings, and it is the family’s goal to find and recover every single work. To date, many have been identified and located, and almost forty have been recovered from museums, art dealers, and private collections.23 The very first restitution came in the spring of 2001, when Jan Wellens de Cock’s Temptation of St. Anthony was returned.24 Recoveries since have spanned the globe, from a charcoal drawing by Edgar Degas, returned by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 2005;25 to Still Life with Flowers, by Rachel Ruysch, one of the few female old masters, dating from 1690, returned by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden during a conference at the museum in 2006;26 to the first American museum restitution of a Goudstikker painting in 2011, when the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles returned a painting by Pieter Molijn, Landscape with Cottage and Figures;27 20. Lipschits, De kleine sjoa. 21. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “Goudstikker: ‘At Long Last, Justice.’” 22. Ibid. 23. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “Resolved Stolen Art Claims,” last modified August 6, 2015. 24. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “Heir to Vast Art Collection.” 25. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “Breakthroughs on Major Holocaust Claim.” 26. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “Resolved Stolen Art Claims.” 27. Boehm, “Getty Museum Agrees to Return Painting Looted by Nazis.”


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to the very recent return by the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Florida of a still life by Jacques Adolphz. de Claeuw;28 and with numerous others in between. In the many successful Goudstikker restitutions, those in possession of the looted art did not force Marei to prove her claim in court, did not defend on statute of limitations grounds, and did not argue that returning the painting would open the floodgates to myriad claims against museums about their collections. Rather, on discovering the presence of Nazi-looted art in their collections, they did the requisite research, negotiated in good faith, and ultimately did the right thing. But Marei has been less successful in resolving claims against other US and Canadian museums, which seem to believe that they, unlike German and other European museums, are so removed from the events that transpired in Europe during World War II that they have no obligation to help correct the wrongs of the Nazi past.29 A case in point is the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, from which Marei has long been seeking the return of two monumental images, “Adam” and “Eve,” by Lucas Cranach the Elder.30 After years of unsuccessful negotiations and two failed mediations, Marei filed a lawsuit against the museum in 2007. But the district court dismissed her claims, holding unconstitutional a California statute that extended the statute of limitations for Holocaust claims because it infringed on the foreign affairs power of the federal government.31 On appeal, Marei’s claim was reinstated, but she was permitted to proceed only under the general California statute of limitations provision for stolen cultural property. On the important constitutional issue, the court affirmed,32 so Marei sought review of this part of the decision by the US Supreme Court. After the US solicitor general, at the invitation of the Court, opined that the California statute did contravene US foreign policy, the high court declined to hear Marei’s case.33 The case then went back to the 28. Herrick, Feinstein LLP, “Marei von Saher Announces Resolution of Claim.” 29. Akinsha, “Reexamining the Legacy of Shame.” 30. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95757 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 2007), aff’d in part and remanded by, 578 F.3d 1016 (9th Cir. 2009), amended and reh’g denied, 592 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 131 S.Ct. 3055 (2011), on remand, 862 F.Supp. 2d 1044 (C.D. Cal. 2012), rev’d and remanded by, 754 F.3d 712 (9th Cir. 2014), motion to dismiss denied by, No. 07-2866-JFW-JTL, slip op. (C.D. Cal. Apr. 2, 2015). 31. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95757 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 2007) (finding Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 354.3 unconstitutional). 32. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 592 F.3d 954 (9th Cir. 2010). 33. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 131 S. Ct. 3055 (2011).

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lower court, so it could determine whether her claims were timely under the state’s general statute of limitations. But, once again the claims were dismissed on the grounds of federal preemption.34 Marei again appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. For some time now, the US government has consistently expressed its view that artworks looted by the Nazis should be identified and returned to their prewar owners—starting with the adoption of the Washington Principles in 1998,35 even more pointedly in the Terezin Declaration adopted at the Holocaust Era Assets Conference held in Prague in 2009,36 and again in 2012 in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s release on the subject issued shortly before she left office.37 Yet, until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision in favor of Marei in June 2014, our courts had literally ignored these statements by the US government and the documents in which they were embodied. Thus it is no insignificant matter that the Court of Appeals, in a historic opinion, for the first time recognized that, although not actual treaties, the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration do reflect the policy of the United States and that, pursuant to this policy, Holocaust claimants like Marei are entitled to a “just and fair solution.”38 The Court therefore reversed the dismissal of Marei’s claims, holding that she could proceed because a judicial ruling on the merits would not be an intrusion on the federal government’s constitutional power to conduct foreign affairs.39 The Court stated: Not only do we find an absence of conflict between Von Saher’s claims and federal policy, but we believe her claims are in concert with that policy. Von Saher is just the sort of heir that the Washington Principles and Terezin Declaration encouraged to come forward to make claims. . . . Perhaps most importantly, this litigation may provide Von Saher an opportunity to achieve a just and fair outcome to rectify the consequences of the forced transaction with Göring during the war.40

After the Ninth Circuit’s decision, Eric Simon, the grandson of the late Norton Simon and a trustee of an entity related to the Norton Simon Museum, came 34. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 862 F.Supp. 2d 1044 (C.D. Cal. 2012). 35. US Department of State, “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.” 36. US Department of State, “Terezin Declaration.” 37. Clinton, “Holocaust-Era Looted Art.” 38. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum, 754 F.3d 712 (9th Cir. 2014). 39. Ibid. 40. Ibid., 723.


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forward, publicly excoriating the museum for “evad[ing] responsibility under this [Washington Principles] agreement and the . . . Terezin Declaration” and noting that the living relatives of Norton Simon have not participated in decisions relating to the ongoing “legal battle.”41 He urged that “steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution.”42 But the museum still made no overtures. Rather, it pursued its petition for review by the US Supreme Court. In January 2015 that petition was denied,43 and the case was again remanded to the lower court. The museum filed its third motion to dismiss, arguing that Marei’s claims are barred on statute of limitations grounds. The district court denied the motion to dismiss and also noted that there was “nothing unfair about affording [Marei] an opportunity to pursue the merits of her claims against Norton Simon.”44 The court added: Museums are sophisticated entities that are well-equipped to trace the provenance of the fine art that they purchase. After carefully weighing the equities, the [California] Legislature determined that the importance of allowing victims of stolen art an opportunity to pursue their claims supersedes the hardship faced by museums and other sophisticated entities in defending against potentially stale ones. Plaintiff, whose family suffered terrible atrocities at the hands of the Nazis, will now have an opportunity to pursue the merits of her claims, and Norton Simon will have an opportunity to pursue any and all defenses to those claims.45

But the sad truth is that we have been litigating this case for almost eight years, fighting multiple motions to dismiss on technical grounds, and are only now approaching the merits of the claim.46 I submit that, in waging this protracted battle, the museum is flouting the dictates of the Washington Principles and the Terezin Declaration. Moreover, we have seen this time and time again with other museums in other cases. 41. Boehm, “Norton Simon Grandson Urges Museum.” 42. Ibid. 43. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, 135 S. Ct. 1158 (2015). 44. Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art, No. 07-2866-JFW-JTL, slip op. (C.D. Cal. Apr. 2, 2015). 45. Ibid. 46. On August 9, 2016, after the conference at which this text was originally presented, the district court granted the Norton Simon Museum’s motion for summary judgment on the basis of a narrow question of Dutch law. Marei filed a notice of appeal on September 9, 2016.

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Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation exemplifies the trend.47 In 2005 the heirs of the original owner of a Camille Pissarro painting confiscated by a Nazi agent brought suit against the Thyssen Foundation pursuant to the same special California statute involved in Von Saher. After that decision, California enacted new amendments to its general statute of limitations without any mention of or focus on the Holocaust.48 Nevertheless, in May 2012 the district court in Cassirer held that these amendments were facially unconstitutional.49 The judge determined that the “real purpose” of the statute was to provide a remedy for Holocaust-era art claims and that therefore the legislature had once again impermissibly intruded on the foreign affairs power of the federal government.50 In December 2013 the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision as well, ruling that since the amended statute does not create a new cause of action for the recovery of artwork and does not even mention the Holocaust, it does not on its face intrude on the federal government’s foreign affairs function.51 The case was therefore remanded to the district court. But on June 4, 2015, the district court granted the foundation’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, finding that under Spanish law the foundation had acquired legal title to the painting through adverse possession. The heirs are appealing the district court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. Thus technical defenses such as the statute of limitations and the related doctrine of laches—which holds that a case may be dismissed, even if otherwise timely, if the plaintiff unreasonably delays bringing the claim to the prejudice of the defendant—have played key roles in Holocaust-era cases in the United States and indeed more often than not have been the single reason that otherwise meritorious Holocaust claims have failed. For example, in Grosz v. Museum of Modern Art, the heirs of the German expressionist artist 47. Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain, 461 F. Supp. 2d 1157 (C.D. Cal. 2006); aff’d in part and dismissed in part, 580 F.3d 1048 (9th Cir. 2009), aff’d in part and dismissed in part, en banc, 616 F.3d 1019 (9th Cir. 2010); cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 3057 (U.S. 2011); on remand sub nom Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Found., slip op., No. 05-CV-3459-GAF (C.D. Cal. May 24, 2012); rev’d in part, aff’d in part, and remanded by slip op., No. 12-56159 (9th Cir. Dec. 9, 2013); summary judgment granted by slip op., No. 05-cv-3459-JFW (C.D. Cal. June 4, 2015). 48. Assemb. B. No. 2765 § 2, 2009–2010 Reg. Sess. (Cal. 2010). 49. Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Found., slip op., No. 05-CV-3459-GAF (C.D. Cal. May 24, 2012). 50. Ibid. 51. Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Found., slip op., No. 12-56159 (9th Cir. Dec. 9, 2013).


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George Grosz filed suit to recover three of his paintings in MoMA’s collection.52 Grosz’s works were a target of the Nazis’ degenerate art campaign. Despite this indisputable fact and the well-known circumstances of Grosz’s persecution by the Nazis—he was branded an “enemy of the state” by the Third Reich—the case never reached the merits. It was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds—not exactly the kind of “fair and just solution” that the Washington Principles and Terezin Declaration contemplate. What do the museums say in response? At town hall meetings at the State Department and in other venues, they agree that these cases should be heard on the merits but qualify that by arguing that they and they alone can determine that a particular case lacks merit, in which case they have the right to get the case dismissed on technical grounds. In other words, the museums assert that they can be judge and jury and be trusted to decide which cases have merit and which do not.53 The museums contend that they are serving the public interest by getting these cases dismissed without a hearing on the merits so the artworks can remain on public display.54 But I submit that it is contrary to the public interest and inconsistent with the fiduciary obligations of the trustees of these museums to take that position. Simply put, it is against the public interest for artworks looted by the Nazis to remain in museum hands instead of being restituted to their rightful owners. And it is against US policy as stated in Washington and Prague to interfere with the fair determination of these cases by throwing up technical roadblocks to prevent a consideration of the merits. So, have we “gone too far or not far enough” (as the title of this article asks) in addressing the restitution of Nazi-looted art in the United States? Sadly, from my vantage as a US litigator, the answer is not nearly far enough. But to really answer this question, we have to ask: What is justice? What is perfect justice? Are we speaking about retribution or restitution? And do we require restitution in kind or some lesser form of redress? Should the remedies be structured to help us forget the past? Remember the past? Reconcile with the past? Are we discussing moral claims and remedies or legal ones? Certainly, it is easy to say, and many do, that the solution is simple: the plunder of art was an integral part of the Nazis’ program to annihilate the Jews 52. Grosz v. Museum of Modern Art, 772 F. Supp. 2d 473 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), aff’d, 403 Fed. Appx. 575 (2d Cir. 2010). 53. Beal, “Four Cases from One Museum.” 54. See also Complaint at 20–21, Detroit Inst. of Arts v. Ullin, 2007 WL 1016996 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 31, 2007) (No. 06-10333) (explaining that it was “incumbent upon the DIA to reject [the heirs’] claim and defend the City’s rightful ownership of the Painting” in part because of the museum’s responsibility to act for the public, “for whom it holds the Painting in public trust”).

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and hence part and parcel of one of the worst crimes—if not the worst crime— in human history; and the looted art, wherever found, must be returned now. But nothing is simple when it comes to addressing Nazi plunder. We must confront the seventy years that followed the war. Nazi loot passed into commerce and through multiple jurisdictions whose laws permitted the sale of stolen art to bona fide purchasers. The provenance is often unclear. Research has proved difficult, expensive, and often inconclusive. One thing is clear: justice has been long in coming, and we should be thankful that so much progress has been made in the past twenty years. Certainly, it is too much to expect “perfect justice.” The Washington Conference sought to provide a more realistic answer and gave us one: “a just and fair solution.” But never has a term intended as a universal remedy been so ill defined; indeed, it has hardly been defined at all. With more than fifteen years of post– Washington Conference experience, and more than five years after the Terezin Declaration, it is still a difficult concept to comprehend, much less apply. What can we make of it? As I said, it clearly does not contemplate perfect justice but rather some modicum of justice. It suggests an amalgam of moral, ethical, and legal components. “Do the right thing” is a phrase that comes to mind. But how does this fit into dispute resolution in the United States? In the European restitution panels set up after the Washington Conference, the rules of the game are defined by regulations adopted by the various governments that are intended to provide a fair resolution of claims. But in these jurisdictions museums are most often owned by the state, and these directives are reserved for the museums the state controls. Not so for local and private museums, galleries, and collectors, where, for the most part, no real efforts to develop fair and just solutions have been made. Perhaps that will change in response to the Gurlitt trove discovery and all that followed55 (e.g., Bavaria is seeking to amend its applicable statute of limitations),56 but progress is slow and intermittent, and claimants are often left without a solution, much less a “fair and just” one. But where does that leave us in the United States, where calls for a national commission have gone unheeded—and for good reason? While restitution tribunals in Europe can effectively govern state-owned museums, in the United States museums are mostly privately owned, and such tribunals are not an effective option. This leaves the solution to the courts. Wouter Veraart, a noted Dutch law professor, has underscored the limitations of the legal order 55. Chechi, “Gurlitt Hoard,” 208–17. 56. O’Donnell, “Bavaria to Review Draft Revision.”


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as a framework for dispensing justice in these situations and has cautioned that we “should certainly not overestimate the law’s ability to offer perfect solutions in looted art cases.”57 He rejects both retribution and restitution and opts instead for reconciliation, but in doing so he notes the obstacles that fall in the path of the latter, considering the forcefully held views of both the possessors and the claimants.58 And we have experienced that as well. I could write a book on the failed mediations that I have witnessed. Veraart seeks to advance the role of conciliatory resolution by suggesting that any form of corrective justice is really not possible within the framework of the law, noting in particular the statute of limitations, which he characterizes as a form of “legal forgetting.”59 But claimants in the United States do not easily accept that conclusion. It is, they say, inconsistent with US policy as encapsulated in the Washington Principles and Terezin Declaration. So what can be done under the rule of law in the United States? Certainly, the federal government needs to play a larger role in developing a policy that can be implemented nationwide. One possibility is national legislation that sets a uniform rule for eliminating or extending the statute of limitations and laches in Holocaust cases. And since the California state statute that tried to accomplish this was struck down as unconstitutional, national legislation may well be the only way to get the job done.60 Another possibility is for the United States to establish a foundation that could assist US institutions, whether private or public, in conducting much-needed provenance research, at least for claimants with small claims. Notwithstanding my documented history of failed mediations, my colleagues and I have successfully resolved Holocaust cases short of going to court, and I do not rule out conciliation. But, in those cases, possessors must be prepared to sacrifice as well. Claimants will be compelled to forfeit perfect justice and even corrective justice, to achieve closure with dignity and some recognition of their lost history. Possessors must meet them halfway. They must first recognize that keeping the looted art on their walls without doing more cannot be the answer. Charlotte Woodhead, writing about the United 57. Veraart, “Between Justice and Legal Closure,” 211. 58. Ibid. 59. Ibid., 220. 60. After the conference at which this text was originally presented, such federal legislation was introduced in Congress (S. 2763, the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016). It was adopted unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and was introduced in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. It provides for a six-year statute of limitations in cases to recover Nazi-looted art that starts to run upon actual discovery of the identity and location of the artwork and facts sufficient to bring a claim. It would preempt any other state or federal statute of limitations or other time-based defenses.

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Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel, noted that, during the parliamentary debates on the implementation of the 2009 Holocaust Act,61 it was observed by one member that spectators cannot look at looted art without seeing the “pain and betrayal” that led it to be situated there, and it necessarily “taints the spectators who knowingly take advantage of the presence of the picture there and it speaks to them of loss and war, not creativity and insight.”62 Can that taint be removed only by restitution in kind? Purists may say yes. I say no. And that is where conciliation comes in. While return of the work is by far the best solution, it is not always feasible. Especially where the claimant may ultimately sell the recovered works, and even when not, it should be possible to fashion a combination of alternative remedies. These can include the payment of damages reflecting the current market value of the works, simultaneous restitution and repurchase by the museum, acknowledgment of the true history of the work in the public record and on the museum walls, and other creative solutions. But even such mixed justice is not easy to achieve, especially if possessors are permitted to rely on technical defenses, procedural obstacles, and the like. In closing, I must say that there are no easy answers. There has been some progress, but it is clear that more attention must be paid if we are to come up with sensible rules of practice and law that are consistent with and do justice to the lessons of history. This is not an easy task by any means. But I have hope. I have hope because I am inspired by Marei von Saher and the heirs of Lea Bondi Jaray and Claude Cassirer, and so many other claimants who refuse to give up in the face of long-standing hardship and the criticism of those who mock the recovery of Holocaust loot as an unnecessary “industry.” Their stories compel us to remember the horror that was the Holocaust and thus to celebrate our humanity and spirit of survival and inspire us to keep going until justice, in whatever form, is achieved. References Akinsha, Konstantin. 2006. “Reexamining the Legacy of Shame.” ARTnews 105, no. 11: 131. Bazyler, Michael J. 2003. Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America’s Courts. New York: New York University Press. Beal, Graham. 2009. “Four Cases from One Museum, Four Different Results.” Paper presented at the Holocaust Era Assets Conference, Prague, Czech Republic, June 26–30. 61. The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009 permitted national museums in the United Kingdom to return cultural objects unlawfully held as a result of events occurring during the Nazi era. 62. Woodhead, “Redressing Historic Wrongs,” 113, 123.


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Boehm, Mike. 2011. “Getty Museum Agrees to Return Painting Looted by Nazis.” Los Angeles Times, March 29. ———. 2014. “Norton Simon Grandson Urges Museum to Be ‘Just’ with ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve.’” Los Angeles Times, November 14. Chechi, Alessandro. 2013. “The Gurlitt Hoard: An Appraisal of the Role of International Law with Respect to Nazi-Looted Art.” Italian Yearbook of International Law 23: 199–217. Clinton, Hillary Rodham. 2013. “Holocaust-Era Looted Art.” Press statement, January 16. Cuba, Stephanie. 1999. “Stop the Clock: The Case to Suspend the Statute of Limitations on Claims for Nazi-Looted Art.” Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal 17, no. 2: 447–89. Edsel, Robert M. 2006. Rescuing Da Vinci: Hitler and the Nazis Stole Europe’s Great Art—America and Her Allies Recovered It. Dallas, TX: Laurel. Feliciano, Hector. 1997. The Lost Museum: The Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World’s Greatest Works of Art. New York: Basic. Herrick, Feinstein LLP. 2001. “Heir to Vast Art Collection Recovers Old World Painting Looted by Nazis.” Press release, May 24. DB42F63B8E157104691CD4E8570.pdf. ———. 2005. “Breakthroughs on Major Holocaust Claim: Famed Dutch Art Dealer’s Descendants Announce Significant Recoveries and Major Ongoing Effort to Reclaim Legacy.” Press release, March 14. FACB551C88A15EBCA53E1ED18477.pdf. ———. 2006. “Goudstikker: ‘At Long Last, Justice.’” Press release, February 6. www ———. 2010. “The United States of America, the Estate of Lea Bondi Jaray and the Leopold Museum Settle the Long-Standing Case Involving ‘Portrait of Wally’ by Egon Schiele.” Press release, July 20. 53601B90397873AB242B.pdf. ———. 2014. “Marei von Saher Announces Resolution of Claim against the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens Regarding Nazi-Looted Painting.” Press release, June 26. ———. 2015. “Resolved Stolen Art Claims.” Herrick, Feinstein LLP, August 6. www Hollander, Pieter den. 1998. De zaak Goudstikker. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff. Lerman, Miles. 1998. “Opening Ceremony Remarks at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.” Paper presented at the Washington Conference on HolocaustEra Assets, Washington, DC, November 30–December 3. Lipschits, Isaac. 2001. De kleine sjoa: Joden in naoorlogs Nederland. Amsterdam: Mets en Schilt. Nicholas, Lynn. 1994. The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. New York: Knopf.

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———. 1998. “Plenary Session on Nazi-Confiscated Art Issues.” Paper presented at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, Washington, DC, November 30– December 3. O’Donnell, Nicholas. 2014. “Bavaria to Review Draft Revision to Statute of Limitations on Claims to Art Found in Gurlitt Apartment.” Art Law Report (blog), January 7. Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. 2000. Plunder and Restitution: The U.S. and Holocaust Victims Assets: Findings and Recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States and Staff Report. Washington, DC: The Commission. Simpson, Elizabeth, ed. 1997. The Spoils of War: World War II and Its Aftermath; The Loss, Reappearance, and Recovery of Cultural Property. New York: H. N. Abrams in association with the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts. US Department of State. 1998. “Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art.” Released in connection with the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, Washington, DC, December 3. ———. 2009. “Terezin Declaration.” Released in connection with the Prague Holocaust Era Assets Conference, Prague and Terezin, June 26–30. or/126162.htm. Veraart, Wouter. 2015. “Between Justice and Legal Closure—Looted Art Claims and the Passage of Time.” In Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to Litigation in NaziLooted Art Disputes: Status Quo and New Developments, edited by Evelien Campfens, 211–21. The Hague: Eleven International. Woodhead, Charlotte. 2014. “Redressing Historic Wrongs, Returning Objects to Their Rightful Owners or Laundering Tainted Objects? Twenty-First-Century UK Remedies for Nazi-Era Injustices.” International Journal of Cultural Property 21, no. 2: 113–42.

Five Uncomfortable and Difficult Topics Relating to the Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art

Jonathan Petropoulos

Recent books and film treatments of the Allies’ restitution efforts have tended toward the triumphalist.1 The recovery, safeguarding, and return of looted works has become a story of good overcoming evil. This article seeks to complicate that narrative. The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFA&A) officers worked in challenging circumstances and sometimes fell short of certain ideals. The Allies’ restitution policies evolved amid difficult political realities. The role of art dealers in this complex of issues is also ripe for reassessment. And museum officials outside Germany, both before and after 1945, behaved in ways that raise ethical questions. It is time for a more-nuanced and balanced appraisal of those involved in the response to Nazi art looting—one that counters hagiographical tendencies in both the scholarly realm and popular culture. Five general areas can be discerned: the challenges for the Monuments Men to preserve and secure the artworks; the postwar relationships between the Monuments Men and those complicit in Nazi art plunder; the postwar relationships between the “reputable” art trade and the former Nazi dealers; the Allies’ recognition of the Nazis’ May 1938 law on the deaccessioning of the purged modern artworks from German state collections, which provided the foundation for the decision not to restitute the purged art; and the conduct of American museum officials with regard to this purged art, whereby they purchased works 1. Edsel, Monuments Men. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705730 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



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and sent much-needed foreign currency to the Nazi state. More recently, certain American museum officials have rebutted claims for Holocaust-era cultural property in ways that raise questions about the adherence to agreed-on principles for best practices, and about ethics more generally. The Monuments officers (MFA&A personnel, as well as members of the Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit, or ALIU) worked remarkably hard and accomplished a great deal—they were indeed “heroes”— but they were not perfect. The first “uncomfortable and difficult topic” concerns their handling of objects that came into their care. To put it simply, they lost a lot of art. A recent and high-profile example is provided by Hildebrand Gurlitt, the art dealer who sold off “degenerate” art for the Nazis and then during the war became an agent for Adolf Hitler as the latter amassed works for the Führermuseum he planned for the city of Linz on the Danube River. While the Americans secured several hundred artworks in Gurlitt’s possession at Schloss Pölnitz near Bamberg, they also lost at least six paintings from this cache. The extant documents show two occasions when three works went missing each time.2 This was not an isolated case: the Allies endured many lapses in security. As noted in the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States (PCHA) report sent to President Bill Clinton in 2000, “Repositories of art and other valuables undoubtedly made tempting targets for larcenous individuals, both civilian and military. As units redeployed and troops demobilized after the German surrender, even those repositories that originally had been assigned guards were sometimes left unprotected.”3 In other words, the US occupation forces were both negligent and, at times, culpable. There were indeed instances when US officials were responsible for the loss of Holocaust victims’ cultural property. There is a saying among scholars of looting during World War II that the Soviet Red Army plundered, while the US soldiers took “souvenirs.” There is something to this, as the Soviet trophy brigades enacted a state-directed policy to seize and remove cultural property (some of it is still in Russia today), while US soldiers and their Western allies acted independently.4 To be sure, the “souvenir” taking by the West2. See the documents on “The Gurlitt Case” from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published online, but with no archival signature, at /pdf2013/Statement%20interrogation%20of%208-10%20June%201945%20of%20Hildebrandt%20 Gurlitt%20by%20Lieutenant%20McKay.pdf and at /Supporting%20documentation%20provided%20by%20Gurlitt%20and%20related%20documen tation%20from%20the%20Allies%20regarding%20the%20collection.pdf (accessed July 18, 2015). 3. See also Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets (PCHA), Plunder and Restitution, 119. 4. Alford, Allied Looting; Alford, Sacking Aladdin’s Cave; Honan, Treasure Hunt.

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ern soldiers did not involve the Monuments officers, who adopted a professional ethos that resolutely rejected such behavior. Souvenirs were the fare of regular troops. But at times the graft extended high up the chain of command. The best-known case, as reexamined by the PCHA, involved the so-called Hungarian Gold Train. It appears that General Harry Collins, the commander of US forces in the Salzburg area where the train was intercepted, took valuables from Hungarian Jews to decorate his official residence—a villa.5 There is no evidence that Collins ever returned what he had commandeered. US soldiers were also able to purchase victims’ watches at the military base. The property of the murdered Hungarian Jews was not handled according to Allied restitution principles (i.e., returned to the government of the country of origin), and a class-action lawsuit in 2006 resulted in a settlement of around twenty-five million dollars paid by the US government to survivors in the Hungarian Jewish community. In other instances, the Allies were the victim of criminal plots. The most famous instance concerns Ante Topiü Mimara, a Yugoslav adventurer, who deceived the Americans and stole 148 works from the Munich Central Collecting Point (CCP) in 1947. Mimara worked with an Austrian art historian, Wiltrud Mersmann, then employed by the Americans at the Munich CCP. She identified works in the depot that he then claimed had been looted from Yugoslavia. Mimara forged a list and represented himself as a Yugoslav restitution official. He then drove off with the 147 objects from the Munich CCP. The Americans discovered the plot several weeks later when actual Yugoslav restitution authorities appeared at the CCP, but Mimara escaped with his loot. He also married Mersmann, and they lived openly in Yugoslavia in the postwar period. Mimara donated his collection to the Republic of Croatia in 1973 in exchange for a generous annuity. Yet the so-called masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Diego Velásquez, among others, were quickly exposed as mostly fakes by the art journalist Andrew Decker.6 Mimara was even featured in Thomas Hoving’s best-selling book King of Confessors (1981), where the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art recounted being a young curator in pursuit of a medieval treasure, the Cross of Bury St. Edmond. Hoving ended up buying the carved ivory cross out of a Zürich bank vault— directly from Mimara.7 Some of the works stolen from the Munich CCP are still on display in Zagreb, Croatia, at the Mimara Museum.8 5. PCHA, Plunder and Restitution, 113–17; Zweig, Gold Train. 6. Decker, “Legacy of Shame”; Akinsha, “Ante Topic [sic] Mimara.” 7. Hoving, King of the Confessors; Hoving, “Super Art Gems of New York City.” 8. Akinsha, “Ante Topic [sic] Mimara.”


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The mistakes listed above, part of the reality of the American restitution efforts, were largely the result of the failure to take preventive action: errors of omission, one might say. But there were other instances where there were errors of commission. Perhaps most clearly, certain Monuments officers were responsible for destroying artworks. Much of the art in question had been created by Nazi leaders, including Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg, and Baldur von Schirach, and along with objects that were explicitly National Socialist in character, they formed a kind of subcollection within the Munich CCP. Lane Faison, the Williams College professor of art history turned ALIU officer, had returned to Germany to wrap up the restitution effort. Faison served as the last director of the Munich CCP between 1949 and 1951. Working closely with Theodore Heinrich, the cultural affairs adviser in the office of the High Commissioner on Germany (HICOG), the two men developed a strategy for handling the Nazi art. Over several years up to the closure of the Munich CCP in 1951, Heinrich approved the destruction of the art, and personnel at the collecting points in Munich, and for a time Wiesbaden, burned the artworks. The stamp that appeared on nearly all the property cards of the incinerated objects read, “This object has been destroyed as being of no historical or art historical value”—signed, Theodore Heinrich. It appears that some five hundred objects were burned in the CCP’s furnaces. The decision to destroy cultural property seems shocking, considering the world condemnation of the Nazis for their burning of books in May 1933. Later it surfaced that Joseph Goebbels’s staffers burned modern artworks at the Berlin Main Firehouse in March 1939, and the Nazis were denounced as barbarians. For US authorities to destroy any cultural property showed a lack of historical awareness and may have been in violation of the 1907 Hague Agreement. The destruction was unnecessary in that US authorities had established procedures for handling “Nazi art” (also known as “German War Art”). Over eighty-seven hundred objects deemed overtly ideological were collected and entrusted to the US Army, which kept the objects until 1982, when an act of Congress returned most of the works to the Federal Republic of Germany (the US Army held on to some 226 works for its art collection).9 Granted, the circumstances faced by American Monuments officers in Germany in the late 1940s and early 1950s proved especially challenging. With the Cold War intensifying, and US government priorities changing, Faison had been told by his superiors in the US government to wrap things up, to 9. Adam, Art of the Third Reich; Maertz, “German War Art Collection”; Weber, German War Artists; Kurtz, America and the Return of Nazi Contraband, 207–9.

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shut down the Munich CCP. As Michael Kurtz has noted, “By January 1949, there were only five MFA&A officials left in the American Zone.”10 The orders to destroy “Nazi art” evidently came down through channels, with Heinrich as the representative of the US high commissioner. So there was pressure from above, so to speak. Nonetheless, when I spoke with Faison decades later, in the late 1990s, he said that he regretted the decision and admitted that it was a mistake. The historian Kenneth Alford has told me that he does not believe that all these objects were destroyed. This may be the case, but then that means that there was deception (the property cards that state that the objects were destroyed) and graft (the objects were presumably stolen). I personally think the Nazi art was incinerated, and Faison’s comments reflect that view. The property cards preserved in the National Archives also state that the director of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point ordered the destruction of Nazi art as well. A second uncomfortable and difficult topic also concerns US Monuments officers, including key ALIU personnel, some of whom kept in touch with the Nazi looters after the war. To take one example, Bruno Lohse, who was Hermann Göring’s art agent in Paris during the war and the effective chief of the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or Special Task Force of the Reichsleiter Rosenberg) in the French capital for an eighteen-month period, maintained relationships with Theodore Rousseau, Jim Plaut, and Faison (the original ALIU team). This contact extended over several decades and included a robust correspondence and frequent personal visits. Rousseau had moved on from the ALIU to become the curator for European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and later chief curator and deputy director under Hoving). Before Lohse’s death in 2007, the former plunderer recounted how Rousseau visited him regularly in Munich (and at his country retreat on the Tegernsee in the Bavarian Alps). Lohse also told of visiting New York and meeting with Rousseau. He recalled that Rousseau had a relationship with Madame Berthe David-Weill, a wealthy French American, and Rousseau and Lohse drove around the city in her black Bentley. Considering that Lohse had helped loot and process the important David-Weill collection in Paris during the war, he found it remarkable that he was now in her car—in Lohse’s mind, an episode that symbolized his rehabilitation as an art dealer. Rousseau’s papers in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which have recently been cataloged and made accessible to scholars, testify to the Rousseau-Lohse relationship. The papers document Rousseau’s visits with the former Nazi plunderer not only in Munich but also in other European cities 10. Kurtz, America and the Return of Nazi Contraband, 144.


Five Uncomfortable and Difficult Topics

(including Paris and Zürich).11 The documents also show Lohse traveling to New York and visiting Rousseau at the Met.12 They do not, however, record any sales from Lohse to the Met. The museum maintains a database today that contains information about sellers or benefactors of all objects in the collection, but Lohse’s name did not come up in a search. This does not mean that Lohse did not use a representative or intermediary (this was a common tactic of his). On the other hand, it is notable that Rousseau did not destroy the papers, which may suggest that he kept a certain distance from the former plunderer and did not buy directly from him. Lohse told me that he provided information to Rousseau about where to find and purchase artworks. That is, Lohse served as a kind of informant or information broker. In return, Lohse hoped that Rousseau would spread the word about him and his wares. Lohse wrote Rousseau on April 8, 1959, “As soon as I again see something really important, I shall notify you. I am sure that you will find something suitable there, since, in the last years, a number of important pictures have entered American museums and private collections through me.”13 We do not know what works Lohse sold to other American museums and collectors—or even whether to believe him in this regard. But the fact remains that many of the Monuments officers enjoyed distinguished museum careers in the postwar period and this was a time of rapid, perhaps unparalleled growth of American museums. Some 93 percent of American museums were created after 1945.14 The growth also included a massive expansion of collections and entailed American curators buying a great deal of art in Europe. Lohse apparently found a niche here and insinuated himself in this transatlantic trade. Our understanding of this trade, of course, remains fragmentary, but there are enough pieces to permit a picture of it. Former OSS ALIU officer Otto Wittmann, who went on to direct the Toledo Museum of Art, recalled in 1995 that [Ted Rousseau] became very helpful to the Toledo Museum because he couldn’t buy everything he wanted to buy for the Metropolitan. He knew 11. Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives (MMAA), Rousseau Papers, box 33, folder 7, Lohse to Rousseau (May 25, 1964). 12. MMAA, Rousseau Papers, box 26, folder 4, Telegram from Rousseau to Lohse (May 2, 1961). 13. MMAA, Rousseau Papers, box 26, folder 4, Lohse to Rousseau (April 8, 1959). The German reads: “Sobald ich wieder mal etwas wirklich Bedeutendes sehe, werde ich Sie benachrichtigen. Ich nehme sicher an, dass mal etwas für Sie geeignetes dabei sein wird.” 14. Getty Research Institute, Special Collections (GRI, SC), No. 940109, S. Lane Faison Oral History (October 1992), Richard C. Smith statement, 208.

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everybody in Europe, and much art was offered to him because he represented the Metropolitan Museum. Ted would call us in Toledo and say, “There is a great painting I’d like to buy, but I can’t. If you want it, go and see so-and-so.” So-and-so being a dealer or an agent, usually some obscure person we never heard of, but they all went to see Ted Rousseau because of his long European connections.15

One work that Wittmann recalls coming his way was “a great Rubens altarpiece, The Crowning of Saint Catherine, from the church in Malines, in Belgium, which came out of the church in the eighteenth century and had been in English collections.” Wittmann continued, “It ended up in Goering’s hands, but somehow made its way after the war to that collecting point in Munich. It was eventually returned to its rightful owner, who lived in Canada, and he had put it on the market.”16 While there is no evidence that Lohse played a role in selling this Rubens to Toledo, it was acquired by the museum in late 1950, which would have made it possible for him to have been involved (Lohse traveled to Canada in 1950 and had contacts there). It is also striking that Rousseau directed a former Göring picture to his old OSS/ALIU colleague. To be clear, the Rubens had been restituted, but Rousseau probably knew of it in connection with his ALIU endeavors (he personally drafted the ALIU report on Göring). It stands out as an artwork, with the Toledo Museum of Art today proclaiming that it is “widely considered the most beautifully painted religious picture by Peter Paul Rubens in the United States.”17 The museum stated it has no records of ever having bought anything from Lohse, and there is nothing in the archival record connecting Lohse to the Rubens painting. But more generally, it appears probable that Lohse was not lying when he wrote Rousseau in April 1959, “in the last years, a number of important pictures have entered American museums and private collections through me.”18 A third uncomfortable and difficult topic concerns the relationship between Jewish dealers and Nazi looters, before, during, and after the war. Prior to 1939 one finds individuals like Paul Graupe, a German Jewish Berlin auctioneer, who conducted business with Nazi dealers. Graupe often hosted 15. GRI, SC, No. 940109/26, Otto Wittmann, oral history (1995), 116. 16. Ibid., 116–17. 17. See Toledo Museum of Art, search$0040/0/invno-asc?t:state:flow=3959eb94-1fa7-4ed8-b98e-aaeea491d464 (accessed April 1, 2015). 18. MMAA, Rousseau Papers, box 26, folder 4, Lohse to Rousseau (April 8, 1959). The German reads: “Denn durch mich sind in den letzten Jahren eine ganze Anzahl bedeutender Bilder in amerikanische Museen und Privatsammlungen gelangt.”


Five Uncomfortable and Difficult Topics

auctions of Jewish property (Judenauktionen): works that came on the market because of Nazi persecution. Heinrich wrote Faison in 1951, “One may deplore Graupe’s behavior, particularly as a refugee, for dealing with the Nazis and catering to their peculiar aesthetic tastes, but he was clearly within his legal rights to do so at that time.”19 During the war, collaboration was sometimes a matter of survival. Allen Loebl and Manon Loebl, French Jewish dealers who directed the Galerie E. Garin in Paris, assisted Lohse, Walter Andreas Hofer, and Göring more generally in finding artworks. They even directed their family’s famed art library to Göring. But the Loebls and their family lived under the threat of deportation to the East. Other Jewish art historians and dealers who collaborated with the Nazis in an attempt to avoid persecution included Max Friedländer and Vitale Bloch in the Netherlands.20 There also may have been contact during the war between Jewish dealers who were not in jeopardy and the Nazi authorities. The most contentious case, and in many ways the most illustrative, concerns the Wildensteins, arguably the wealthiest and most powerful art dealers in the world after World War II. The question of the relationship during the war between the Nazi dealer Karl Haberstock and Georges Wildenstein has been the subject of great interest. When the journalist Héctor Feliciano wrote about a meeting between the two men in Aix-en-Provence—that is, the unoccupied Vichy zone—in November 1940, the Wildensteins disputed his account (and the implications of collaboration) and sued. This resulted in litigation that lasted years. Although Feliciano prevailed in the initial decision and the appeals process, he endured a difficult and expensive legal ordeal. There is no doubt that Wildenstein and Haberstock did business before the war: for example, they partnered in the sale of a Gauguin work, Riders on the Sand, in a deal that played out in May–June 1939.21 But it is the later period of the German occupation of France that is contested. There is considerable evidence supporting the narrative that the two men met. An October 1941 report by J. Homer Butler of the Treasury Department discussed a meeting in Aix, where “Aberstock [sic] showed Mr. Wildenstein a letter signed by Hitler commissioning him to buy certain art works for Germany. . . . He asked Mr. Wildenstein to purchase for him certain art works.”22 The report goes on to say that they discussed the currency in 19. NARA, RG 59, Records Central European Division 1944–53, box 5, Theodore Heinrich to S. Lane Faison (February 13, 1951). See, more generally, Fischer-Defoy and Nürnberg, Gute Geschäfte, 47–52. 20. Yeide, Akinsha, and Walsh, AAM Guide to Provenance Research; Yeide, Dreams of Avarice. 21. Kessler, Karl Haberstock, 24–25, 50. 22. NARA, RG 131, Foreign Funds Control, box 12, J. Homer Butler to John W. Pehle (October 9, 1941).

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which payment would be rendered, with Wildenstein suggesting dollars, but the record is mute about whether transactions actually occurred. In his postwar testimony, Haberstock stated: In the presence of Duquoi [sic] I had in the fall of 1940 a conference with Mr. Wildenstein in Aix-en-Provence. The theme of this conference was the possibility of acquiring objects from his possessions [sic], especially the purchase of a large painting by Tiepolo. Mr. Wildenstein expressed his great confidence in Mr. Duquoi [sic], who was supposed to represent during his absence the interests of the firm in France. I took leave from him in good spirits.23

According to Haberstock, “Wildenstein discussed the possibility of getting his pictures out of the Chateau de Sourches so that Dequoy could keep the gallery open.”24 The issue, then, seems to be not whether the two men met in Aix but what they discussed and agreed on. After the war former Monuments officers reported on continued contact between the Wildensteins and Haberstock. In a letter from 1951 Heinrich wrote Faison of “a top secret agreement with Wildenstein and that our dear friend K. Haberstock, now in the course of installing himself in new quarters nearly opposite the Haus der Kunst [. . . Haberstock] is sub-rosa a Wildenstein partner and that their secret go-between is Grace Morley’s former protégé Heinz Berggruen.”25 Berggruen (1914–2007) was a German Jewish journalist turned art dealer who had been in the United States after 1936 but returned to Europe after the war and created a successful business, amassing a world-class art collection in the process. It is not clear whether this Wildenstein-Berggruen-Haberstock partnership ever materialized, but the discussion among these well-informed Monuments Men merits serious consideration. It appears that the Wildensteins had contact with another problematic Nazi figure in the postwar period. Dr. Bruno Lohse counts among the most culpable art plunderers of all time. He ranks after Kajetan Mühlmann, who looted art in Vienna (1938–39), Poland (1939–43), and the Netherlands (1940–44). Yet Lohse was a key operative in Paris who rose to become deputy 23. National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, MSS3 (Faison Papers), Box 4, “Translation of Statement of Karl Haberstock” (June 4, 1945). See also NARA, RG 260, OMGUS, Restitution Research Records, box 446, Haberstock statement, (n.d. [July 1945?]). 24. NARA, RG 59, Lot 62D-4, Ardelia Hall, box 17, “Special Report on the Firm of Wildenstein & Cie, Paris Art Dealers” (n.d.); NARA, RG 239, box 79, Karl Haberstock, “Beziehung zu G. Wildenstein bzw. Roger Dequoy” (September 2, 1945). 25. NARA, RG 59, Records Central European Division 1944–53, box 5, Theodore Heinrich to S. Lane Faison (February 13, 1951).


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commander of the ERR facility in Paris. In this capacity, he helped direct over seven hundred works to his chief patron, Göring, and the Reichsmarschall never paid for any of them. Lohse often told of the role he played during the war in saving the famed archive and photo collection of the Wildensteins in Paris. He also claimed that after his release from a French prison in 1950 that Monsieur Georges Wildenstein, the family patriarch at the time, called him to the Wildensteins’ headquarters on the Rue La Boétie and offered him a choice of three paintings. Lohse recalled how Monsieur Georges instructed him to select one of the three Dutch old masters as a sign of appreciation from the House of Wildenstein. Lohse declined, saying that by saving the documents he had just done his duty. Whether this account is truthful remains uncertain. Less ambiguous is that Lohse partnered after the war with the Zürich attorney Frederic Schöni in creating a foundation that held Lohse’s art. Called the Schönart Stiftung, it was based in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. When Lohse died in 2007, the investigation that ensued showed that the Schönart Stiftung held the looted “Fischer Pissarro” (Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps), and other suspect works by Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir. Schöni had died in 1981, but Lohse continued to use the deceptively named foundation to conceal his valuable art collection. What is particularly striking is that Schöni also served for many years as an agent of the Wildensteins in Switzerland. In this capacity Schöni shipped hundreds if not thousands of artworks, worth millions of dollars, from Switzerland to New York. The shipments went to the Wildensteins and presumably entailed property they already owned. Some of these works were found to have been looted, such as three medieval pieces that came from the Czartoryski family in Kraków. The pieces had been shipped in 1949 and then sold by the Wildensteins to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston.26 On learning that the objects were stolen in 1952, the MFA returned them, and the issue was largely forgotten.27 There were brief reports of the episode in the New York Times, but these included few details (such as Schöni’s role), and the Wildensteins weathered the storm. But what to make of the fact that Lohse partnered with the person who appeared to be the Wildensteins’ Zürich attorney? Lohse told me that he often visited the Wildensteins’ gallery in Paris and provided vivid details of the experience. Dinners were quasi-theatrical productions, with the hosts moving the group from venue to venue. One room 26. NARA, RG 59, Lot 62D-4, Ardelia Hall, box 9, Frederic Schöni, “Special Information on Antiquities” (October 29, 1949). 27. NARA, RG 59, Lot 62D-4, Ardelia Hall, box 9, Ardelia Hall to Director of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (May 9, 1955). See also New York Times, “Takes Museum to Court.” One enamel was titled The Baptism of Christ and the other, a plaque made in Cologne, The Children of the Furnace.

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would have eighteenth-century décor and feature paintings by Antoine Watteau and François Boucher; the next course would take place among French impressionists—the finest Monets and Renoirs one had ever seen—followed by a room with Picassos and Matisses. These visits back in the 1980s were confirmed independently by two friends of Lohse’s who accompanied him, who also reported that Lohse had a close relationship with Daniel Wildenstein (Georges’s son and the subsequent head of the house). Also intriguing is a letter that Alec Wildenstein (one of Daniel’s sons) wrote to a friend of Lohse’s after the latter’s death in March 2007: Alec expressed sorrow (“I was very sad on reading your letter”) and then acknowledged, “I have known Bruno for more than sixty years and he was always a good friend.”28 If this statement proved true, Alec (1940–2008) knew Lohse since at least 1947, when the former was seven years old. There appears, then, to have been a connection between Lohse and the Wildensteins. In that both parties were art dealers, it is likely that there was a business relationship. The particulars of their dealings remain unknown, but simply the fact that members of the famed Jewish French American art-dealing dynasty had a relationship with a Nazi art plunderer represents an uncomfortable and difficult topic. Of course, one can argue that Lohse had endured his judicial punishment for his wartime actions, and there was nothing illegal or even unethical about the Wildensteins doing business with him. Like many others complicit in the criminal programs of the Nazi regime, Lohse rehabilitated his career after the war. He reestablished himself in the international art market and, well, as the saying goes, “business is business.” But the fact that he trafficked in Nazi-looted artworks after the war—and was found to have such works in his possession at the end of his life (e.g., Le Quai Malaquais, Printemps)—makes Lohse a problematic figure in the postwar period as well. Lohse remained in contact with other former Nazis and maintained a close relationship with Göring’s daughter, Edda Göring, who allegedly was an heir in his will. The case for the rectitude of interacting with Lohse would have been stronger had he not possessed stolen art and had he kept different company. Fourth, the Degenerate Art Law of May 31, 1938, is dubious and casts a pall over the current disposition of the modern art purged by the Nazis that is in museums and collections around the world. This law legalized the deaccessioning of the works in German state collections and serves as the basis for the new owners having good title today. The exception is when objects were privately owned and on loan to the German state collections when they were 28. Alec Wildenstein to Peter Griebert, April 4, 2007. Letter in possession of the author.


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purged by Adolf Ziegler’s committee in the late 1930s. The May 31, 1938, law, one of the few Nazi laws to have been upheld by the Allies, is on increasingly shaky foundations.29 To appreciate the problematic nature of the law, it is helpful to review its genesis. Hitler inquired about “liquidating” the increasingly large stockpile of modernist works from German state collections. Haberstock then provided the first draft of the legislation, which in turn was formulated into Nazi parlance by Goebbels and his staff in the Reich propaganda ministry. The law then came into existence on May 31, 1938, by way of a Führer decree. The law itself involves highly anti-Semitic formulations and was cut from the same cloth as the Degenerate Art exhibition and the accompanying ideological tracts (e.g., Wolfgang Willrich’s Die Säuberung des Kunsttempels). Jews were swindling the German people—profiting from the hoax that was modern art. Abstract works or those that featured colors not true to nature revealed biological inferiority (a physical problem with perception) or “cultural bolshevism” (a rootless, international art)—or both. The May 31, 1938, law was the “German” response. In the postwar period American occupation officials in Germany took the lead in recognizing the continued validity of the law. In fact, the decision to uphold the law in early 1947 came from a relatively low-ranking figure in the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS), Benjamin Habberton, the chief of the Legal Advice Division. It was not an issue decided by Military Governor-General Lucius Clay or High Commissioner for Germany John J. McCloy. In reviewing thousands of pages of documents on the evolution policy, one finds almost no mention of the fate of the seized “degenerate” works. The rationalizations of the OMGUS officials, when they finally articulated the reasons for upholding the law, also appeared ridiculous. Habberton stated that the May 31, 1938, law “might be applied to preserve and protect public morals by confiscating indecent or obscene art displays.” He noted that in the United States “the police power of the State may be used to protect public morals” and cited a Supreme Court decision about the enforcement of Prohibition (Samuels v. McGurdy of 1925) to support the principle.30 To justify a Nazi law decreed by Hitler by comparing it to US anti-obscenity laws is uncomfortable and difficult. This opinion, of course, reflected the fact that many American officials did not like the modern art, which was another factor 29. For a fuller elaboration of the implications of the May 31, 1938, law, see Petropoulos, “From Lucerne to Washington, DC.” 30. NARA, M 1941, roll 14, Benjamin Habberton to Richard Howard (January 3, 1947). I thank Marc Masurovsky of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project for his guidance in locating this document.

Jonathan Petropoulos


working against the nullification of the May 31, 1938, law.31 The primary impulse, I believe, was that the OMGUS officials did not want to open a “Pandora’s box” and try to restitute the roughly twenty-one thousand modern works purged from German state collections. The decision to uphold this law is now under attack. What was once quiet, almost off-the-record grumbling about the acceptance of the Nazi law is now articulated openly. In 1999 Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, then the deputy director of the Bavarian State Paintings Collection, who oversaw a museum of modern art in Munich, was quoted on the liquidation of modernist works in state collections: “They knew damn well the price was too low. So there is the question: Do they have a right to paintings that they bought for such a low price? I would say no, they don’t have a right.”32 Schulz-Hoffmann was unusual in making this statement at the time, even though it reflected a commonly held view among German museum officials. More recently, Jutta Limbach, the former president of the German constitutional court who from 2003 until her death in September 2016 headed the high-profile arbitration commission bearing her name that considers cases of purportedly Nazi-looted art, stated that the 1938 law needs to be “lifted” (aufgehoben).33 As noted in an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “Limbach’s views regarding art restitution carry weight.”34 I personally do not see the law or postwar policy being revised in a significant way. Too many works were removed from German state collections and have been dispersed too widely. To borrow a phrase from Theodor Fontane, “das ist ein zu weites Feld” (in other words, it presents an intractable problem). Fifth and finally, certain US museum officials have behaved in an ethically questionable manner with regard to the purged modern art. Around the time of the Nazi purges, directors like Alfred H. Barr Jr. of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) bought this art and sent desperately needed foreign currency to the Nazi state. Recent scholarship, such as the work of Adam Tooze, has shown how dire the situation was in terms of foreign reserves: already in 1934 the German state had only one week’s reserves.35 In other words, Barr and other American museum directors provided critical 31. Wilford, Mighty Wurlitzer, 101–2; Saunders, Cultural Cold War, 253. 32. Carla Schulz-Hoffmann, quoted in Ryback, “‘Even Bigger Scandal,’” 156; Schulz-Hoffmann, “Letter to Editor.” 33. Prantl and Vahland, “Limbach empfiehlt Rückgabe ‘entartete Kunst.’” 34. Ibid. The German reads, “Limbachs Wort hat in Sachen Kunst-Rückgabe Gewicht.” 35. Tooze, Wages of Destruction, 71.


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financial support to the Nazi regime in the late 1930s. The chain of this foreign currency went from Barr and MoMA to the émigré art dealer Curt Valentin, who had established a gallery in Manhattan selling the purged “degenerate” works; to Valentin’s partner in Berlin, Karl Buchholz, who had a thriving business in modern art; to the Reich Propaganda Ministry, which oversaw the liquidation program; to the Reichsbank.36 Barr and Valentin became especially close, with the MoMA director writing to the FBI during the war, vouching for the dealer. Valentin died suddenly of a heart attack in 1954, but arranged for his papers to go to the MoMA Archives (minus key business ledgers, among other sanitized documents).37 Barr not only bought the art that sent foreign currency back to the Reich Propaganda Ministry, but he continued to buy this art—and send Germany dollars—after the start of war on September 1, 1939. We have numerous examples: works by Paul Klee, Max Beckmann, and others, with Barr’s purchases continuing into late 1941.38 The MoMA director seemed to adhere to the letter of the law—he did not appear to violate the Trading with the Enemy Act after December 1941—but there are still ethical questions raised by his purchases, especially from September 1939 to November 1941. There were reports then that the funds raised from selling off the purged art would go to the German war machine, and we know now that these reports were accurate. While some of the funds went to German museums as compensation for works lost in the “degenerate” art purges—the idea being that they could now acquire officially acceptable works as replacements—part of the revenue went to an account for “war related purposes.”39 But to repeat, there were contemporaneous reports that the Nazis would use the funds from the deaccessioning program for military purposes. This was one of the reasons that Jewish dealers, Georges Wildenstein included, boycotted the Fischer Lucerne sale of works removed from German museums in June 1939.

36. Petropoulos, “Bridges from the Reich”; Tiedemann, Die “entartete” Moderne, 239–45; Grohmann, “Recollection,” 5–8; Buchholz, Karl Buchholz. 37. See (accessed September 23, 2010); and Tiedemann, Die “entartete” Moderne. 38. Paul Klee’s Man Sinking before the Crown has a MoMA accession number of 333.1941 and an “E.K Inventar” number of 15652. See MoMA’s online catalog, php?object_id=67110; and the Datenbank zum Beschlagnahmeinventar der Aktion “Entartete Kunst,” alue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=SdetailList&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F (accessed June 26, 2013). 39. An account at the Reichsbank was used by the Foreign Currency Discretionary Commission for War-Economic Purposes (“Devisenzuteilungskommission zu kriegswirtschaftlichen Zwecken”). See Francini, Heuss, and Kreis, Fluchtgut—Raubgut, 201.

Jonathan Petropoulos


The behavior of MoMA officials more recently with regard to works once declared “degenerate” also raises ethical questions. The Grosz v. MoMA case that played out between 2006 and 2010 involved three pictures by George Grosz in the MoMA collection for which the artist’s heirs say he was never paid.40 The three works had a complicated history, but they had all been in the possession of Grosz’s Jewish dealer, Alfred Flechtheim, who suffered persecution during the Third Reich. Other works lost by Flechtheim after 1933 and before his untimely death in 1937 have been subject to restitution agreements, although scholars have debated the extent to which he endured duress during the Third Reich.41 But clearly, there was enough merit to the claims in Grosz v. MoMA to warrant a careful consideration by a judge. MoMA’s director, Glenn Lowry, even proposed a compromise solution that entailed joint ownership of one of the paintings: Portrait of the Poet Max Hermann Neisse.42 In this same letter dated July 20, 2005, that Lowry wrote the Grosz heirs, he also noted, “We appreciate the collegial manner in which we have worked with you and remain committed to continuing the process.” Lowry then wrote in a letter of January 18, 2006, that he had not refused the claim and that “any decision on a matter like this must be considered by the Museum’s Trustees.”43 To this end, he commissioned former US attorney general Nicholas deB. Katzenbach to write a report on the three works, which was delivered in the spring of 2006. Katzenbach recommended against the return of the three pictures. The Board of MoMA voted to accept this recommendation on April 11, 2006, and the Grosz heirs were duly informed of the denial. The Grosz heirs filed suit on April 10, 2009, with the express intention of not tripping the three-year “demand and refusal” clause in force in New York State (in some instances there is a six-year period). They believed they had beaten the clock by a day or two. After a great deal of pretrial work—expert reports, depositions, and motions to compel the other side to produce documents—that cost an enormous sum of money, MoMA’s attorneys moved for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations, claiming that Lowry’s letter of July 2005 constituted “an implied refusal.” This meant that the Grosz heirs’ lawsuit was filed too late (by a matter of months). Somehow MoMA won 40. Martin and Lilian Grosz v. The Museum of Modern Art, Case No.: 09 Civ. 3706 (CM)(THK), US District Court, Southern District of New York. A useful overview of the case is provided by Cohan, “MoMA’s Problematic Provenances.” 41. See, e.g., the range of opinions represented in Bambi and Drecoll, Alfred Flechtheim. 42. Glenn Lowry to Ralph Jentsch, July 20, 2005 : documentation in conjunction with Grosz v. MoMA, USDC, SDNY, 09 Civ. 3706 (cm) (THK). 43. Glenn Lowry to Ralph Jentsch, January 18, 2006: documentation in conjunction with Grosz v. MoMA, USDC, SDNY, 09 Civ. 3706 (cm) (THK).


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this argument, as determined in a district court ruling of January 6, 2010. The appeal was also subsequently denied. Also denied was a consideration of the full range of the facts of the case. The Grosz heirs never got their day in court on the issue of whether the works were relinquished under duress by Flechtheim and whether, as a result, Grosz never received the compensation he was due. I would say that Lowry’s tactics are akin to Barr buying art from the Nazis after September 1939. They are not illegal, but are they ethical? Is resolving this dispute based on statute of limitations, especially in this case when they did not use the date of the MoMA Board of Trustees’ vote, consistent with the Association of Art Museum Directors’ Guidelines and the Washington Principles? When a museum invokes defenses like the statute of limitations, it, in a sense, serves as “judge and jury” of the case: at least in the sense that the successful use of this defense precludes consideration by an “outside” party of such issues as whether a work was stolen or relinquished under duress. In Grosz v. MoMA the museum subsequently sent lawyers back to court and secured an injunction to destroy copies of many of the documents produced during the litigation.44 These documents could not be released to the public or kept on file by the lawyers and experts witnesses. I had been engaged to serve as an expert witness by the claimants and was forced to destroy documents in my possession. This is certainly not consistent with the spirit of the Washington Principles. The uncomfortable and difficult truth here, I believe, is that certain museum officials (not all, but certain ones) are not living up to previous pledges and agreements about best practices.45 History rarely plays out in black-and-white terms. The gray area of mixed motives, inconsistent behavior, self-interest, and expediency often prevails. The “good” actors sometimes make mistakes, and the “bad” ones sometimes surprise by acts of generosity. There are few instances of the latter where Nazis are involved, but the fact that Lohse talked to me on many occasions and helped illuminate murky historical events may serve as an example. The saga of Nazi looting and Allied restitution is dramatic fare, as Hollywood has shown with films such as The Train (1964), the Indiana Jones series in the 1980s, The Monuments Men (2014), and Woman in Gold (2015). Scholars and journalists must avoid falling for the simplified portrayals and the easy dualisms that have crept into the public historical imagination. These renditions may make us feel better, and they may prove commercially successful, but they do not make for good history. 44. Grosz v. MoMA, USDC, SDNY, 09 Civ. 3706 (cm) (THK) (November 30, 2011). 45. See the World Jewish Restitution Organization report of June 25, 2015, and the attendant press coverage, such as Ilnytzky, “Report: Museums”; and Schubert, “Prisoners of War.”

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References Adam, Peter. 1992. Art of the Third Reich. New York: Abrams. Akinsha, Konstantin. 2001. “Ante Topic [sic] Mimara, ‘the Master Swindler of Yugoslavia.’” ARTnews 100, no. 8: 155–58. Alford, Kenneth. 2012. Allied Looting in World War II. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ———. 2013. Sacking Aladdin’s Cave: Plundering Hermann Göring’s Nazi War Trophies. Atglen, PA: Schiffer. Bambi, Andrea, and Axel Drecoll, eds. 2015. Alfred Flechtheim: Raubkunst und Restitution. Berlin: de Gruyter. Buchholz, Godula. 2005. Karl Buchholz: Buch- und Kunsthändler im 20. Jahrhundert. Cologne: DuMont. Cohan, William. 2011. “MoMA’s Problematic Provenances.” ARTnews 110, no. 11: 74–85. Decker, Andrew. 1984. “A Legacy of Shame.” ARTnews 83, no. 10: 53–76. Edsel, Robert, with Bret Witter. 2009. The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. New York: Center Street. Fischer-Defoy, Christine, and Kaspar Nürnberg, eds. 2011. Gute Geschäfte: Kunsthandel in Berlin, 1933–1945. Berlin: Aktives Museum Faschismus und Widerstand in Berlin. Francini, Esther Tisa, Anja Heuss, and Georg Kreis. 2001. Fluchtgut—Raubgut: Der Transfer von Kulturgütern in und über die Schweiz, 1933–1945, und die Frage der Restitution. Zürich: Chronos. Grohmann, Will. 1963. “A Recollection.” In Artist and Maecenas: A Tribute to Curt Valentin, 5–8. New York: Marlborough-Gerson Gallery. Honan, William. 1997. Treasure Hunt: A New York Times Reporter Tracks the Quedlinburg Hoard. New York: Fromm. Hoving, Thomas. 1981. King of the Confessors. New York: Simon and Schuster. ———. 2015. “Super Art Gems of New York City.” artnet, FEATURES/hoving/hoving9-27-01.asp (accessed July 18, 2015). Ilnytzky, Ula. 2015. “Report: Museums Increasingly Avoid Returning Nazi-Looted Art.” Associated Press, June 25. Kessler, Horst, ed. 2008. Karl Haberstock: Umstrittener Kunsthändler und Mäzen. Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag. Kurtz, Michael. 2006. America and the Return of Nazi Contraband: The Recovery of Europe’s Cultural Treasures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Maertz, Gregory. 2007. “The German War Art Collection.” In Kunst und Propaganda im Streit der Nationen, 1930–1945, edited by Hans-Jörg Czech and Nikola Doll, 238–45. Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum. New York Times. 1952. “Takes Museum to Court.” September 14. Petropoulos, Jonathan. 2011. “Bridges from the Reich: The Importance of Émigré Art Dealers as Reflected in the Case Studies of Curt Valentin and Otto Kallir-Nirenstein.” Kunstgeschichte: Open Peer Reviewed Journal, 1–41. www.kunstgeschichte ———. 2014. “From Lucerne to Washington, DC: ‘Degenerate Art’ and the Question of Restitution.” In Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937, edited by Olaf Peters, 288–307. New York: Neue Galerie.


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Prantl, Heribert, and Kia Vahland. 2014. “Limbach empfiehlt Rückgabe ‘entartete Kunst.’” Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 19. Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. 2000. Plunder and Restitution: The U.S. and Holocaust Victims’ Assets. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Ryback, Timothy W. 1999. “An Even Bigger Scandal.” ARTnews 98, no. 11: 148–57. Saunders, Frances Stonor. 1999. The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. New York: New. Schubert, Jessica. 2014. “Prisoners of War: Nazi Era Looted Art and the Need for Reform in the United States.” Touro Law Review 30, no. 3, article 10. Schulz-Hoffmann, Carla. 2000. “Letter to Editor.” ARTnews 99, no. 2: 32. Tiedemann, Anja. 2013. Die “entartete” Moderne und ihr amerikanischer Markt: Karl Buchholz und Curt Valentin als Händler Verfemter Kunst. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Tooze, Adam. 2008. Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. London: Penguin. Weber, John Paul. 1979. The German War Artists. Columbia, SC: Cerberus. Wilford, Hugh. 2008. The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. World Jewish Restitution Organization. 2015. Report, June 25. pdf2015/ReportMuseums.pdf. Yeide, Nancy. 2009. Dreams of Avarice: The Hermann Goering Collection. Dallas, TX: Laurel. Yeide, Nancy, Konstantin Akinsha, and Amy Walsh. 2001. The AAM Guide to Provenance Research. Washington, DC: American Association of Museums. Zweig, Ronald. 2002. The Gold Train: The Destruction of the Jews and the Looting of Hungary. New York: Morrow.

The End of Art and the Future of Criticism in Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

Malika Maskarinec

If we expect art history, and critical inquiry more generally, to be defined by the attention given to its objects, then the art historian Wilhelm Worringer’s account of how he found his disciplinary calling is most remarkable for what goes unmentioned. In a foreword to a reprint of his incredibly popular dissertation Abstraktion und Einfühlung (Abstraction and Empathy), which inspired a generation of German artists, Worringer recalls an obligatory visit to the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro to study drapery.1 He walks aimlessly through the museum on a “stimmungslos grauer Vormittag” (monotonously gray morning) as a clearly bored and directionless doctoral student.2 The plaster casts surrounding him are of no interest, but suddenly into the room walks Georg Simmel, whom he recognizes from Simmel’s occasional Berlin lectures. The encounter propels Worringer into a state “des geistigen Rauschzustandes” (of spiritual ecstasy), whose culminating product is his dissertation.3 The encounter was so significant, he continues, because “in den Stunden, 1. The popularity of Abstraktion und Einfühlung is evidenced by its probable status as the most often printed dissertation. See Lang, “Wilhelm Worringers Abstraktion,” 84. For recent discussions of Worringer’s work, see Böhringer and Söntgen, Wilhelm Worringers Kunstgeschichte; and Donahue, Invisible Cathedrals. 2. Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung, 52. All translations from German are my own unless otherwise noted. 3. Ibid., 53. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705739 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



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die ich in einer bloß gegenwartsatmosphärischen Verbindung mit Simmel nun noch in den Trocaderoräumen zugebracht habe, der sturzartig plötzliche Geburtsakt jener Gedankenwelt in mir vollzogen hat, die dann in meine Doktorarbeit eingegangen ist” (in those hours, which I spent in a merely atmospheric bond with Simmel, still in the rooms of the Trocadéro, the sudden, explosive birth of that world of ideas took place in me that then entered my dissertation).4 Simmel—and not any of the dull objects surrounding the aspiring art historian—is the decisive catalyst. Equally absent from Worringer’s recollection are the scholarly authorities from the nascent field of art history and the fading discipline of philosophical aesthetics to whom he was greatly indebted. Although his dissertation most clearly responds to the Munich professor Theodor Lipps’s then well-received but now largely forgotten empathy aesthetics, and although the central concepts of the dissertation—Kunstwollen (the will-to-art) and Raumscheu (agoraphobia)—are borrowed from the preeminent art historian Alois Riegl, Worringer gives absolute credit to Simmel, the famously eclectic sociologist, for the sudden conception of his dissertation. With this gesture Worringer seeks to place himself outside art history and aesthetics, a removal echoed in his dismissal of the study of drapery, then a sine qua non. This scene of inception, in which the modern art historian becomes inspired by a prominent intellectual rather than through an aesthetic encounter with an artwork, is symptomatic of a particularly modern relationship between the critic, the work of art, and the public, a situation Worringer both participates in and seeks to accelerate through his rhetoric. In his cultural diagnosis, which I explore throughout this article, Worringer argues that art has lost its social significance and is being replaced by works of critical labor, especially reflections about art. Worringer, who was simultaneously a critic and self-appointed spokesperson for Germany’s artists during the first three decades of the twentieth century, most dramatically enacts this substitution of criticism for art in the pathos-laden lecture “Künstlerische Zeitfragen” (“Artistic Questions of the Time”), which was first delivered on October 19, 1920, for the Munich section of the Deutsche Goethe-Gesellschaft and then printed in 1921. Expounding, in escalating degrees of hyperbole, from the end of expressionism to the end of painting to the end of art, Worringer concludes that artworks of the recent past represent little else than a vestigial organ burdening today’s cultural body. Worringer’s end-of-art thesis belongs both to a litany of contemporaneous eulogies for expressionism and to a more extensive history of similar dec4. Ibid., 52.

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larations that begins with G. W. F. Hegel’s aesthetics.5 Despite the unmistakably polemical and nationalistic tenor it inherits from those texts, Worringer’s thesis deserves attention because it articulates the challenges particular to the modern situation of the arts: since the arts have lost their sensuous immediacy, the critic shoulders the responsibility of mediating between the work and the public. Referencing thermodynamic law, Worringer follows the end-of-art thesis with the striking assurance that the end of art does not imply a disintegration of creative cultural activity; the redemptive proposal attempts to redress the loss of sensuous immediacy and to recover social expressions of creativity even though, granting his thesis, the making of art has become socially irrelevant. In a distinctly self-laudatory tone, Worringer argues that the modern art critic and the books he writes will effectively assume the role previously performed by artists and artworks. Was suchen wir noch die schöpferische Sinnlichkeit unserer Zeit in den Malbildern, wo sie in unseren Denkbildern vorliegt? Nicht in ihren Bildmalereien, sondern in ihren geistigen Erkenntniserweiterungen—die natürlich nicht identisch sind mit ihren wissenschaftlichen Erkenntniserweiterungen, aber gerade neuerdings in sich häufenden glücklichen Fällen sich mit ihnen decken—, liegen die wahren Kunstleistungen unserer Zeit. In ihrer geistigen Vitalität ist sie allein heute noch kulturell reichsunmittelbar und darum schöpferisch vollkräftig. [Why are we still searching for the creative sensuousness of our time in painted images when it is present in our thought-images? Not in the paintings of images but in the cognitive expansions of knowledge—which are naturally not identical to the scientific expansions of knowledge but have just recently become coextensive with them in an increasing number of happy cases—lie the true artistic accomplishments of our time. Only creative sensuousness, with its cognitive vitality, is still culturally and imperially immediate and therefore creatively vigorous.]6

What was once expressed by artists and experienced by the public in the medium of art is now made possible through critical attention to artworks of 5. On the many contemporaneous eulogies for expressionism at the end of World War I, often delivered by those who had championed the movement before the war, see the thorough discussion in Bushart, Der Geist der Gotik, 202–6. Worringer’s diagnosis also had a significant afterlife in similar eulogies, most famously as cited in Lukács, “‘Größe und Verfall’ des Expressionismus.” 6. Worringer, “Künstlerische Zeitfragen,” 905 (hereafter cited parenthetically as KZ). As throughout the German tradition, Worringer’s use of Geist and its derivatives is difficult to capture in modern English; it could be translated as “mind,” “spirit,” or “cognition.”


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

the past, attention mediated by the cognitive labor of the critic and the thoughtimages (Denkbilder) he produces. Delivered as a lecture, both the end-of-art thesis and the redemptive proposal should be understood as performative acts that, through enunciation, seek to bring art to an end and prescribe a new course for cultural activity. As the heir to the creative energy previously dedicated to the making of art, the critic’s role is distinctive in nature. Its particularity can be gleaned from the scene of Worringer’s vocational calling. Although the effusive credit Worringer gives Simmel suggests a scholarly exchange between the two (an exchange that did later take place), it is also clear in the scene that he does not mean to credit Simmel with a substantive contribution of arguments or ideas to his dissertation.7 Relying heavily on the semantics of mood, Worringer admits that they neither interact nor speak with each other yet experience a “Berührung” (contact) mediated by the “atmosphärisch-fluidale” (atmospheric-fluidal) quality of the room they inhabit.8 Despite the inability of the museum’s sculptural artworks to affect him, and despite not speaking to the older scholar, Worringer feels himself taken up into the shared, ebullient space, a connection that propels him into nothing less than ecstasy. That imagined fluidity containing the two men functions much like the inverse of Walter Benjamin’s aura; instead of placing what is physically proximate at an auratic remove, it permits what remains at a distance (in this case, Simmel himself) to seem so near that it touches the perceiver. Informing this account is one of the key terms of Worringer’s dissertation: empathy (Einfühlung). In 1921 Worringer returns to empathy to redefine the role of the modern critic, who expertly closes the gap between perceiver (the public) and perceived (the work of art). For Worringer, empathy defines a relationship to one’s surroundings; it is the ability to recognize oneself in external objects and results in the feeling of being absorbed in, and so fully at home in, one’s lived world. As a practitioner and arbitrator of empathy, the ideal critic—an ideal Worringer takes himself to embody—mediates the public’s empathic relationship to the art of the past. The critic should return the historically distant to affective proximity. He does so by enabling vivid, visual, and sensuously immediate experiences that modern art no longer delivers. 7. For example, Simmel employs the key terms of Worringer’s dissertation in the essay “Zur Ästhetik der Alpen” to contrast how we appreciate a stony mountain landscape (through abstraction) and a fluid seascape (through empathy). For a discussion of the mutual influences between Worringer and Simmel, see Müller-Tamm, Abstraktion als Einfühlung. 8. Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung, 54.

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Criticism itself must then become pictorial and creates a cultural product that the public can empathize with in absorbed rapture, granting individuals a sense of existential harmony. Given the lecture’s proximity to the end of World War I and the political and economic chaos of the early Weimar Republic, such a proposal naturally carries strong political, indeed nationalistic, tones.9 While expressionism (repeatedly compared, by Worringer and his contemporaries, with the threatening example of the French art scene) had been celebrated before and during the war as a sign of the country’s cultural revival, its postwar eulogies gave voice to a feeling of social crisis and fragmentation, to a prevalent despair that not only was Germany’s industrial or economic productivity stagnant, but so was its cultural output. Worringer’s end-of-art thesis, which surprisingly speaks against such pessimism and characterizes expressionism as a necessary growing pain on the way to true cultural regeneration, calls for, in barely disguised terms, the reunification and reenergization of the German cultural body by means of the critic. Because this particular form of empathic, mental activity is ultimately intended to ensure a feeling of world harmony, criticism is imagined to perform an immense task for a country as damaged and splintered as Germany was in 1920. A cohesive set of vitalist metaphors provides the rhetorical foundation for Worringer’s end-of-art thesis. Worringer explicitly defends them as reflecting an original form of perceptual insight that relies not on rational but on vital grounds. This intuitive method reads the dashes of the “künstlerischen Modehandschrift” (fashionable artistic handwriting) of expressionism to establish the strength of its vital source (KZ, 902). The method borrows—as the enigmatic reference to handwriting suggests—from Ludwig Klages’s recently published and incredibly popular vitalist graphology Handschrift und Charakter (Handwriting and Character, 1917), where he proposes that handwriting not be read rationally, that is, as meaningful language, but vitally, as the graphic 9. That Worringer’s cultural diagnosis disguises a nationalist polemic is unsurprising given the enduring historical entwinement of end-of-art theses and nationalist German laments concerning the lack of, or need for, a unifying national spirit. For a discussion of this entwinement, its origins in Romantic visions of an autonomous state and autonomous art, and its renewed acuity in the 1920s, see Geulen, Das Ende der Kunst. In an even more pronounced expression of his proclivity to absolutist politics than his 1921 lecture, Worringer celebrates the ascending Benito Mussolini as creating an atmosphere of cultural vitality in which modern art can flourish (Carlo Carrà, one of the few contemporary artists Worringer openly and unequivocally admired, is the predominant example for such a vital art). See Worringer, “Carlo Carrà’s Pinie am Meer.”


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

manifestation of the writer’s inner will, whose relative strength or weakness can be ascertained from the formal qualities of the script. For Klages and for Worringer, this method of intuitive perception represents a countermovement to the excessive rationalization of modern life and the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften), as so famously articulated by their contemporary Max Weber.10 With the acuity of an X-ray, Worringer’s intuitive reading of art’s vital signs identifies a sickly “Körper der Kunst” (body of art), a metaphor that invokes the equally unhealthy body politic (KZ, 900). Precisely because the body of art is a vital affair, this intuitive method can quickly come to the diagnosis that art has been robbed of a life-sustaining environment and is consequently a “hopeless case.” Aber gerade, weil die Legitimation des Expressionismus nicht im Rationalen liegt, sondern im Vitalen, stehen wir heute vor seiner Krise: . . . seine Vitalität ist erschüttert. Vital hat er ausgespielt, nicht rational. Und nur darum ist der Fall hoffnungslos. Mag der Expressionismus heute seine Luftwurzeln noch so gierig nach allen Seiten ausstrecken: der Raum um ihn herum ist leer geworden, und ausgesogen und gibt nichts mehr her an lebendigen Nährkräften. [But expressionism is on the verge of crisis precisely because its legitimation is to be found in the vital and not the rational: . . . its vitality is shattered. Vitally it has come to its end, not rationally. And only for this reason is its case hopeless. Today expressionism can greedily extend its aerial roots in all directions, but the space around it has become empty and drained, and it no longer provides any living, nourishing energy.] (KZ, 896)

Here, as throughout the lecture, expressionism is personified as an organism at a vacuous and thus inhospitable high altitude. Like Klages’s handwriting, which relies on environmental resistance to sustain the inner vitality of the will, this vacuum makes expressionism impossible. Deprived of blood, breath, and atmospheric saturation, the body of expressionism gasps its final breath. In conformity with these metaphors, Worringer largely places the blame for the end of expressionism on its social situation, specifically its alienation from the public sphere. The secularization and concomitant commercialization of art have reduced artworks to commodities for consumption.11 Although, 10. Weber, Wissenschaft als Beruf. 11. It remains unclear what artists or body of work Worringer takes “expressionism” to refer to. Whether expressionist art could be identified by any stylistic commonalities was hotly debated from the 1910s through the 1930s. In this vein, a contemporary critic of Worringer’s, Wilhelm Hausenstein, declares, “Daß keiner Expressionist sei, ließe sich etwa so gut behaupten wie dies, daß alle es

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to Worringer, expressionist artists neutralize their works to guarantee popular appeal, such works still suffer from a lack of popular demand, for which reason art is now accessible only in the modern museum, a mausoleum for art removed from vital, social concerns.12 In a more compelling moment, Worringer explains the alienation from the public as a central predicament of modern art, namely, that “die Unmittelbarkeit des sinnlichen Erlebens, die Voraussetzung aller natürlich gewachsenen Kunst” (the immediacy of sensuous experience, the condition of all naturally grown art) has been lost (KZ, 904). That the modern artwork is not sensuously immediate, and so does not address the public, is of considerable importance not only to expressionism, which prided itself on thwarting the facile consumption of art, but also to modernism as we understand it today. When painting abandoned a mimetic paradigm and self-reflexively turned inward to uncover its (medial) conditions, the subject matter, meaning, and significance of painting—indeed its very status as “art”—were no longer readily apprehensible to the amateur eye. Yet, precisely the rationalization of modern life renders voluptuous experience valuable and the nonintuitability of the modern artwork lamentable; at no other point in history, writes Worringer, has sensuous experience been so lacking and so desirable. The real tragedy of expressionism is that it has conformed to and exacerbated the modern form of life rather than provided a haven from what is known through calculative reasoning (KZ, 897). Because the public’s alienation from art is largely responsible for the end of expressionism, declaring the body of art dead does not, Worringer insists, malign contemporary artists; instead, it relieves them of an unfair burden, the continued production of art. If artists recognize that art has ended, they will be freed from a vexatious tumor, from “Fremdkörper” (foreign bodies), a term that highlights Worringer’s hope to establish a new cultural-political homogeneity seien oder einige: weil es nicht feststeht, was Expressionismus ist” (It could just as well be claimed that no one is an expressionist as that everyone or some people are, because it has not been determined what expressionism is) (Die Kunst im diesem Augenblick, 14). Furthermore, as Charles Haxthausen points out, Worringer himself, despite his many published articles on the style of expressionism over multiple decades, never names a single example (“Modern Art,” 126). Given his focus on the visual arts and preeminently painting, I take Worringer to be addressing the circle of painters— which includes Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Franz Marc—who had warmly embraced Abstraktion und Einfühlung when it was published. 12. At times Worringer measures the vital pulse of the arts as a popularity contest, remarking that the high number of visitors to theaters and concert halls suggests that drama and music are surely in the best of health, whereas the tenuous supposition that the closure of museums would be little cause for public outrage attests to their decline (KZ, 904). At the same time, he describes expressionist painting as a commercialized or kitschy mass movement (KZ, 902).


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

(KZ, 898). Worringer, invoking his earlier warm reception by expressionist painters who had eagerly celebrated Abstraktion und Einfühlung as legitimizing their abstract style, goes so far as to claim that artists have given him a mandate to relieve them of this burden—a claim intended to help establish the authority he needs to declare the end of art.13 While “Künstlerische Zeitfragen” begins with what Worringer characterizes as the end of expressionism, it soon becomes apparent that the end of this single artistic movement marks the apotheosis of a much more far-reaching crisis. It begins with the onset of secularization at the end of the baroque era and the growing conceptualization of art as the expression of a single personality rather than of a collective subjectivity: in terms Worringer does not employ, expressionism marks the final stage of sober Apollonian art appreciated at a distance, which has come at the cost of Dionysian experiences of collective, empathic ecstasy. As a result of its secularization and the emphasis on individualistic expression, art has grown progressively unable to perform the social functions it once fulfilled and still fulfills in primitive cultures. Since it points to the failure of expressionism to perform the social functions of art, Worringer’s end-of-art thesis is a sociological assertion rather than an ontological one, as the vitalist metaphors might at first suggest. Worringer pointedly dismisses the continued existence of “artists” creating “artworks” as an adequate criterion for the future of art and instead upholds an alternative sociological approach: “Betrachten wir die Kunst einmal nicht, wie wir es allein gewohnt sind, von den Künstlern her, sondern von ihrer soziologischen Verankerung her, so ist unverkennbar, daß schon mit dem Ende des Barock das Schicksal der bildenden Kunst als soziologische und kulturelle Selbstverständlichkeit besiegelt war” (If, for once, we consider art not from the perspective of artists, as we are solely accustomed to doing, but from the perspective of its sociological anchoring, then it is unmistakable that the fate of the visual arts as a sociological and cultural given was already sealed at the end of the 13. Following the publication of Abstraktion und Einfühlung, Kandinsky and Marc sought benediction from Worringer as an academic authority in art history. Although Worringer never returned their amicable gestures, his 1910 foreword to a reprint of the dissertation does acknowledge these artists as bearing a family resemblance to his own work, a shared rehabilitation of abstractionism: “Jene verkannten und belächelten Werte abstrakten Kunstwollens, die ich wissenschaftlich zu rehabilitieren suchte, sie wurden gleichzeitig—nicht willkürlich, sondern aus inneren Entwicklungsnotwendigkeiten heraus—auch künstlerisch neu erobert” (Those misunderstood and derided values of an abstract will-to-art, which I sought to rehabilitate academically, were also at the same time—not coincidentally, but out of internal necessities of development—newly artistically seized) (Abstraktion und Einfühlung, 48). For an account of the excited reception of Worringer’s dissertation among expressionist artists and critics, see Bushart, Der Geist der Gotik, 53–70.

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baroque) (KZ, 898). Seen from this perspective, art has simply become socially irrelevant, that is to say, it no longer matters. Worringer previously advocated for such a sociological approach to art in Abstraktion und Einfühlung. Relying heavily on Riegl’s notion of Kunstwollen, a creative impulse that universally motivates the making of art, Worringer defines art as the objectification, the having-become-object, of the psyche. Worringer variously refers to this source as a “Disposition” (disposition), “Drang” (drive), “Bedürfnis” (need), or “Weltgefühl” (world feeling). Because forms are the necessary product of a collective psyche, all stylistic variations in the history of art are not due to limited technical ability or materialist determinations; instead, their creators simply could not have desired or produced forms other than those they made: “Jedes Kunstwerk ist seinem innersten Wesen nach nur eine Objektivation dieses a priori vorhandenen absoluten Kunstwollens” (Every artwork is, according to its innermost essence, merely an objectification of this absolute will-to-art that exists a priori).14 The particularities of that psychic disposition and its material expression depend on a community’s relationship to its lived world. A successful artwork effectively mediates a society’s felt relationship to its environment; art is nothing more than “eine fortlaufende Registrierung des großen Auseinandersetzungsprozesses, in dem sich Mensch und Außenwelt seit Anbeginn der Schöpfung und in aller Zukunft befinden” (a continuous registration of the great process of altercation in which the human being and the external world have found themselves since the beginning of creation and will find themselves for all eternity).15 Abstraction and empathy, in turn, reflect two possible attitudes a community may possess toward its environment. These two opposed tendencies are not conditioned by environmental differences but by the perceptual capacities and conceptual sense-making schemas available to a community as it attempts to grasp the phenomenal world. Cultures with a disposition to abstraction, which Worringer deems primitive cultures, lack the cognitive tools necessary to describe the behavior of objects as lawful; as a result they feel overwhelmed by the chaotic multitude of sensory information constitutive of perception and suffer from a fear of space. The disposition to empathy possessed by more advanced cultures is characterized by the means needed to regard the world as lawful, which permits a feeling of harmony and security. These two differing attitudes toward the world account for contrasting styles: the feeling of agoraphobia is expressed as a repression of spatial depth and an 14. Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung, 69. 15. Ibid., 144.


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

emphasis on simple, linear forms, while the empathic disposition gives rise to organic forms with which the beholder can identify. Although Abstraktion und Einfühlung is often celebrated as interrupting a Western bias in the field of aesthetics by expanding the scope beyond classicism, a clearly defined teleology remains in place whereby humanity progresses toward greater empathy as it acquires the necessary cognitive apparatus. Worringer’s evaluation of art from the perspective of its social anchoring in the collective will rather than from the perspective of the artist’s personality makes possible the paradoxical situation that there may continue to be “artists” who express themselves in “artworks” but no art in the empathic sense. This seeming paradox points to a much deeper problem of modern art that Stanley Cavell has elegantly described as the threat of fraudulence. On this view, Immanuel Kant’s aesthetics marks a historical turning point after which the success of an artwork cannot be evaluated by the standards or rules of a genre. Moreover, it becomes constitutive of aesthetic experience that there are no objective properties to which the experience can be attributed and no concepts by means of which the singularity of an artwork could be grasped. Consequently, the question of what qualifies as art must be asked and answered anew in encounters with each and every artwork. In Cavell’s words, the situation of modern art is such that not only the amateur public but also “professionals themselves do not quite know who is and who is not rightly included among their peers, whose work counts and whose does not.”16 The open question on what counts as art entails endless negotiations and also introduces the possibility of fraudulence: that an object might posture as art (perhaps, for example, because it obeys certain conventions) without genuinely being such. In this context, making and judging art entails the crucial moral question of whether an artwork can be trusted in its claim to be art, whether it possesses genuine intentions. With closely related terminology—Cavell speaks of fraudulence as imitation—Worringer accuses expressionism of being imitative art (Imitätskunst). Expressionism looks like art and has deceived critics and the public alike into accepting it as such, but this situation amounts to a grievous case of deceit. Exaggerating the central claim of Hans Vaihinger’s popular Philosophie des Als Ob (Philosophy of “As If,” 1911) that we make sense of the world through continuously narrated fictions, Worringer writes that the fiction of expressionism is not a harmless act of play but instead “ein unheimliches Gespensterspiel” (an uncanny play of specters), in which hollow conventions, 16. Cavell, “Music Discomposed,” 188.

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mere apparitions of art posing as art, deceive us (KZ, 902). The present merely produces spectral artworks that conventionally preserve the external forms of art but lack the constitutive intentionality and concomitant function. They are mere objects that we cannot empathize with and that cannot help us overcome our feelings of antithesis vis-à-vis the external world. Worringer argues that expressionism has succeeded in disseminating the fiction that its spectral art is true art on the basis of a formal similarity between expressionist artworks and the abstract art of past “primitive” epochs. These superficial formal similarities (Worringer most likely means the absence of spatial depth, the foregrounding of linear elements, and the break with naturalist representation) precipitated the erroneous judgment that expressionism embodies cultural vitality: that it expresses a collective attitude as past abstract art did for its respective community. Using “expressionism” to refer also to the historically reoccurring stylistic preference of abstraction, Worringer summarizes the current movement’s act of deception as follows: Aus der äußeren Deckung ihrer Formen mit unseren stilistischen Experimenten lasen wir frohlockend zuerst nur die große Bestätigung für uns heraus und merkten nicht, daß gerade in dieser Gegenüberstellung die Bloßstellung für uns lag. Denn die Täuschung der formalen Ähnlichkeit konnte auf die Dauer nicht aufrechterhalten bleiben: je mehr in uns die Kraft des Schauens für diesen echten metaphysisch legitimierten Expressionismus der Vergangenheit wuchs, um so mehr schrumpfte unser bißchen Atelierexpressionismus zu jenem Miniaturformat zusammen, über das hinaus uns zivilisierte Europäer kein noch so starker und inniger Wunsch mehr trägt. [From the superficial congruence of their forms with our stylistic experiments, we at first gleefully discerned only a great confirmation of ourselves and did not notice that precisely in this juxtaposition lay our unmasking. For the deceit of formal similarity could not be maintained in the long run: the more that our power of seeing this true, metaphysically legitimated expressionism of the past grew within us, the more our little bit of atelier expressionism shrunk to that miniature format beyond which our desire is no longer strong or ardent enough to carry us civilized Europeans.] (KZ, 897)

In one respect Worringer’s criticisms broadly target art-historical formalism that derives its conclusions from merely stylistic congruencies on the surface of artifacts—specifically Heinrich Wölfflin’s famed method of contrasting epochal styles by displaying two reproductions side by side during his lectures—rather than paying heed to how and whether these exterior manifestations remain secured to a psychic substratum. The passage might then also be understood as


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

justification for his art-historical method, so devoid of rudimentary descriptions of the abstract and empathic styles that it remains overwhelmingly unclear what the determining formal characteristics of each might be. But the passage more clearly targets those artists who had turned to Abstraktion und Einfühlung to identify expressionism with past epochs of abstract art, and so both deceived themselves and propagated the widespread cultural misunderstanding that their works were a further instance of abstraction. In doing so, expressionism not only achieved a false legitimacy (a charge that could be extended circa 1920 to both the cubists and the Dadaists, who embraced socalled primitive art as legitimization of their own art); the comparison also disseminated a false social self-understanding and false self-representation of modern German culture as a culture of abstraction. The threat of fraudulence and the dismissal of formalist art history raise a key question concerning the grounds on which we distinguish between art that we can and cannot trust. While the founders of the nascent art-historical discipline, Riegl and Wölfflin, appeal to stylistic criteria for defining what belongs to the canon of, for example, Renaissance or baroque art, the challenge of modernism is that no such criteria exist for determining objects as art in the first place. Art is an object that attains its status despite not holding to generic or medial conventions or bearing any specific formal properties to which an aesthetic experience could be traced. As Cavell puts it, “There are no such proofs possible for the assertion that the art accepted by a public is fraudulent” (190). The only ground for making this distinction is, so Cavell says, an individual aesthetic encounter with the object: “The only exposure of false art lies in recognizing something about the object itself” (190) or, put differently, “works of art are objects of the sort that can only be known in sensing” (191). The critic’s job, then, is to communicate that experience to others, to make possible the sensuously specific encounter with the object through which one can come to “see” the object as a work of art. In Kantian terms: because the aesthetic judgment “this is beautiful”—the judgment that this is an object worth sensuously engaging with and an object to be trusted—is based on feeling rather than concepts, I must appeal, on subjective grounds, to the common sense or sensibility of others and solicit their agreement; their agreement depends on a similar encounter with the object, on being moved or engaged as I was, on being brought “to see” what I saw. By declaring the end of art, Worringer may seem simply to elide or eliminate the problem of fraudulence. But his charge against expressionism provides two measures with which the critic can judge art as genuine. First, debunking expressionism with the claim that its style merely imitates past styles suggests that simply obeying given conventions rather than reinventing

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art is constitutive of fraudulence. Second, although the claim that expressionism does not express a collective subjectivity relies both on a metaphysics of the will and a sociological or functionalist definition of art (both of which are, of course, foreign to aesthetics in the Kantian tradition and Cavell), Worringer can be understood to say that the artists of today only speak a private language that renders the communicability of aesthetic experience impossible. Their artworks leave the public and critic alike at a loss because there is nothing about them or the experience of them that could bring another person to experience or “see” the object in the same way. The radical subjectivism of expressionist “artworks” defies or undermines any kind of common sensibility. Although Worringer’s end-of-art thesis is delivered in a pessimistic tone reflective of the Weimar Republic’s political and economic turmoil, the lecture promises a path to cultural regeneration. The drive to expression that once sustained the body of art now sustains cognition: cognition that was originally (and unfortunately) intellectual and conceptual in nature, but will become increasingly sensuous and pictorial. Today’s public finds the original task of art, the expression of collective subjectivity and the negotiation of humanity’s relationship to its environment, most adequately satisfied in thought. For this reason, criticism exceeds its role as unmasking fraudulent art and becomes the art of the future. In sum, cognition about art will replace the visual arts as the new “organ of our existence.” Unsere schöpferische Sinnlichkeit hat sich nun einmal—und darauf will ich hinaus, denn hier legt die positive Kehrseite so vieler negativen Feststellungen—in ein ganz anderes Geäder transponiert und sublimiert: sie ist in unsere Intellektualität geflossen, um von dort aus Geist zu werden. Die Zwischenperiode einer unfruchtbaren Intellektualität, die wir anscheinend überwunden haben, war vielleicht nötig, um schöpferische Geistigkeit zu gebären. Geistigkeit nicht im blassem Sinne gemeint, sondern eben bluternährt von der ganzen schöpferischen Sinnlichkeit der Zeit. Kurz, Geist als Kunst, als lebendigstes und sinnlichstes Organ unserer Existenz. [Our creative sensuousness has simply—and this is my point, because it is the positive flip side of so many negative assessments—been transposed and sublimated into an entirely different vein: it has flowed into our intellectuality so as to become, from there, cognition. The intervening period of an infertile intellectuality, which we seem to have overcome, was perhaps necessary to give birth to creative cognition. Cognition is not meant in the pale sense, but rather precisely as being nourished by the entire creative sensuousness of the age as if it were in our blood. In short, the mind as art, as the most lively and sensuous organ of our existence.] (KZ, 905)


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

Later in the lecture Worringer further specifies the nature of this mental activity as the field of “Kunsterkenntnis” (knowledge of art), which consists in critical reflection on the art of the past; that is, the art of the future is thinking about the art of the past. The degree to which Worringer’s lecture actually proposes substituting thinking about art for art becomes explicit in his turn to thermodynamics and its contemporary application in a sociological domain as theoretical backing for his argument.17 This line of argumentation is crucial because it establishes a strong lineage between art as artifact and art as cognition, meaning that the end of art is not so much a historical break as a new stylistic phase. Worringer conceives of the collective will expressed in the work of art as an energetic quantity that obeys the law of conservation of energy: despite the exchanges of energy that take place between bodies or transformations in type (e.g., from potential to kinetic energy), the total quantum of energy in a closed system remains constant.18 Worringer imagines the history of cultural activity to be just such a closed system in which the form or style of artifacts may change, but the force of the expressive drive remains constant. The path of history takes arabesque turns and returns as it registers the changing relationship between humanity and its varying environments, but the energy contained in this process remains the same. Worringer summarizes the argument in Formprobleme der Gotik (Formal Problems of the Gothic). “Konstant ist nur der eigentliche Stoff der Menschheitsgeschichte, die Summe der menschlichen Energien, unbegrenzt variabel aber die Zusammensetzung ihrer einzelnen Faktoren und die daraus resultierenden Erscheinungsformen” (Only the actual material of human history, the sum of human energies, is constant; the composition of its individual factors and the resulting phenomenal forms are, however, boundlessly variable).19 At the onset of World War I, Worringer euphorically invokes the same sum of all energy to rally the nation—“Wir werden siegen . . . mit den aufs höchste angespannten Muskeln unserer geistigen Energien, werden siegen nicht zuletzt auch mit der Gewalt unserer so glänzend organisierten und disziplinierten körperlichen Energien” (We will triumph . . . 17. Wilhelm Ostwald, the primary representative of “sociological energetics,” argued that human activity consists in transfers of psychic energy, transfers that can be quantified and lawfully described with the laws of physics when studying social behavior. 18. Worringer reminds his audience, “Das Gesetz von der Erhaltung der Kraft gilt auch für die künstlerische Kraft” (The law of the conservation of energy also holds for artistic energy) (KZ, 909). The law, discovered by Julius von Mayer (among others) in the mid-nineteenth century, maintains that the quantity of energy in the universe remains constant, even if it undergoes transformations in type. 19. Worringer, Formprobleme der Gotik, 169.

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with the fully flexed muscles of our mental energy; we will also triumph not least with the force of our so brilliantly organized and disciplined corporeal energy)20 —and then again appeals to the same energies in 1920 to justify the argument that art history could become the new site of cultural expression. Since the law of conservation of energy guarantees that the will-to-form remains constant, the end of the visual arts does not entail, indeed cannot entail, that something has been lost from human culture or that human creativity will go unexpressed. It is significant that Worringer’s redemptive declaration depends on an exclusive focus on the first law of thermodynamics while neglecting the second. After all, the trajectory of human history could be interpreted equally well as progressive entropy, as it often was in the 1920s.21 Just as energy will dissipate from a more energized to a less energized area until a state of equilibrium is reached, so will human history move from an energetic state of productivity to one of static equilibrium. The most renowned advocate of such a historical model, Oswald Spengler, identifies modernity as one historical phase of decadence in which humanity has been robbed of productive tensions (i.e., differences in energetic states) and thus finds itself without the energetic differentials needed for further cultural activity. Throughout his work, Worringer too identifies scenes of cultural fatigue. The Gothic’s vertical forms, for example, required such inputs of energy that they were then eclipsed by the Renaissance.22 For Worringer, World War I and the end of expressionism repeat the Gothic situation, as made clear in Spätgotisches und expressionistisches Formsystem (The Late Gothic and Expressionistic System of Form, 1925). Yet in 1920 Worringer seems hopeful that the latest defeat of German corporeal and artistic energies was only a necessary precondition for a 20. Worringer, “[Untitled],” 20. This essay is often referred to as “Geschlechterkampf” (“Battle of the Races”). 21. Oswald Spengler is the paradigmatic voice for a model of history based on the law of entropy. See Haus, “‘Dynamisch-konstruktives Kraftsystem,’” 50. Haus points out that the Russian constructivist painter El Lissitzky, among others, conceived of his painting as an intervention in a historical trajectory of decline, namely, as a regeneration of its energetic resources. Anson Rabinbach traces the preoccupation with individual corporeal fatigue and cultural decline after the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics more broadly in The Human Motor. 22. In Formprobleme der Gotik, which Worringer understands as a comprehensive account of the formative energies of the Germans, he writes: “Es mag hier schon gesagt sein, dass der gotische Formwille sich in dieser seiner höchsten Kraftleistung ausgegeben und totgelaufen hat; nur so erklärt sich die Ohnmacht gegenüber der Invasion des fremden Kunstideals der Renaissance” (It can already be said here that the Gothic will-to-form exhausted itself and waned in this, its highest accomplishment of force; only so can its powerlessness against the invasion of the foreign artistic ideal of the Renaissance be explained) (Formprobleme der Gotik, 230–31).


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History

spiritual regeneration in cognition. Ironically, Worringer invokes the very production of Spengler’s pessimistic history as definitive evidence for modernity’s regenerative capacities (KZ, 907). Worringer’s diagnosis closely reflects—yet departs in important ways from— Hegel’s more renowned end-of-art thesis in two crucial aspects. Hegel too declares that art is a thing of the past; and like Worringer, he thereby means not that there will no longer be such a thing as art but rather that art cannot adequately negotiate modern self-understanding or satisfy the desire to see that self-understanding represented in a sensuous, material object. Put simply, art no longer matters as it once did, but need not, for that reason, become completely obsolete.23 Although art will then no longer play a role in the continued development of humanity—both because modern self-understanding has achieved a degree of conceptual abstraction in which it no longer profits from reflection realized in material artifacts and because rationalized (bureaucratic) modern life does not lend itself to being represented in sensuous forms (i.e., it cannot be made beautiful)—Hegel still leaves open the possibility that art may continue as an autonomous entity. In this respect, he may be thought of as predicting modern art’s turn inward to address the questions “What is art?” or “From what is art made?” Worringer’s claim that there may continue to be “art” and “artists” who do not fulfill the traditional function of art might likewise be understood as describing a new aesthetic autonomy through which art may come to matter in a new way. But as the charge of Imitätskunst makes clear, Worringer believes that fully autonomous art no longer deserves to carry that name because it fails to fulfill the social functions constitutive of art; it amounts to a very different type of activity that does not stand in any historical continuity or legitimacy to past art. The new art of criticism also explicitly strives against autonomy since it seeks to overcome subjective expression and to open the academic discipline of art history to social concerns. 23. “In allen diesen Beziehungen ist und bleibt die Kunst nach der Seite ihrer höchsten Bestimmung für uns ein Vergangenes. Damit hat sie für uns auch die echte Wahrheit und Lebendigkeit verloren und ist mehr in unsere Vorstellung verlegt, als daß sie in der Wirklichkeit ihre frühere Notwendigkeit behauptete und ihren höheren Platz einnähme” (In all these respects art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place) (Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik, 25; Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, 11). I borrow the formulation that art may “no longer matter” from Robert B. Pippin, who explains that Hegel does not so much argue that art’s mattering comes to an end, but that one way of mattering (giving expression to Geist or spirit) has passed (“What Was Abstract Art?”).

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At first glance, Hegel and Worringer also appear to be in agreement on a second crucial aspect: namely, that modernity tends toward greater abstraction in its means of self-representation; in other words, the self-understanding of modernity is better negotiated in philosophical or discursive reflection, in particular in reflection on art, than in the sensuous form of the artwork itself. In Hegel’s modernity, the artwork no longer invites sensuous experience or religious reverence, only critical reflection, a “Wissenschaft der Kunst” (science of art).24 Modernity has abandoned the aesthetic encounter with sensuous immediacy and instead introduces critical reflection on the nature of the artwork— what constitutes a genuine or fraudulent work—as its substitute. If something like the making of art continues, these artworks will not be defined by their sensuous particularity but by their conceptual, discursive, or critical dimension. Hegel thereby seems to anticipate Worringer’s claim in 1920 that the study of art (Kunsterkenntnis) is more satisfying than the creation of artworks. Put differently, in modernity thinking about art, for Worringer and Hegel, is a more valuable medium for answering the question of what art is than artworks are themselves. Along these lines, Worringer writes that more insights have been made into the nature of art “deutend, erkennend, betrachtend, theoretisierend” (by interpreting, perceiving, observing, and theorizing) than by the artistic artifacts of the recent past (KZ, 905). On this reading, not only does the critic assume unprecedented importance in helping determine what counts as a work of art, but thinking or speaking about art has eclipsed the objects themselves. “Ja, allein das, was über die bildende Kunst selbst in diesem Jahrzehnt geschrieben worden ist—mag es nun Deutung der gegenwärtigen oder der vergangenen sein—hat uns mehr vom Wesen der Kunst gesagt als das, was die gemalten Bilder dieser Zeit uns von Kunst offenbarten. Unsere Kunsterkenntnis ist eben tiefer als unsere unmittelbare künstlerische Schöpfungskraft” (Even only what has been written about the visual arts in this decade— whether it is an interpretation of contemporary or past art—has told us more about the nature of art than what the painted images of this age have revealed 24. “Was durch Kunstwerke jetzt in uns erregt wird, ist außer dem unmittelbaren Genuß zugleich unser Urteil, indem wir den Inhalt, die Darstellungsmittel des Kunstwerks und die Angemessenheit und Unangemessenheit beider unserer denkenden Betrachtung unterwerfen. Die Wissenschaft der Kunst ist darum in unserer Zeit noch viel mehr Bedürfnis als zu den Zeiten, in welchen die Kunst für sich als Kunst schon volle Befriedigung gewährte” (What is now aroused in us by works of art is not just immediate enjoyment but our judgment also, since we subject to our intellectual consideration (1) the content of art and (2) the work of art’s means of presentation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of both to one another. The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it was in days when art by itself as art yielded full satisfaction) (Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik, 25–26; Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, 11).


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to us. Our knowledge of art is simply deeper than our immediate artistic power of creation) (KZ, 905). Indeed, Worringer’s call for reflection on the status of art might be understood to introduce the possibility of something like conceptual art, in which the specificity and sensuousness of the object is secondary to the problem it poses (that could just as well be, and often is, formulated in texts that accompany the object).25 Cavell too highlights conceptual art as a possible consequence of the heightened significance of criticism, though for him it represents a dangerous threat since it means that what an artwork has to say no longer relies on seeing or experiencing the object. As he writes: “Perhaps it would be nicer if composers could not think, and felt no need to open their mouths except to sing—if, so to say, art did not present problems. But it does, and they do, and the consequent danger is that the words, because inescapable, will usurp motivation altogether, no longer tested by the results they enable.”26 For Cavell, it remains crucial that the critic (or the artist-critic) must speak to bring attention to the work in question, but if his words alone communicate all the object itself has to say, then it no longer is a matter of art at all. To understand Worringer’s promise that cognition about art will replace the making of art as a solicitation for increasingly conceptual art would be a gross misinterpretation. For his call to a new form of criticism is specifically intended to interrupt a modern preference for discursive reflection over immediate, sensuous perception. Rather than demand that the work of art be conceptual, Worringer’s discipline of Kunsterkenntnis calls for the criticism of art, indeed, for thinking in general, to become less intellectual and more sensuous. More specifically, he advocates for the graphic or pictorial potential of language to access an irrational and vital truth. Ideally, criticism then approximates the very form of the artwork and thereby opposes a modern trend to abstraction. Though Worringer gives us no concrete example of this hermeneutic organon of truth, three features stand out: empathic feeling, the pictoriality of thinking, and its format as a book. The high estimation of empathy as enabling historical understanding, which dates at least to Johann Gottfried von Herder, achieved prominence in the early twentieth century in Wilhelm Dilthey’s defense of the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften), in Weber’s interpretative sociology (verstehende 25. By conceptual art I mean to refer to a tradition beginning with Marcel Duchamp and culminating in the conceptual art of the 1960s, for which—according to one of its representatives, Sol LeWitt—the “ideas alone can be works of art. . . . All ideas need not be made physical” (quoted in Lippard, Six Years, xiii). The idea of the work is paramount, its material manifestation secondary if not superfluous. 26. Cavell, “Music Discomposed,” 207–8.

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Soziologie), and in the work of Max Scheler, whom Worringer lauds. All three are deeply concerned with how historical, sociological, and also philological studies of the human can be guarded against the rise of positivism. To “understand” or to “empathize” with one’s subject (matter) represents a counterproposal to the rationalizing, causal explanations of the natural sciences that attempt to subsume every observed phenomenon under a general law. In Dilthey’s work, understanding, in contrast to explanation, specifically aims to uncover the psychic motivations behind the actions of historical agents as singular, that is, nongeneralizable cases. It furthermore admits the subjective standpoint of the scholar, who will inevitably see himself reflected in the object while striving through historical differentiation toward objectivity. Like Scheler and Klages, Worringer intervenes in this widespread methodological debate (Methodenstreit) by lamenting the excessive power of rational thought. In its place, he proposes a type of cognition of a quasi-mystical nature that is rooted in feeling and made manifest in images rather than language. Worringer thus locates empathy, which is equated here with intuition, on a fine border of working with the “means of science” yet, at the same time, beyond science. For that reason he strangely retains the format of the book, despite his insistence on breaking through the discursivity of language and despite the book so strongly being under fire in the 1920s as yet another instrument of rationalizing power on par with the technology of war.27 In the lecture Worringer makes it explicit that empathy possesses the singular capacity to penetrate the veils of historical distance and superficiality so as to render transparent the true conditions of form: a specific will-to-form. Unnamed but supposedly recent tomes of criticism that exemplify the new power of empathy have the unique capacity to bring us to see and know what lies beyond the forms of art. Criticism registers a modern disposition to empathy in a twofold way: it originates in the critic’s empathic relation to the past, and it rehabilitates the relationship between the public and the sphere of art by directing their empathic attention. Ob es sich um griechische Kunst oder indische, um javanische oder mittelalterliche Kunst handelt: plötzlich sind die Bücher da, die sie mit Mitteln der Wissenschaft, aber unter dem Antrieb eines überwissenschaftlichen Ahnungsund Einfühlungsvermögens für uns transparent werden lassen und uns ihre Schau vermitteln. Also daß wir nun nicht mehr nur ihre Form, sondern auch ihre Formvoraussetzungen erkennen. 27. For a discussion of attacks on the book in 1920s, concomitant with new faith placed in visual media, primarily cinema, see Hagner, Zur Sache des Buches, 27–35.


Wilhelm Worringer’s Art History [Whether it is Greek art or Indian, Javanese or medieval art: suddenly the books are there that, using the means of science but under the impetus of an intuitive and empathic capacity beyond science, make it [art] transparent to us and mediate its exhibition. It is for that reason that we now no longer merely recognize its form but also the preconditions of its form.] (KZ, 905–6)

The inauguration of empathic understanding as the new instrument of thought is embedded in Worringer’s history of how culture progressively acquires the cognitive apparatus needed to overcome a primitive fear of space. As abstraction becomes an illegitimate artistic style (because culture gradually acquires greater reason), past abstract art becomes the subject of historical inquiry, performed from the modern, empathic standpoint. Crediting the study of art as having rendered abstract art “transparent,” Worringer writes: “Wenn auch hinter Schleiern einer nie zu überbrückenden Entfernung wurden sie (Gotik, Barock, primitive und asiatische Kunst) unvermutet transparent für uns, durchsichtig bis zu ihren letzten seelisch-geistigen Hintergründen. Und je näher sie uns als Erkennenden kamen, um so mehr entrückten sie uns als Schaffenden” (Even though behind the veils of an unbridgeable distance, they [the Gothic, the baroque, primitive, and Asian art] became unexpectedly transparent to us, clear all the way to their psychic and spiritual backgrounds. And the closer they came to us as something cognitive, the farther they receded from us as something creative) (KZ, 897). In terms of this progressive distance that history ascribes to abstraction, expressionism can be understood as a historical regression precipitated, so Worringer suggests in passing, by the inhospitable sociohistorical conditions of the past decade.28 In its service to historical inquiry, it becomes clear that an empathic disposition does not simply represent one possible cultural disposition—it is also the condition for understanding empathy and abstraction as historical occurrences. In contrast, the psychic disposition to abstraction cannot reflect on its own historicity or its viability. The primitive use of abstraction may still set the standard for genuine, incorrupt cultural expression in which there is no threat of subjective expression and thus no threat of fraudulence; but only the more modern, empathic perspective, which knows of the threat of fraudulence, is capable of recognizing abstract art as a genuine cultural expression, that is, as derivative of a collective will-to-form. 28. Worringer briefly suggested that expressionism resulted from a relapse into a primitive fear of space: “Was aber war es, das uns den Mut zu dieser letzten kühnsten Fiktion der Kunstgeschichte gab? Zögernd, aber unausweichbar kam die Antwort: die Furcht vor der Leere” (But what was it that gave us the courage for this last, most audacious fiction in the history of art? The answer came hesitantly, but unavoidably: the fear of emptiness) (KZ, 897).

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In the context of Worringer’s thought, the empathic understanding of past abstractionism is more specifically to be seen as a revival of a German Gothic spirit. For Worringer, the Gothic and its German creators represent a remarkable historical stage in which the two drives, to empathy and to abstraction, are concurrently present, for which reason it constitutes an age of transition, a “Zwischenstufe” (intermediate stage) between the two dispositions.29 The hybridity of the Gothic consists in a constellation of an empathic subject and abstract object: Gothic forms are abstract, but they invite, even from their own creators, empathic appreciation.30 The same constellation reemerges in the encounter between the modern, empathic art historian and abstract artworks, and, since the critic instructs the public, between the general public and the past as well. Given the strong association between the Gothic and what Worringer describes as the German spirit, the modern, empathic art historian then also comes to represent a new embodied form and regeneration of the same nationalist spirit.31 Insofar as he mediates an empathic feeling to abstract art of the past, the critic trains the capacity for empathy among his public and thereby stimulates a retroactive feeling of collective harmony. In Abstraktion und Einfühlung Worringer already introduces empathy as a cognitive capacity that combines the sensuous and the intellectual, the nondiscursive and the discursive.32 That bold and difficult combination becomes more concrete in the form and format that Worringer gives to products of empathic cognition. The critic’s insights are to be mediated to the public through the 29. Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung, 86. Since the Gothic describes this combination of expressive modes, it loses its historical specificity and acts, as Wolfgang Kemp writes, as a panhistorical “Über-Stil” (overarching style) or “catch-all-Begriff” (catch-all concept) of which Gothic cathedrals, Albrecht Dürer’s drawings, and American skyscrapers are all examples (“Der Über-Stil,” 14). Worringer’s aspiration is to elevate the Gothic style to an aesthetic equal of the classical, capable of evaluating the accomplishments of different historical epochs. 30. The Gothic occurs, Worringer writes, when “das Einfühlungsbedürfnis den ihm naturgemäß zugewiesenen Kreis des Organischen verläßt und sich der abstrakten Formen bemächtigt, denen auf diese Weise natürlich ihr abstrakter Wert geraubt wird” (the need for empathy leaves the organic sphere naturally assigned to it and seizes hold of abstract forms, whose abstract value is naturally stripped away in this process) (Formprobleme der Gotik, 86). 31. Like Kemp, Bushart also identifies the Gothic as lacking a specific historical index. Observing the racist overtones in Worringer’s discussion of the Gothic, she describes the term as a synonym for “ein überzeitliches Ausdrucksverlangen der Deutschen” (the Germans’ timeless desire for expression), a conceptualization of the Gothic Worringer borrows from the German Romantics (Der Geist der Gotik, 37). If the combination of abstract object and empathic viewer describes a specifically German situation, then its reemergence in the form of art history happily confirms the vitality of the German spirit. 32. Empathy consists in “einer umfassenden sinnlich-intellektuellen Beherrschung des Weltbildes” (a comprehensive sensuous-intellectual mastery of a worldview) (Abstraktion und Einfühlung, 127).


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Denkbild and, more concretely, by books. This simultaneously discursive and pictorial cognition is clearly conceived as the privileged descendant of the arts and the most adequate expression of collective subjectivity. Although painting has met its historical end, it acquires an afterlife in the scholarship of the future: “In sublimierter Form lebt sie [die künstlerische Kraft] weiter in dem Stil unseres Denkens” (In sublimated form it [artistic force] lives on in the style of our thinking) (KZ, 909). To make the lineage from art to thought clear, Worringer coins the neologism Malbild so as to limit the propriety of painting to only one among many kinds of images: those of physical artifacts that—as the term Mal, which can refer to a birthmark (Muttermal) or blush, suggests— belong to the domain of the body. The Denkbild, in contrast, sublates its material predecessor to invent a new mental species of the image that nevertheless retains a visual and sensuous nature: it is something that can only be known perceptually rather than conceptually. Hence the end of art does not entail a turn to greater abstraction as the means of self-representation and selfunderstanding; in fact, because the Denkbild counters abstraction in the most abstract of mediums, thought, it represents a serious defense of sensuousness.33 Having inherited these qualities, the new form of thinking employed by the critic in his piercing inquiry into past art is a hybrid that combines conceptual thought mediated by and expressed in language with a more voluptuous, iconic form of intuition that permits language to exceed its own discursive limits. Although it is clear that empathic criticism remains committed to the book, the book becomes a medium for intuitive, indeed mystical, perception: the “Optik unseres Geistes” (optics of our mind) replaces the “Optik unseres Auges” (optics of our eye) just as “Buchvisionen” (book visions) replace bygone “Bildvisionen” (picture visions) (KZ, 906). Worringer’s concept of the thought-image differs greatly from its more famous relative in the work of Walter Benjamin, who first developed thoughtimages eight years later in Einbahnstraße (One-Way Street). Benjamin’s 33. That defense comes to the fore in a subtle paraphrasing of Kant’s theory of geometry from the first critique, where Kant writes that to possess a concept of a line, one must draw the line in consciousness. He thereby argues for the role of the senses and intuitive perception (Anschauung) in understanding (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, B137). Worringer abandons the graphic metaphor for a painterly one yet aims to make the same point that cognition depends as much on the senses as it does on concepts: “Den Bewegungen des Denkens folgt man wie den Bewegungen eines Pinselstrichs, der in Berechnung und Instinkt eine neue Welt aufbaut über der empirischen: keine Welt einer optischen Illusion mehr, sondern eine Welt der denksinnlichen, der geistigen Illusion” (One follows the movements of thought as one follows the movements of a paintbrush, which builds a new world beyond the empirical one with calculation and instinct; no longer a world of optical illusion, but rather a world of cognitivesensuous, of mental illusion) (KZ, 907).

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thought-images are defined above all by their brevity (and intimate relation to the genres of the prose poem and aphorism), their attention to marginal and quotidian objects, and their intermediary position between philosophical thought and poetic expression.34 Worringer’s thought-image, in contrast, is rather prolix (judging by the book form), forgoing the sought-after simultaneity and sharpness of other thought-images, and moves within the scholarly fields of historical and art-historical analysis. What Worringer imagines is not the sudden flash of insight but a meditative reading whose very duration brings about the (mystical) vision of art-historical knowledge. What Benjamin and Worringer do share (with many of their contemporaries) is, first, a strong suspicion against painting, for which reason Worringer casts it as his foil and Benjamin will model his thought-images first on practices of montage and collage and later on the photograph.35 Second, Worringer’s emphasis on the book format of his thought-images suggests that they may well share with those of Benjamin a common historical source in the baroque emblem. The entwinement of word and image seeks, in the traditional emblem and in Worringer, to overcome an arbitrary relation to the advantage of mutual illumination. As monographs of art-historical criticism, we must imagine these printed emblems as juxtaposing images of past art and their commentary, which together bring the reader to see, in an emphatic sense, the truth of these artworks as art. Much like the empathic disposition with which we are to approach artworks of the past, these emblematic thought-images strive to close the gap between the perceiving subject and the perceived object. Insofar as the text brings us to see the object in our mind’s eye as we could otherwise not understand it, the form of criticism nears its object and ideally assumes its sensuous quality. Worringer’s thought-image, indeed his critical ideal in general, is then once again reflected in the poignant scene with Simmel: an overcoming of distance in space and time to achieve an imagined identity between the form of perception and the perceived. 34. Gerhard Richter summarizes the thought-image as follows: “Denkbilder are neither programmatic treatises nor objective manifestations of a historical spirit, neither fanciful fiction nor mere reflections of reality. Rather, the philosophical miniatures of the Denkbild can be understood as conceptual engagements with the aesthetic and as aesthetic engagements with the conceptual, hovering between philosophical critique and aesthetic production. The Denkbild encodes a poetic form of condensed, epigrammatic writing in textual snapshots, flashing up as poignant mediations that typically fasten on a seemingly peripheral detail or marginal topic, usually without a developed plot or a prescribed narrative agenda, yet charged with theoretical insight” (Thought-Images, 2). 35. Michael Jennings has demonstrated that Benjamin’s thought-images from Einbahnstraße are imagined along the lines of avant-garde practices in the visual arts, while those of the later text Berliner Kindheit are modeled on the photograph (“Double Take”).


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References Böhringer, Hannes, and Beate Söntgen, eds. 2002. Wilhelm Worringers Kunstgeschichte. Munich: Fink. Bushart, Magdalena. 1990. Der Geist der Gotik und die expressionistische Kunst. Munich: Silke Schreiber. Cavell, Stanley. 2002. “Music Discomposed.” In Must We Mean What We Say?, 180–212. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Donahue, Neil H., ed. 1995. Invisible Cathedrals: The Expressionist Art History of Wilhelm Worringer. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Geulen, Eva. 2002. Das Ende der Kunst: Lesarten eines Gerüchts nach Hegel. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Hagner, Michael. 2015. Zur Sache des Buches. Göttingen: Wallstein. Haus, Andreas. 2010. “‘Dynamisch-konstruktives Kraftsystem’: Eine Pathosformel des gestalteten Raums.” In Raum in den Künsten: Konstruktion, Bewegung, Politik, edited by Armen Avanessian and Franck Hofmann Paderborn, 47–64. Munich: Fink. Hausenstein, Wilhelm. 1920. Die Kunst im diesem Augenblick. Munich: Hyperionverlag. Haxthausen, Charles W. 1995. “Modern Art after ‘The End of Expressionism’: Worringer in the 1920s.” In Invisible Cathedrals: The Expressionist Art History of Wilhelm Worringer, edited by Neil H. Donahue, 119–34. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. Hegel, G. W. F. 1970. Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik. Vol. 13 of Werke, edited by Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. ———. 1975. Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, translated by T. M. Knox. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jennings, Michael W. 2011. “Double Take: Palimpsestic Writing and Image-Character in Benjamin’s Late Prose.” Benjamin Studien 2, no. 2: 33–44. Kant, Immanuel. 1998. Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Hamburg: Meiner. Kemp, Wolfgang. 2002. “Der Über-Stil: Zu Worringers Gotik.” In Wilhelm Worringers Kunstgeschichte, edited by Hannes Böhringer and Beate Söntgen, 9–22. Munich: Fink. Lang, Siegfried K. 2002. “Wilhelm Worringers Abstraktion und Einfühlung: Entstehung und Bedeutung.” In Wilhelm Worringers Kunstgeschichte, edited by Hannes Böhringer and Beate Söntgen, 81–118. Munich: Fink. Lippard, Lucy R. 1973. Six Years. Berkeley: University of California Press. Lukács, Georg. 1934. “‘Größe und Verfall’ des Expressionismus.” Internationale Literatur: Zentralorgan der Internationalen Vereinigung Revolutionärer Schriftsteller 4, no. 1: 153–73. Müller-Tamm, Jutta. 2005. Abstraktion als Einfühlung: Zur Denkfigur der Projektion in Psychophysiologie, Kulturtheorie, Ästhetik und Literatur der frühen Moderne. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach. Pippin, Robert B. 2002. “What Was Abstract Art? (From the Point of View of Hegel).” Critical Inquiry 29, no. 1: 1–24. Rabinbach, Anson. 1990. The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity. New York: Basic.

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Richter, Gerhard. 2007. Thought-Images: Frankfurt School Writers’ Reflections from Damaged Life. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Simmel, Georg. 2001. “Zur Ästhetik der Alpen.” In Aufsätze und Abhandlungen 1909–1918, edited by Rüdiger Kramme and Angela Rammstedt, 162–69. Vol. 12 of Gesamtausgabe. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Weber, Max. 1919. Wissenschaft als Beruf. Munich: Duncker und Humblot. Worringer, Wilhelm. 1914. “[Untitled].” Zeit-Echo: Ein Kriegs-Tagebuch der Künstler, October, 20–22. ———. 1925. “Carlo Carrà’s Pinie am Meer: Bemerkungen zu einem Bilde.” Wissen und Leben 18, no. 28: 1165–69. ———. 2004. Abstraktion und Einfühlung: Ein Beitrag zur Stilpsychologie. In Schriften, vol. 1, edited by Hannes Böhringer and Beate Söntgen, 39–149. Munich: Fink. ———. 2004. Formprobleme der Gotik. In Schriften, vol. 1, edited by Hannes Böhringer and Beate Söntgen, 151–299. Munich: Fink. ———. 2004. “Künstlerische Zeitfragen.” In Schriften, vol. 1, edited by Hannes Böhringer and Beate Söntgen, 895–909. Munich: Fink.

Hermann Glöckner: Waste as a Figure of Thought?

Sarah E. James

From 1958 until around 1977 the still relatively unknown East German artist Hermann Glöckner produced a perplexing body of work: a collection of small sculptural objects made by folding, cutting, and joining discarded wood, consumerist packaging, and deconstructed household objects into geometric structures (figs. 1–5).1 Assembled from materials and found objects such as matchboxes, washing powder packets, old medicine packaging, twine, splitopen coffee pots, lacquered paper, and wire, Glöckner’s constructions resemble maquettes for large-scale sculptures—almost all of which, however, were never intended to be realized. On face value their appearance suggests a hybrid aesthetic, a kind of Cold War meeting between the utopian relief models of Vladimir Tatlin’s Soviet constructivism or the experiments of Aleksandr Rodchenko and the appropriated consumerist detritus of American pop art (less the smooth serialized screen prints of Andy Warhol than the assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg or Edward Kienholz). Indeed, their status as perpetual models echo Tatlin’s ultimate unfeasible and unrealized Earlier versions of this article were given at University College London in June 2010 and in a more developed form at the “Eva Hesse and Europe” symposium held at UCL in February 2013; I would like to thank both audiences for their helpful feedback. I would also like to thank Sebastian Schmidt, at the Hermann Glöckner Archiv in Dresden, for his time and generosity in making many of Glöckner’s unknown studio works available to me. 1. On Hermann Glöckner, see Mayer and Schmidt, Hermann Glöckner, Raum, Zeit, Figur, and Hermann Glöckner: Die Tafeln. New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705748 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



Hermann Glöckner

Figure 1. Hermann Glöckner, Pill Boxes, ca. 1975. Photograph by Friedhelm Hoffmann Fotografie. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

memorial—his Monument to the Third International (1919). Yet where Tatlin’s aspirations were monumental—apparent even in the large-scale model for his epic monument—Glöckner’s are diminutive and domestic. Instead of straddling the Neva River and reaching into the stars, Glöckner’s tiny structures are designed to be held in the palm of the hand or to sit on a tabletop. They might also be thought of as maquettes for the mind—three-dimensional tools for Glöckner to continue the daily exercise of his sculptural imagination. Read in the context of the hegemonic socialist realist visual culture of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Glöckner’s miniature abstract creations

Sarah E. James


Figure 2. Hermann Glöckner, Five Matchboxes Staggered Diagonally, ca. 1970. Photograph by Friedhelm Hoffmann Fotografie. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

appear to be private monuments to the memory of a tabooed and increasingly marginalized avant-garde. They seem to provide a domesticated means of survival for a modernist and formalist aesthetic aggressively condemned by the state. Rediscovered in Glöckner’s Dresden studio during preparation for a 2009 exhibition in which they were later installed, what we might tentatively call Glöckner’s “micro-sculptures” appeared to contemporary audiences as an ideal example of an undiscovered East German neo-avant-garde artistic practice—conveniently packaged for the postcommunist art world.2 Indeed, 2. The exhibition, Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures, was held at LACMA in 2009, later traveling to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, and was curated by Stephanie Barron and Eckhart Gillen. Barron notes in the catalog that she discovered the objects when visiting Glöckner’s archive. See Barron, Eckmann, and Gillen, Art of Two Germanys. Glöckner’s works made another appearance at the 2010 Gwangju Biennale in South Korea titled Ten Thousand Lives curated by Gioni Massimillano, and again in 2011 at New York’s New Museum blockbuster Ostalgia. See Massimiliano and Ditner, Eighth Gwangju Biennale; and Gregory, Ostalgia.


Hermann Glöckner

Figure 3. Hermann Glöckner, Cut-Open Tin Pot, ca. 1970. Photograph by Friedhelm Hoffmann Fotografie. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

for Michael Kimmelmann, writing in the New York Times, Glöckner’s works were nothing less than “elegant Constructivist improvisations, talismans of verboten modernism. . . . Private acts of rebellion but also Proustian madeleines, lovingly put together from commonplace items in the East,” which made “much of what passed for abstract art on the other side of the Wall look labored and pretentious.”3 For today’s spectators, the domestic scale and seemingly private nature of Glöckner’s studio work succinctly symbolize the tabooed, illegitimate, and literally domesticated status of formal, modernist, or constructivist artistic experimentation in the GDR from the 1950s to the 1970s. More than this, the works appear to provide poignant confirmation of the “niche society” of the GDR—where the population purportedly increasingly withdrew from the repressive political public sphere and the stilted performances demanded of good socialist citizens, to the relative freedom and unfettered 3. Kimmelmann, “Art in Two Germanys.”

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Figure 4. Hermann Glöckner, Card Folded, ca. 1970. Photograph by Friedhelm Hoffmann Fotografie. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

activities of the private and domestic space of the home.4 To contemporary eyes, Glöckner’s domestic objects turned sculptures arguably all too neatly encapsulated the idea of “inner migration” and self-censorship. As products of what appeared to be a very private kind of experimentation, never displayed as art or installed in the museum context during the artist’s lifetime, they highlighted the fact that Glöckner—like many “unofficial” or conspicuously modernist artists in the GDR—had long worked in isolation outside the official art world, suffering censorship and limited opportunities to exhibit, and starved of official commissions. Indeed, this popular interpretation is only heightened by the fact that Glöckner was already seventy-nine in 1968 and, unlike the younger generation of artists who emerged to define the dissident and countercultural visual cultural scenes of the 1970s, was an old man whose own artistic training belonged to a very different prewar era. Further, Glöckner’s use of modest found materials—appropriated from household packaging and other domestic detritus—was easily interpreted less as an aesthetic or conceptual 4. On the niche society of the GDR, see Gaus, Wo Deutschland liegt; and on a critique of this problematic concept, see Betts, Within Walls.


Hermann Glöckner

Figure 5. Hermann Glöckner, Table in Glöckner’s Studio. Photograph by Friedhelm Hoffmann Fotografie. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

choice than as simply the result of the many daily material, practical, and ideological limitations and constraints placed on Glöckner’s practice by the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, or Socialist Unity Party of Germany). However, such readings neglect to fully gauge that the radical possibilities of the private space of the apartment or artist’s studio also resonate in Glöckner’s small acts of rebellion, because, as was the case in most countries across the Eastern bloc, the domestic sphere provided not only a sanctuary

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from politics but often emerged as the loci of countercultural activity, where— once transformed into nonofficial galleries, meeting places, or salons for subcultural art scenes—the most radical political and aesthetic transgressions could emerge. While such interpretations are appealing, and to some degree difficult to completely refute, this article proposes that to read Glöckner’s small-scale works exclusively as the tabooed and private output of an isolated modernist is simply incorrect. Perhaps most problematically, such readings reductively fail to acknowledge the inconsistent and conflicted status of abstract art in the GDR from the postwar period up until the 1980s, and oversimplify the tension between the private and public spheres. In the GDR of the 1950s, after the socalled formalism debates, it is true that the socialist realism of the Soviet Union provided the central model for the officially endorsed aesthetics of the state, and formalism, abstraction, and the avant-garde were understood as decadent, cosmopolitan, and antipartisan.5 Consequently, in the postwar years Glöckner found himself precariously placed as a formalist and experimental artist in the staunchly antimodernist art world of the GDR. But immediately after the war diverse modernist approaches were tolerated and displayed in the public realm, as exemplified in the first major postwar art exhibition in Dresden in 1946, which contained many works that were avowedly formalist or avant-garde in their techniques. Even at the height of such antimodernist sentiments during the 1950s and in the decades that followed, the art of the GDR was never exclusively beholden to the dogmas of Soviet socialist realism, nor was it a homogeneous, crude, and provincial variant of the latter, as it is too often represented.6 The legacy of the German avant-garde—from expressionism and new objectivity to Dada and the Bauhaus, as well as the international influences of cubism, surrealism, and constructivism—could not simply be erased, and the specters of these modernist movements continued to surface in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Such avant-garde aesthetics and techniques were not only the domain of the unofficial art world of the GDR but notably appeared to characterize the work of officially endorsed artists such as Willi Sitte, Werner Tübke, and Bernard Heisig. Arguably, none of the latter—and perhaps no other East German artist—was as extreme or as consistent in embracing abstraction as Glöckner. Yet although he was subjected to consistent censorship and lacked the support of such officially endorsed artists, even his abstract work was frequently exhibited in the GDR—with his first major solo 5. See Tipton, Modern History of Germany, 524. 6. Van der Will, “Section Two,” 43.


Hermann Glöckner

exhibition in 1968. He also produced several large-scale public sculptures officially commissioned by the state in the late 1960s and 1970s, when under Erich Honecker, and following Stalin’s death and the so-called thaw, the SED’s position on modernism became more relaxed, or at least more ambiguous. The ambivalence with which the SED regarded Glöckner was made clear by the fact that he was offered a permanent visa for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in 1979—acknowledging his outsider status and encouraging his departure from the East—yet his abstract works also featured in several of the official annual art exhibitions in Dresden in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Even more surprisingly, for an artist so marginalized and sidelined by the state, in 1983 he was awarded the Hans-Grundig Medal by the Verband Bildender Künstler (Artists’ Union), and the following year, at the age of ninety-five, the prestigious National Art Prize of the GDR (Nationalpreis der DDR III. Klasse für Kunst und Literatur). This honor was also marked by the production of a short DEFA film about him, and the erection of one of his sculptures—the vast three-metershigh Mast mit zwei faltungszonen (Mast with Two Folding Zones, 1984)—outside the Technische Universität Dresden.7 Although admittedly belated, such honors and this commission actively problematized the idea that Glöckner’s work was predominately private and that his maquettes carried the melancholy burden of only ever existing as models for sculptures that would never see the light of day, as did the fact that some of Glöckner’s large-scale sculptures were also realized in the FRG—for example, the large metal sculpture Durchbruch (Breakthrough) was erected in front of Bundeshaus Bonn in 1982. The more one interrogates Glöckner’s firsthand experiences of the GDR’s conflicted visual culture and examines his practice, the more problematic it becomes to think of the small-scale sculptural objects found in his studio as straightforward maquettes. Can Glöckner’s objects better be understood not as finished artworks meant for exhibiting but as occupying the ground of an ongoing “work in progress,” or even as merely the waste products created in his studio as he experimented and played with the three-dimensional forms that occupied his sculptural imagination and related to his drawings and lithographs? Indeed, some of their titles appear to be posthumously or retrospectively granted, as loose descriptive terms that enact a kind of art-historical canonizing on such informal daily practice. Can we really describe them as conceptual or symbolic works in their own right? And does reading them thus turn Glöckner into a conceptual art7. The film was made by Jürgen Böttcher and was titled Kurzer Besuch bei Hermann Glöckner (Hermann Glöckner: A Brief Visit, 1984). Ironically, because of his experimental approach, Böttcher had also been blacklisted by the SED and was rehabilitated only in the 1980s.

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ist rather than just a frustrated and nostalgic modernist? If these small-scale works are merely the kind of artistic experiments that might fill any sculptor’s studio, and were never meant to be understood as complete artworks exhibited in a museum context, does their posthumous display and commodification— buoyed by the West’s appetite for postsocialist art objects—negatively transform and mistranslate them? Instead of taking Glöckner’s small-scale works as either overfetishized, finished, and conceptual assemblages that speak to the clichés that a postsocialist present can so easily project onto them or as individually insignificant unfinished maquettes overestimated by a contemporary art market driven by a postsocialist lust for curiosities of Ostalgie, I want to suggest that we think of them as operating between finished works and models, between conceptual objects and maquettes. Without reducing them to embodying a Cold War aesthetic or the East-West dialectic, I want to propose that we think of them as deliberately engaged with past avant-gardist ambitions and present political realities, as operating between public and private spheres. In this context Glöckner’s works relate not only to Soviet constructivism and American pop but also to the fascinating breadth of nonofficial artistic practices across Eastern Europe that drew on garbage, waste, and trash. They also evoke those nonofficial conceptual practices that frequently relied on rethinking everyday objects in minute, often barely perceptible gestures, or making modest conceptual interventions in everyday situations. Indeed, in this context, Glöckner’s maquettes recall as much Tatlin and Rauschenberg as the “paper architecture” projects of nonofficial Russian artists in the 1980s and 1990s, such as the small-scale models Temporary Monuments by Yuri Avvakumov.8 The latter’s maquettes acted simultaneously as homages to Tatlin, El Lissitzky, and Kazimir Malevich and practical everyday objects—such as trampolines or stairways. Glöckner’s assembled and appropriated works—particularly those constructed from packaging—clearly recall pop’s found aesthetic. Yet it is unlikely that Glöckner would have had the opportunity to come across much American pop art. On the other hand, it is clear that he would have been more aware of such developments than is traditionally assumed. Although the majority of art-historical accounts of East German art cast it as operating in total isolation, this was never the case. Glöckner’s own library tellingly included books on Jasper Johns alongside figures from the German avant-garde such as 8. Made from 1986 to 1988, Avvakumov’s models were dedicated to the memory and utopian politics of Soviet constructivism but, perversely, were actually made up of replicas of the temporary scaffolding normally removed once monuments were erected. See Klotz and Rappaport, Paper Architecture; Sokolina, “Alternative Identities”; and Boym, “Ruins of the Avant-Garde,” 76.


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George Grosz. Artists able to travel to West Berlin—and the majority were— could have seen several major pop art exhibitions that took place at the Neue Nationalgalerie from the late 1960s onward. For example, in 1969 an exhibition of the collection of the West German industrialist Karl Schröher featured large-scale screen prints by Warhol suspended from the ceiling.9 And we know that Glöckner traveled frequently to see and participate in exhibitions in the FRG and farther afield in Europe. Even without traveling, artists in the GDR had access to international books and magazines from the libraries of art schools, or venues such as the International Book Fair in Leipzig, but also more informally, as such items were commonly passed on from friends and acquaintances in the West. This did not mean that the state officially tolerated pop art. If abstraction was tabooed by the SED, then Western pop was understood as embodying all that was wrong and corrupt with capitalist culture. The official disdain felt toward pop was made apparent in influential publications such as Michail Lifschitz’s Krise des Häßlichen: Vom Kubismus zur Pop Art (Crisis of Ugliness: From Cubism to Pop Art), translated from Russian and published in Dresden in 1971.10 An angry antimodernist polemic that was printed in several editions, Lifschitz’s book traced the decadent distortion of representation from the early avant-garde to the present—seeing the apogee of Western art’s degradation as culminating in pop. By anchoring his critique in the concept of ugliness, Lifschitz’s thesis bore unpleasant traces of the kind of antimodern theories that became popular during the Third Reich—albeit one removed from the skewed association of formal distortions with racial attributes. Yet, although little has been written about pop art in the GDR—even less than on avant-garde and experimental artistic practices—its influence was clear in the work of several prominent and more marginalized practitioners. As Jutta Held has argued, one can easily discern “the nod to a faith in technology, the faintly standardized faces, the stereotyped laughing” in the work of Sitte, which she claims borrowed “from Rauschenberg’s collaged paintings of the 1950s and 1960s.”11 The idea of East German artists borrowing or appropriating from American pop’s strategies is problematic, as it denies the emergence of a homegrown appropriative pop aesthetic. Either way, it seems clear that there were many artists—particularly those working in graphic design, 9. See Mensch, Modern Art at the Berlin Wall, 147. Glöckner’s first major trip was to documenta in 1955, and the Picasso exhibition at the Kunsthalle Hamburg the following year. His old age did not prevent him from continuing to travel, and in 1971 and 1980 he visited Paris. He also took part in many exhibitions in the FRG, for example, in Baden-Baden and Munich in 1958. 10. Lifschitz, Krise des Häßlichen. 11. Held, “Work as an Artistic Motif,” 183.

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illustrations, or murals—whose work could even be positioned as a kind of native GDR pop. For example, the mural work of Wilhelm Lachnit—often denounced by critics because of its formalism—adopted bold cartoonlike outlines, glaring colors, and a kind of hyperrealism reminiscent of American pop. And throughout the 1970s and 1980s Hans Ticha created paintings and graphic illustrations with bold outlines, pixilation, and typography—a kind of hybrid of Fernand Léger, constructivism, and the pop of Roy Lichtenstein. Complicating American pop’s relationship with consumerism, Ticha’s often sarcastic paintings depicted the mechanical automated world of GDR bureaucracy and the iconography of communism, as well as the lure of commodities and advertising. So pop certainly had a reception in the GDR, and many artists developed techniques and concerns clearly related to those of American pop artists, albeit in response to the antithetical culture of “really existing socialism” and the fraught world of socialist advertising. For example, Sigrid Hofer has explored the work of Willy Wolff in relation to its dialogue with the West.12 The central problematic of this article, then, is to address the issue of what it meant for Glöckner to produce a specific kind of neoconstructivism that also bore striking resemblances to the neo-avant-garde practices of pop. How can we understand his simultaneous and stubborn fidelity to an avantgarde abstract artistic practice born in the 1920s throughout the cultural transformations witnessed in the four decades he lived under “really existing socialism”? Such an exploration must necessarily ask other, equally vexing questions of his work: What did it mean to reenact constructivist experiments privately, with little intention of exhibiting this work? How can we place Glöckner’s reiteration of the avant-garde gestures of constructivism in the face of socialist realism and the expansive pressure of the West’s culture industry? And how do we interpret the way in which his studio work effectively turns the radical collectivism of the avant-garde’s production into the singular and domesticated work of the individual? Is Glöckner’s project melancholy, nostalgic, retrogressive, or simply out of kilter with its own times? Or might it be thought of as an affirmative and even radical act of cultural resistance? Maquettes for the Mind Whatever we call them, Glöckner’s objects form a collection in miniature. But we are not dealing with the self-reflexive and knowing world of Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise—the series of suitcases that Duchamp produced from 1935 to 1940 containing his own oeuvre as a portable retrospective or what 12. See Hofer, “Pop Art in der DDR.”


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might be thought of as a miniature monograph. Instead, Glöckner’s studio work suggests something far less determinate, something always in formation, something that provides access to his working methods, to the ways he engaged with material questions, and to the far less easy-to-define world of (what we might somewhat clumsily and far too loftily call) his sculptural imagination. From this perspective, Glöckner’s working models share more in common with the small-scale works of Kurt Schwitters produced in exile, the studio work of Eva Hesse, and the process-based accumulated objects of Gabriel Orozco assembled together in the latter’s Working Tables, 2000–2005. To understand the small-scale works, we need to return briefly to Glöckner’s artistic training and the consolidation of a working method he would remain faithful to throughout his entire career. Glöckner was not just a neoconstructivist sculptor of large-scale structures—although this is what he was most well-known for in the West in the postwar decades. From the very beginnings Glöckner’s artistic practice embraced a conceptual, small-scale, process-oriented, paper-based, and serialized approach to art making. Glöckner belonged to the same generation as Rodchenko and attended the Kunstgewerbeschule in Dresden from 1904 to 1907, where he befriended the graphic designer and poster artist Kurt Fiedler. He was then admitted into Dresden’s Kunstakademie in 1923.13 Having first worked on textiles, realistic landscape, and figurative paintings, by 1919 he had begun experimenting with abstract work. In 1930, at the age of forty-one, Glöckner resolved to “start again from the beginning, to lay aside everything that has happened until now.”14 Adopting a new and intensive working method much invested in projections and geometry, Glöckner returned to his earlier realistic paintings and photographed them, so as to analyze their dimensions. He mounted these reproductions on cardboard and drew over them with drafting lines. In the process he discovered recurring subdivisions and proportions of horizontal and vertical divisions in his paintings, and thus came to recognize their constructive, geometric bases. Using these methods, he produced new paintings, paper-works, and sculptures in a constructivist style based on geometric, nonfigurative planar compositions, an approach to which he remained committed for his entire artistic career, which extended into the 1980s.15 By the 13. On his early career, see Klöppel, Die eikon Grafik-Presse, 41–45. 14. Glöckner, Hermann Glöckner: Ein Patriarch der Moderne, 57. 15. Glöckner died in 1987. In 1932 he gained a place as a member of the newly reformed Dresdner Sezession, along with figures such as the Neue Sachlichkeit painter Otto Griebel and the cubist Hans Kinder, as well as the experimental photographer Edmund Kesting, whose group Der Ruf Glöckner also joined.

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mid-1930s, largely working in secret during Adolf Hitler’s regime, and without any opportunities to exhibit his work, Glöckner produced drawings on newspapers, experimental prints, and perhaps most significant, his Tafelwerk, or “board work.” These pieces of carved and painted fiberboard provide a crucial way into understanding his miniature sculptures yet have been strangely absent from all the recent exhibitions and discussions of his objectbased work (figs. 6–8).16 Influenced by industrial mass production, most of Glöckner’s board works used readily available 3-millimeter-thick cardboard, 500 millimeters by 350 millimeters, and were layered with industrially prefabricated wrapping paper, colored paper, dyed paper, or newspaper. His boards were likely influenced by Carl Rade, a professor at Dresden’s Kunstakademie whose role and influence have been likened to Johannes Itten’s at the Bauhaus.17 Rade encouraged his students to make experimental work with paper, cardboard, or pasteboard, in order to arrive at new formative inventions, and Glöckner’s contemporaries, including Woldemar Winkler and Ernst Hassebrauk, constructed similar boards as preparation for other works. Using collage, tempera, chalk, graphite, asphalt, and paper, Glöckner created abstract geometric designs on the boards, often scratching, impressing, or embossing geometric lines—like light rays, or projections of perspective—across their planes. But the Tafelwerk was not merely a preparatory stage for Glöckner; instead, it soon became the focal point of his practice and, as described by Hein Köster, Glöckner’s “very own and personal artistic encyclopedia.”18 For this reason, and for the proximity of the Tafelwerk to his small-scale sculptures, they are worth considering in some detail. In works such as Red Rays on Red-Brown Ground (ca. 1930–32; fig. 9), Glöckner appears concerned with creating an ambivalent and illusory space, contrasting the depth of his smudged ground—which gives way panoramically like the night sky—to the geometric lines that mark out the various depths of the picture plane. This investment in producing a three-dimensional effect is also clear in many of his postwar boards. The geometric compositions of the Tafelwerk evolved according to an elaborate arithmetic of proportions and geometric progressions. Glöckner has stated that his Tafelwerk corresponded most closely to “what determines in music, namely, the division of rhythm by means of notes. Thus it is not preconceived construction, but rather 16. During the oppressive period of the Third Reich, Glöckner also earned a living as a “sgraffito” artist, applying layers of colored plaster and ceramic to the exterior of buildings, then scratching the surface to produce outline drawings and textures. 17. See Welich, “Hermann Glöckner,” 55. 18. Köster, “Hermann Glöckner’s Board Work,” 61.

Figure 6. Hermann Glöckner, Divided Black and White Square under Blue, ca. 1930–32. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

Figure 7. Hermann Glöckner, Red White Folding on Brown Marbled Paper, ca. 1935. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

Figure 8. Hermann Glöckner, Folded Strips in Red and Yellow on Black, ca. 1933. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

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Figure 9. Hermann Glöckner, Red Rays on Red-Brown Ground, ca. 1930–32. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

came-to-be construction, exactly what every work of art becomes in the end.”19 Each board was the result of a synthesis of the previous ones, and all worked to corrupt the proportional norm of the golden ratio. Glöckner finished the boards by lacquering over their intensively worked surfaces, giving all of them a homogeneity and collective surface. Either because it suited his working methods or perhaps because of his forced introspection under the tyranny of National Socialism, and the onslaughts against modernist “degenerative art,” during the 1930s Glöckner continued to work predominantly on small-scale, paper-based works. By 1937 he had created 150 board works. During the war and the annihilation of Dresden, Glöckner’s home, studio, and much of his work were destroyed. Only in the late 1940s, once again working secretly, but this time under Soviet occupation and newly established East German socialism, did he return to his boards, creating another 120 from 1948 to 1980. The abstract works on board bear a striking resemblance to Malevich’s paper collages in his Alogisms of 1913. Composed of signs, symbols, and word 19. Glöckner, quoted in Glöckner, Hermann Glöckner, 58.


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fragments, they functioned as deliberate efforts to break interpretation free from the bounds of causal connection and, ultimately, to undermine the logic of representation itself. Equally, they recall what Rodchenko described as Still Lifes—collages made around 1915 with multicolored pieces of wallpaper, which were often the starting point for his abstract black-and-white graphic designs of that period. Despite Glöckner’s frequent claims that he was not constructivist in the same sense as the Soviet’s avant-garde project, like Rodchenko and Lissitzky, it is clear from his Tafelwerk that Glöckner isolated line as a constructive element. Using lines to create planes, textures, tone, volume, and depth, Glöckner also used color, form, and texture in an architectonic way, combining oppositions: rough and smooth, positive and negative spaces, straight and curved lines. Some of his small wooden sculptural structures bear a striking resemblance to Rodchenko’s 1918–21 Spatial Constructions in wood, which were of a similar scale, while Glöckner’s models mounted on boards recall Tatlin’s Relief Constructions (1913–17), a series of sculptures made from a similar assortment of “junk” and other found materials. However, for the art historian John J. Curley, Glöckner’s abstraction places him closest not to the Soviet constructivists, or even the international neoconstructivists of the postwar years, but to the artists associated with the Zero Group that emerged in the FRG in the 1950s, such as Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker. Curley asserts that they and Glöckner shared an artistic interest “to locate modes of transcendence in the material culture of everyday life.”20 Yet the Zero Group’s abstract, kinetic art was both rooted in their desire for a total tabula rasa of the early postwar years and was avowedly apolitical, finding a comfortable ahistoricality in the international abstraction that allowed them to reject the specificities of German postwar culture after Hitler’s fascism and the Holocaust. Consequently, their abstraction represented what many have seen as a problematic move to purify art, arguably at odds with Glöckner’s self-consciously dialectical constructions, many of which drew explicitly on mass and industrially produced cultural forms, sharing this often self-consciously critical or politicized technique with earlier avant-garde practices. Glöckner often painted directly onto newspapers or created collages out of newspaper fragments. Works such as Newspaper Illustrations under Five Rays, Reflected Twice (ca. 1932) and Sächsische Volkszeitung (1946) clearly recall the sharp graphic lines of the Soviet avant-garde and the montage of Berlin Dada. One finds little of the minimalist, clinical, or scrupulously nonrepresentational compositions of figures such as Theo van Doesburg or Mon20. Curley, “Hermann Glöckner,” 308.

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drian in Glöckner’s small-scale abstract works, and still less to suggest any meditation on Yves Klein—a source of inspiration for the Zero Group. That Glöckner’s work—both prewar and postwar—appears to engage, albeit belatedly, with Berlin Dada and early Soviet constructivist trends could well be explained by his likely reception of such work via Erich Buchholz, a central figure in the development of the Berlin concrete and nonobjective art scene between 1918 and 1924. Glöckner would also undoubtedly have been aware of Buchholz through his abstract set designs for the Albert-Theater in Dresden and via the experimental photographer Edmund Kesting, who was close to Buchholz.21 In 1922 Buchholz organized the key exhibition Constructivism and Suprematism at the Van Diemen Gallery in Berlin, and from that point on kept in close contact with figures such as László Moholy-Nagy and Lissitzky.22 Buchholz’s Berlin studio was a meeting place for artists of the avant-garde, including Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Raoul Hausmann, as well as the pioneers of abstract film Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling. For artists such as Hausmann and Höch, nonobjective art in Germany was related explicitly to artistic developments in the Soviet Union, particularly the work of Malevich, and was, they believed, indicative of the same political desire to challenge the individualism of the bourgeoisie and reject existing aesthetics and society.23 Like early Soviet constructivist practice, Glöckner’s Tafelwerk emphasized the materiality of artistic forms while radically rejecting the traditional object of art—the painted canvas. Neither paintings nor sculptures, Glöckner’s board works were meant to exist as serial objects, which, when displayed side by side, would interact with each other, as their lines joined and refracted dynamically. Just as Rodchenko’s did, Glöckner’s work rejected the singularity of the painting’s canvas surface and instead embraced the notion of constant and competing oppositions and their fraught synthesis. Strikingly, the boards were free of frames, designed for both seeing and touching. They existed as three-dimensional objects that asked to be held in the hand, to be tilted and turned and viewed in the round, suggesting a spatial, embodied, and perspectival way of seeing. Further heightening their status as three-dimensional 21. Interestingly, Buchholz began working in print but soon regarded the woodcut as a work of art in its own right and painted the surfaces, just as Glöckner transformed the experimental boards into exhibited objects. 22. As Welich has suggested, Glöckner was likely exposed to Buchholz’s designs in Dresden, and many artists in his circle, such as Kesting, could have easily directed him to the work of Buchholz. See Welich, “Hermann Glöckner,” 158–59. 23. See the statement from “The November Group Opposition,” in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory, 268.


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objects rather than pictures, the movement of the boards in time and space was extremely important to Glöckner. Recalling Rodchenko’s hanging constructions of the 1920s, often the artist would suspend his boards and paper prints on strings and swing them, beginning work on the next piece while watching the new forms that emerged in this movement. According to the art historian Dirk Welich, this kinetic process further asserted Glöckner’s dialectical conception of art production, letting chaos and chance into his otherwise highly systematized and ordered approach.24 Arguably a necessity once the boards were hung as three-dimensional mobile sculptures, the most striking characteristic of Glöckner’s Tafelwerk is the fact that every board is painted on both sides.25 Understood by commentators such as Hein Köster as another aspect that reveals Glöckner’s self-conscious desire to develop a dialectical working method, this strategy was also employed by the Soviet constructivists. For example, it is apparent in the painted glass constructions of Sofiya DymshitsTolstaya, who applied paint to both sides of glass panes so as to exploit the reflective and transparent qualities of the glass simultaneously and produce what Christina Lodder refers to as deliberately “ambiguous spatial and volumetric compositions.”26 But it was also employed in the postwar period by unofficial artists closer to home, such as Carlfriedrich Claus, another isolated avant-gardist living in the GDR, who produced what he called his Sprachblätter (language sheets)—sheets of translucent paper with textual images and diagrams on each side, demanding the spectator read both image and text, front and back, simultaneously.27 A self-consciously dialectic logic also surfaces in the geometric lines that divide Glöckner’s compositions on board. Not simply flat lines drawn with a ruler, his lines are invested with the logic of the folds he made in creating three-dimensional constructivist paper sculptures (fig. 10). His compositions originate in this act of folding, the folded lines mirroring and doubling each other, after which the resulting divisions and ratios are repeated and altered slightly in the next work. For Glöckner, folded straight lines behaved very differently from the flat, two-dimensional graphic lines of a draftsman, because folded straight lines ended in corners, intersected differently, or brought together clashing colored surfaces. Glöckner believed that once a picture was unfolded, not one but many successive works were revealed. Thus folding 24. Welich, “Hermann Glöckner,” 121. 25. Köster, “Glöckner’s Board Work,” 59–62. 26. See Lodder, “Russian Avant-Garde, London,” 428. 27. See Mössinger, Milde, and Höller, Schrift, Zeichen, Geste.

Figure 10. Hermann Glöckner, Star Form, after 1971. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017


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released the surfaces of a picture and transformed them into spatial gestures. Again, this strategy can be compared with the logic underlying Rodchenko’s early suspended circular constructions, each concentric section of which could be opened out, so that each work was “infinitely transformable within the logic of its own system.”28 Glöckner was intrigued with how the folded card united the practical act with the aesthetic form, so that the fold and the “picture” became one. For Glöckner, the fold brought together logic and form, method and result, motif and structure. His use of the fold to dialectically engage both motif and spatial structure was equally reminiscent of Rodchenko’s early experiments on canvas, which investigated the possibilities of using planes to make forms. The multiplicity of Glöckner’s constantly shifting geometric patterns also deliberately displaces the expressive assertion of the artist’s authorial presence. The Tafelwerk also demand an active engagement; they present a puzzle to be solved. As objects to be comprehended experientially, the boards are underwritten by the notion that ideas regulating “principles of form” are determined by social processes and encounters. However, it is clear that although engaging in similar formal and dialectical experiments to the Soviet constructivists, Glöckner’s postwar practice has little of the avowed revolutionary stance of the Soviet avant-garde. As part of the Bolshevik cultural revolution, Rodchenko and his comrades’ rejection of traditional art took on the polemical form of a revolt against the bourgeoisie, and by 1921 the productivism they championed rejected the autonomous aesthetic art object in favor of transforming art into a mass-produced, industrial object capable of schooling a new proletarian subject. Rodchenko’s materialist faith soon railed against any form of idealism and held that constructivism’s objects should not evoke any transcendental values. This revolutionary and productivist project is undoubtedly absent from Glöckner’s neoconstructivist practice. Glöckner first proclaimed his fidelity to a constructivist approach only in 1930, after the Soviet avant-garde’s power had already waned, with the violent annihilation of its utopian aspirations at the hands of Joseph Stalin and his monolithic pursuit of socialist realism. Equally, Glöckner’s belated cooption of avant-garde techniques and strategies was undertaken and developed during the dawn of the Third Reich and the oppressive realities of totalitarianism. Yet Glöckner’s return—or continued commitment—to a constructivist practice in the 1940s and 1950s is significant for other reasons. At this juncture Soviet constructivism, along with the German avant-garde, was being written out of official aesthetics in the GDR. From this perspective it is plausible to 28. Kiaer, “Rodchenko in Paris,” 5.

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interpret Glöckner’s practice as a refusal to abandon some of the avant-garde’s early utopian and artistic—if not political—potential in a culture operating under “really existing socialism” whereby every aspect of everyday life had become saturated by politics, and all official art had an overt ideological function. Arguably, Glöckner’s Tafelwerk and his small-scale sculptural works enabled the daily recuperation of some of the utopian desires and formal techniques of early Soviet constructivism from within a place that was still living its failure under bureaucratic authoritarianism. The dialectical, phenomenological, and conceptual strategies that underwrote Glöckner’s Tafelwerk, as well as the small scale and the cardboard materials out of which they were constructed, clearly informed and related to his making of miniature sculptural objects. What is also striking about Glöckner’s recently rediscovered maquette-like objects is that he chose to make the material of their construction—in many cases, the waste products and old packaging of consumerism—explicit. This is not simply the result of a scarcity of materials; other examples make clear that he often constructed such objects from plain or colored cards, or even wood, Plexiglas, and steel. Similarly, the small-scale works produced out of household waste cannot be viewed as simple prototypes—produced from whatever was at hand—as one stage in the creation of larger-scale steel or Plexiglas sculptures. It is hard to believe, for example, that the dissected coffee pot was ever meant to be realized in largescale form. It is, instead, meant to exist as a transformed vernacular object and everyday commodity—one that was once functional and has been permanently altered into an aesthetic object without explicit use value. Had he wanted to, he could have painted over the mass-produced labels of boxes, which he did with some of the packages, as we see in the magenta-painted matchboxes, or used more generic materials to begin with. Instead, in many of the small-scale paper and board works, it seems that he deliberately chose to produce curious hybrids, part commodity, part constructivist objects. Glöckner’s use of printed newspaper pages and mass-produced packaging recalls those prewar boards that incorporated newspaper collages. Simultaneously recognizable household objects and also experiments in abstract construction, these objects complicate the cleaner formalism of his large-scale sculptures with an explicitly cultural, personal, and social content. Equally, that there was a less random accumulative aesthetic and a more systematic logic to the small sculptural objects found in his studio is suggested by the fact that many of these objects appeared to exist more clearly as conceptual assemblages rather than simply the inconsequential leftovers of experimentation. For example, he also created several textile, card, and foil-based


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hanging pieces, which appeared strikingly similar to the pieces that filled Hesse’s studio in the 1960s. Further, Glöckner’s small-scale works are deliberately arranged, posed, and fixed, not simply gathered randomly—and are echoed in the small arrangements of carefully choreographed objects that were left on his worktable and around his studio space. Some of these objects also have much more personal and deliberately autobiographical elements: one is made from a letter written to the artist, another out of nine medicine packets, testimony to Glöckner’s coronary heart disease. Such personal meanings are, admittedly, immediately complicated by the impersonal, functional nature of washing powder packets or matchboxes. Glöckner’s consistent return to and fascination with mass- and industrially produced commercial objects and packaging could be read as having more in common with the similar interests of other conceptual and minimalist artists of the 1960s and 1970s than limited resources or arbitrary chance. There is much evidence to suggest that Glöckner’s postwar small-scale sculptural works were deeply connected to the conceptual and serial way in which he envisaged his practice. Although never referred to in any of the existent literature on the artist, for several exhibitions that took place in West Berlin in the late 1970s, Glöckner constructed multiple small-scale editions of his wooden and Plexiglass sculptures, all embossed with the graphically designed G of his signature. In fact, he seems to have stamped this signature on several of the small cardboard and paper studio works, too. The stylized G was strikingly reminiscent of the Bauhaus-style branding and typographical experiments. In this context, it is arguably not so far-fetched to hypothesize that his combination of impersonal packaging and consumerist waste loaded with symbolic autobiographical meaning might seek to reflect the tensions between anonymous consumption and individual subjectivity in everyday life. One could even go so far as to claim that each miniature monument—and in fact, all of Glöckner’s practice—is animated by the dialectical and unresolved tension between the logic of the mass-produced, serialized commodity and the aesthetic of the subjectivized, autonomous art object, both of which are, however, united in their underlying abstraction. Glöckner’s small-scale sculptural objects make clear that the maquette is no less complicated or slippery in relation to issues of conceptual process or symbolic form and signification than the readymade, multiple, or assemblage. As already stressed, the constructivists often built maquettes as prototypes for future projects, such as Rodchenko’s well-known maquette for the workers’ club or Gustav Klutsis’s maquettes for radio announcers made from painted cardboard, paper, wood, and metal. In contrast, Duchamp’s miniature models, most notably the tiny urinal produced for Boite-en-valise a full twenty-one

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years after the original readymade, were the opposite of preparatory, embodying the retrospective status and the symbolism of a copy. In many ways, it is also possible to rethink Glöckner’s small models from this perspective—as embodying the abstract temporality already thematized in his Tafelwerk: the idea that his models might not preconceive a future construction but are embodied in the cumulative logic of all that had already been produced—what Glöckner described as “came-to-be construction” or, in his own words, “what every work of art becomes in the end.” Perhaps, then, Glöckner’s postwar neoconstructivism and his domesticated experiments can also be read as retrospectively provoking reflection on a particular moment in the transformation of both the Soviet constructivist object and the autonomous art object of l’art pour l’art, and the paradoxes that animated each. Part-Constructivist Objects As is well-known, under Rodchenko the constructivists had sought a completely new kind of art object, putting the self-referential systemic structures of modern art to utilitarian tasks. Before it was finally rejected by the state, Rodchenko’s and Tatlin’s constructivism became an art of design and industrial production that celebrated the rationalized object of everyday life. For Rodchenko, “production art” meant the destruction of the autonomous realm of aesthetic production and a new relationship between people and things. Rodchenko believed that constructivist objects had the capacity to become equals, “comrades” active in the construction of socialist life, in opposition to the passive capitalist commodity.29 However, Rodchenko’s Soviet Union of the 1920s and 1930s had a schizophrenic relationship with commodity culture. From 1921 until 1928 the New Economic Policy ushered in a state-oriented mixed economy, which sanctioned the coexistence of private and state sectors. Thus the constructivist object was soon forced to mutate into the commodity form. Applying the formal and aesthetic principles that once defined his “nonutilitarian” objects, Rodchenko harnessed the seductive verse of the futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and established an advertising business called Reklamkonstruktor (Advertising-Constructor). Between 1923 and 1925, Rodchenko created more than 150 advertising and packaging designs, from packets for cigarettes to adverts for beer and enameled pins for the state airline Dobrolet. For critics such as Hubertus Gassner, the constructivists failed because they corrupted their earlier formal and aesthetic experiments and compro29. On the constructivist object, see Kiaer, “Rodchenko in Paris.”


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mised the possibility of autonomy for the art object, forcing it to become utilitarian and transforming it into an industrial commodity.30 Further, the apparent failure of the Soviet Union to successfully construct an alternative to the utopian fantasy of the marketplace is frequently seen as playing a fundamental role in its ultimate demise, a potential catastrophe foreseen by Walter Benjamin in the late 1920s.31 However, against Gassner’s assessment of Soviet constructivism’s productivist decline, Christina Kiaer has argued that it is precisely the compromised nature of the constructivist object in light of commodity culture that defined it.32 For her, Rodchenko’s radical attempt to rethink the role of objects and their relation to people under communism involved incorporating an acknowledgment of the phantasmic component of Western consumption. Thus the constructivist object can be understood as attempting to “encompass, rather than repress, the desires organized by the Western commodity fetish.”33 From this perspective, constructivist theory can be interpreted as deeply immersed in a fetishistic conception of the object, and its goal understood as harnessing the fetish relation so as to return it to a kind of social agency. According to Karl Marx, commodity fetishism existed as a system of exchange that necessarily distorts social relations, producing material relations between persons and social relations between things. Kiaer argues that the utilitarian constructivist object—typified by Rodchenko’s maquette for the workers’ club—attempts “to recuperate for proletarian culture this notion of thing-like relations between producers, and of social relations between . . . things.”34 The constructivist object was the locus for this political negotiation between private fantasies and collective goals.35 This is a paradox that resonates with Glöckner’s decidedly domestic constructivist objects, created from, and restricted to, the private sphere, but with the potential for far greater aesthetic and collective ambitions perhaps reminiscent of the “appealing, antimonumental element” Kiaer finds in the constructivist vision of the future imagined in Rodchenko’s maquettes.36 It is significant that Glöckner returns to constructivism through the discarded waste of consumerism and the mass-produced. In making his objects, which appear as both avant-garde monuments and deconstructed commodities, Glöckner could also be playing on the politics of the commodity in the 30. Gassner, “Constructivists,” 318. 31. Benjamin, Moscow Diary. 32. Kiaer, “Rodchenko in Paris.” 33. Ibid., 5. 34. Ibid., 9. 35. Ibid., 21. 36. Ibid., 33.

Sarah E. James


Figure 11. Hermann Glöckner, Cut Up and Unfolded Carboard Box of Fakt, after 1974. Hermann Glöckner Estate © 2017

GDR. For a paradoxical “socialist consumer culture” had also emerged in the GDR, and the future of the socialist state was perversely tied to its dependence on the Federal Republic’s capitalist economy.37 Indeed, the fact that the GDR failed to disentangle itself from the West German economy was pivotal to its decline. In the 1950s, and up until the 1970s and 1980s—the period in which Glöckner made his models—commodity fetishism was given a strange twist under communism in the secret cult of people procuring Western goods from relatives, travels, or the black market, and then collecting and displaying the empty packaging in their homes as status symbols. In this context Glöckner’s use in one of his small-scale works of a West German washing powder packet could even be read as a knowing play on this erection of private mini-monuments to identities formed under the false assumption of a capitalist utopia (fig. 11). His geometric dissection of it, and prominent display of its brand “Fakt,” might also suggest a critical stab at the East German state’s narrow view of the factual role of socialist realist aesthetics. At the same time, Glöckner’s neoconstructivist subversion of consumerist packing can be read as returning to the critical historical moment in the historical avant-garde’s 37. Zatlin, “Consuming Ideology”; Zatlin, Currency of Socialism, 32.


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project and in so doing reinserting the legacy or remnants of this critical aesthetic agenda into the vacuous world of Western commodity culture. Prefiguring Sigmar Polke’s and Gerhard Richter’s critique of pop art with their “capitalist realism” of the 1960s, and although antagonistic to their approach, Glöckner’s neoconstructivist reconstructions of consumerist packages make similarly pointed contrast to Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans. On Aesthetics, Waste, and Autonomy The fact that Glöckner’s miniature monuments look like pop art to contemporary eyes misses the more significant similarities that his modest, even domestic kind of conceptualism and sculptural practice has with the work of other nonofficial artists working under communism. The unassuming and discreet nature of Glöckner’s abstract constructions shares several striking traits with the kind of low-key conceptualism undertaken by nonofficial artists across the Eastern bloc. For example, they might better be understood in relation to the small-scale interventions by the Czech JiĜí Kovanda, who fashioned almost imperceptible installations from household odds and ends—such as small piles of needles and nails or paper and string—making minimalist interventions into the everyday, which, like Glöckner’s, were not necessarily intended for gallery or museum audiences. They also compare to the small colored cubes assembled out of scraps of paper and leftover materials by the Soviet artist Rimma Gerlovina in the 1970s, which, like Glöckner’s pieces, were meant to be held and interacted with and were conceived as three-dimensional poems. Such modest forms of conceptualism were partly the result of the restrictions on public space and material limitations, but just as often, as is the case with Glöckner’s practice, such a reading underestimates the fact that they were also the result of a complex system of conceptual meaning and processes generated by the artist. But most strikingly, such works existed outside the economies and structures of the art world. Not normally displayed in the museum to an official audience or bought by collectors, they existed as a peculiarly autonomous kind of practice. Glöckner’s small-scale works often appropriated what ordinarily would be discarded—household waste, broken utensils, and leftover artistic materials. This deliberate use of household garbage also finds striking parallels across the Eastern bloc. For example, waste became crucial to the work of such artists as Boris Turetsky, who, like Glöckner, also produced spatial abstract compositions.38 Trash, as is well known, 38. As well as undertaking an almost pathological cataloging of personal property, Turetsky produced Rubbish Heaps, appropriating slop pails as the central feature of his installations. See Erofeev, “Nonofficial Art,” 52.

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also became central to the installation art of Ilya Kabakov, who suggested that rubbish was a “metaphor for mediocre gray and consistent existence first and foremost, for an existence without action.”39 But at the same time he maintained that it embodies something highly individual and personal, so that it is “a kind of internally fragmentary object, one side of which points to memory, while the other side points to oblivion.”40 The notion of an “internally fragmentary object” weighted with memory but also autodestruction clearly illuminates Glöckner’s pieces as well. For Boris Groys, “There is an internal kinship between art and garbage: the work of art and the piece of garbage are equally useless, nonfunctional, superfluous things, peripheral to the universal traffic in commodities,” so much so that garbage is “the final, fantastic, universal context of all art.”41 It was garbage that enabled Glöckner to engage in both the ordinary and the utopian, to relocate art’s nonfunctional status. But waste and rubbish, as Groys suggests, also has a pointedly antagonistic relationship to the commodity. Gillian Pye has explored the power of waste and the discarded as an aesthetic resource. Looking at examples from Duchamp’s readymades to Schwitters’s Merz, she argues that “the potential of the discarded thing also relies on its status as a thing approaching a “zero point” of value. In other words, it has reached a point of transition between the world of the functioning, the useful and visible, and the realm of the invisible, the non-functioning and empty.”42 This is perhaps why garbage has so fascinated thinkers of modernity—in both its catastrophic and its utopian forms. Indeed, for Benjamin, following Charles Baudelaire, the artist can even be reimagined as the rag picker, and trash can be understood as acquiring a radical autonomy lacking in other objects.43 The metaphors of garbage and waste also litter the postwar writings of Theodor W. Adorno, functioning in complex and often seemingly contradictory ways. In the postwar period Adorno, like Glöckner, was also perceived as an increasingly isolated modernist and, by the 1960s, an embattled and outmoded defender of abstraction. Adorno famously argued that all culture after Auschwitz, including its critique, was garbage.44 However, at the same time 39. Ilya Kabakov, quoted in Lipovetsky, Russian Postmodernist Fiction, 32. Kabakov’s works that incorporate garbage included his enamel work Carrying Out the Slop Pail (1980), which represented a fictional rota for an apartment block to dispose of their waste, and Red Wagon (1991), in which he made visitors clamber through garbage. Kabakov’s work also blurred the lines between the museum and the domestic space, creating protagonists who hoarded trash and useless objects, as in The Garbage Man (The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away) (1983–85). 40. Lipovetsky, Russian Postmodernist Fiction, 32. 41. Groys, “Movable Cave,” 50. 42. Pye, “Introduction,” 6. 43. See Salzani, Constellations of Writing, 187–213. 44. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 367.


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and in a more Benjaminian spirit, he suggested that we should address the “waste products” (Abfallstoffen) and “blind spots” of history, so as to reclaim their radical potential.45 To address the garbage, and those things that fall by the wayside, meant “to write a history from the viewpoint of the vanquished,” which as Adorno suggested, would be tantamount to recovering waste as a figure for thought.46 Might it be possible to see Glöckner’s experiments in Adornian terms, as attempts to transform waste into radical potential, but also to position his ambiguous objects as blind spots that both obstruct and open up previously neglected experiences of East German visual culture and neoavant-garde practice? Adorno also offers us a way into interrogating the relationship between what he termed “the absolute art work and the absolute commodity”—which, it should now be clear, enlightens a central axis of Glöckner’s small-scale works. Despite their abstraction, metaphysical, or subjective concerns, Glöckner’s small-scale sculptures made from packaging or old commodities are fundamentally concerned with art’s relations to capitalist social forms. Adorno’s entire aesthetic theory was similarly concerned with interrogating art’s relationship to the commodity form—and posing the question of whether autonomous art might be understood as an intensification of the commodity form or a limit to it.47 As Stuart Martin has rightly claimed—the central antimony of modernity itself was posed by the fact that autonomous art was only produced because of capitalism yet is simultaneously destroyed by it.48 For Martin, the most significant and overlooked proposition of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory— formulated in the postwar decades in which Glöckner was making his miniature works, and similarly looking back to a modernist art now disintegrating— was the claim that “the absolute artwork meets the absolute commodity.” For Martin, this statement far exceeded the philosophy that produced it.49 For Adorno, autonomous art is absolute art—in that it is not determined by anything external to itself. The radical claim of Aesthetic Theory, Martin suggests, is not that the autonomy of art is produced as a reaction against commodification but by it. Art’s autonomy, then, is not outmoded by commodification but is commodity form in mimesis. Like the commodity, autonomous art conceals social relations and exerts an independence from use value, yet it also produces the most extreme example of an alternative to a world defined by exchange rela45. See Adorno, Minima Moralia, 172. 46. See Neville and Villeneuve, “Introduction,” 19. 47. See Martin, “Absolute Artwork.” 48. Ibid., 16. 49. Ibid., 17.

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tions. For this reason, art’s autonomy remains a vital form through which capitalist culture can be resisted and critiqued. Art gains its autonomy—and its distance from the individual who produced it and the one who encounters it—via the abstraction of labor. This, in Marx’s terms, is dead labor.50 Glöckner’s studio works seem to go straight to the heart of these issues. They were made to exist outside the exchange relations of the art market, or the fetishization of the museum. Yet they are made out of waste packaging or formerly functional commodities. In many ways their subject matter—intended or subconscious—appears to be the very abstract material of commodities. In both their reinvention of consumerist packaging and their small scale, they also operate in an aesthetic field of experience and desires animated by novelty and fetish value. They render both former commodities and functioning objects— such as the coffee pot or the matchbox—functionless, producing apparently constructivist objects yet as l’art pour l’art. Thus they might be thought to be quietly recuperating the inherent abstraction, before it becomes instrumentalized, at the heart of both the absolute commodity and the absolute artwork— via the blind spot of waste. Despite his own insistence that he was not a constructivist, Glöckner’s maquette-like neoconstructivist objects undoubtedly share many of the formal and aesthetic objectives of early Soviet constructivism. Rodchenko’s early explorations of the possibilities of abstract and sculptural forms had owed much to Malevich and Lissitzky, who in contrast to the productionist agenda of later constructivism held to the idealist conviction that forms could embody a new consciousness by pointing to a state or condition outside the limitations of contemporary lived experience. While the representation of objects that corresponded to new relations between humans was central to Rodchenko’s conception of utopia, Malevich had defined something closer to a “phenomenological utopia,” which offered a way to transcend the object, but through a simultaneous identification of the object as a marker of human thought.51 If Glöckner’s work continued to invest in any of the avant-garde ambitions of constructivism, it arguably oriented itself somewhere between the early materialist utopian dreams of Rodchenko and the phenomenological utopia of Malevich. Certainly, if Rodchenko was striving to harness the fetish of the commodity for socialist ends, then, arguably, Glöckner could be understood as trying to rescue the possibility of the autonomous art object under “really existing socialism” while remaining equally mindful of its precarity in a 50. Ibid., 20. 51. See Margolin, Struggle for Utopia, 10.


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consumerist capitalist culture. His studio work—in total antagonism with the Soviet avant-garde—can be interpreted as an attempt to reimbue mass-produced objects with a radical aesthetic autonomy. Yet, like the constructivists, Glöckner could be viewed as equally immersed in a fetishistic conception of the object and in an attempt to return a kind of social agency to such fetish relations.52 But arguably they also attempt to free the constructivist object of art from its ideological authoritarian distortion. Glöckner’s systematic and ordered explorations explicitly attempt to link aesthetic and social knowledge, and articulate a way of thinking—a way of living even, given the artist’s constant commitment to being an artist every day when, by most orthodox societal terms, he was not—through formal means. In their own world of abstract codification and systematization, Glöckner’s sculptures, like his Tafelwerk, assert the constructed, material basis of all knowledge. These small-scale works suggest both the possibility of a universal, transcendental language of forms and the constantly mutable, arbitrary, and social experiences of the individual lived life. In their fidelity to the small utopian and transformative possibilities of aesthetic experience and in their critical intervention in fetishistic commodity relations, they also intimate the possibility of a kind of knowledge that might be thought of as objective, collective, utopian, rather than only a phenomenon of individual consciousness. On a very modest scale, Glöckner’s works reengage the early utopian goal of the constructivist object: to construct new relations between the subject and object. In this sense, Glöckner’s small-scale neoconstructivist practice provides a dialectical and phenomenological model for aesthetic experience that relies on collectivity and autonomy existing both within and outside the limitations of contemporary lived experience in the GDR. Although his work radically departed from the orthodoxies of socialist realism—dominated as it was by the figurative representation of the worker—his approach to the daily fashioning of micro-sculptures as his central mode of work embodies in many ways the more utopian, and arguably unrealized, Marxist theories of labor to emerge in the GDR. As Held has argued, work was understood as a process of human self-fashioning and self-preservation, but also as “the locus of freer and more self-defining production.”53 What is more, the popular theories of labor were not confined to the world of work but also influenced the world of cultural production and cultural politics, including artistic practice—particularly given the SED desire to collapse the worlds of economic work and culture. 52. Kiaer, paraphrasing Susan Buck-Morss on Benjamin’s arcade projects, “Rodchenko in Paris,” 33. 53. Held, “Work as an Artistic Motif,” 166.

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Somewhat perversely, Glöckner’s approach to the artistic labor of making his sculptural works shared striking similarities with the more utopian aspirations of the state in terms of the radical transformation of work. For example, it was increasingly believed that the social relations produced through labor would eradicate the old antagonisms between mental and bodily labor—as material manifestations of the daily exercise of his sculptural imagination. Glöckner’s sculptural works certainly attempted to collapse the tensions between corporeal and conceptual labor. Glöckner’s part-maquettes, part-assemblages also resonate with Ernst Bloch’s. Another embattled modernist who was equally isolated in the GDR, Bloch contended that if art has a function, it is utopian; it is to make its viewers aware of the small things in life that contribute to the social and collective tendencies that further their dreams and enable their independence.54 Whether they are maquettes, experiments, assemblages, or simply the detritus of his studio, examined in the context of his Tafelwerk, Glöckner’s small-scale private works clearly reflect the complex cultural experience of the GDR in the 1960s and 1970s, where the fantasies, anxieties, and political realities of capitalism and communism collided. Existing in his Dresden studio and outside the museum for over forty years, these works also suggest a radical position beyond the neo-avant-garde’s commodification and institutionalization, attempting to articulate the dialectic also traced by Adorno, between what is waste and what is valuable. In many ways they operate exactly at the precarious boundary traced by Adorno, where the absolute artwork meets the absolute commodity. They resolutely complicate dominant theories of the avant-garde such as those of Peter Bürger—who ignored postwar developments in Eastern Europe—and could only see the neo-avant-garde of Western Europe as farce. They do so in their radical response to new forms of alienation and material contradiction and in their restaging of the unresolved problem of the mimetic relation between autonomous art and the commodity form—in both its utopian and autodestructive dimensions. References Adorno, Theodor W. 1973. Negative Dialectics, translated by E. B. Ashton. London: Routledge. ———. 1997. Minima Moralia: Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben. Vol. 4 of Gesammelte Schriften in zwanzig Bänden, edited by Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Barron, Stephanie, Sabine Eckmann, and Eckhart Gillen, eds. 2009. Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures. New York: Abrams. 54. Bloch, Literary Essays, 236.


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Benjamin, Walter. 1986. Moscow Diary, edited by Gary Smith, translated by Richard Sieburth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Betts, Paul. 2010. Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Bloch, Ernst. 1998. Literary Essays: Ernst Bloch, translated by Andrew Joron et al. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Boym, Svetlana. 2010. “Ruins of the Avant-Garde: From Tatlin’s Tower to Paper Architecture.” In Ruins of Modernity, edited by Julia Hell and Andreas Schönle, 58–88. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Curley, John J. 2009. “Hermann Glöckner.” In The Art of Two Germanies: Cold War Cultures, edited by Stephanie Barron, Sabine Eckmann, and Eckhart Gillen, 307–8. New York: Abrams. Erofeev, Andrei. 2002. “Nonofficial Art: Soviet Artists of the 1960s.” In Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s, edited by Laura Hoptman, 37–53. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Gassner, Hubertus. 1992. “The Constructivists: Modernism on the Way to Modernization.” In The Great Utopia: The Russian and the Soviet Avant-Garde, 1915–1932, translated by Jürgen Riehle, 298–319. New York: Guggenheim Museum. Gaus, Günther. 1983. Wo Deutschland liegt. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe. Glöckner, Hermann. 1983. Hermann Glöckner: Ein Patriarch der Moderne, edited by John Erpenbeck. Berlin: Buchverlag der Morgen. Gregory, Jarrett, ed. 2011. Ostalgia. New York: New Museum. Groys, Boris. 1998. “The Movable Cave, or Kabakov’s Self-Memorials.” In Ilya Kabakov, edited by Boris Groys, David A. Ross, and Iwona Blazwick, 34–63. London: Phaidon. Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood, eds. 2002. Art in Theory, 1900–2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. New York: Blackwell-Wiley. Held, Jutta. 2007. “Work as an Artistic Motif: Theoretical and Pictorial Models from the DDR: An Historical Sketch.” In As Radical as Reality Itself: Essays on Marxism and Art for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Matthew Beaumont, Andrew Hemingway, Esther Leslie, and John Roberts, 163–92. Oxford: Lang. Hofer, Sigfrid. 2012. “Pop Art in der DDR: Willy Wolffs Dialog mit dem Westen.” In Grenzgänge zwischen Ost und West: Schriftenreihe des Arbeitskreises Kunst in der DDR, edited by Sigfrid Hofer, 82–93. Dresden: Sandstein. Kiaer, Christina. 1996. “Rodchenko in Paris.” October, no. 75: 3–35. Kimmelmann, Michael. 2009. “Art in Two Germanys Often Spoke the Same Tongue.” New York Times, February 11. .html?pagewanted=all. Klöppel, Lydia. 2009. Die eikon Grafik-Presse und die Avantgarde-Kunst in der DDR: Alexander Rodtschenko, Hermann Glöckner, Wilhelm Müller, Woldemar Winkler und Klays Dennhardt. Munich: Grin. Klotz, Heinrich, and Alexander G. Rappaport, eds. 1990. Paper Architecture: New Projects from the Soviet Union. New York: Rizzoli. Köster, Hein. 1997. “Hermann Glöckner’s Board Work.” In German Art from Beckmann to Richter: Images of a Divided Country, edited by Eckhart Gillen, 59–67. Cologne: Dumont.

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Lifschitz, Michail. 1971. Krise des Häßlichen—Vom Kubismus zur Pop Art. Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst. Lipovetsky, Mark. 1999. Russian Postmodernist Fiction: Dialogue with Chaos, edited by Eliot Borenstein. Armonk, NY: Sharpe. Lodder, Christina. 1999. “The Russian Avant-Garde, London.” Burlington Magazine 141, no. 1156: 428. Margolin, Victor. 1997. The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917–1946. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Martin, Stuart. 2007. “The Absolute Artwork Meets the Absolute Commodity.” Radical Philosophy, no. 146: 15–25. Massimiliano, Gioni, and Judy Ditner, eds. 2010. The Eighth Gwangju Biennale: Ten Thousand Lives. Gwangju: Gwangju Biennale Foundation. Mayer, Rudolf, and Werner Schmidt, eds. 1991. Hermann Glöckner, Raum, Zeit, Figur: Ein Dresdner Beitrag zur Moderne. Stuttgart: Wilhelm. ———. 1992. Hermann Glöckner: Die Tafeln, 1919–1985. Dresden: Eikon. Mensch, Claudia. 2008. Modern Art at the Berlin Wall: Demarcating Culture in the Cold War Germanys. New York: Taurus. Mössinger, Ingrid, Brigitta Milde, and Katrin Höller, eds. 2005. Schrift, Zeichen, Geste: Carlfriedrich Claus im Kontext von Klee bis Pollock. Cologne: Weinand und Medien. Neville, Brian, and Johanne Villeneuve. 2002. “Introduction: In Lieu of Waste.” In WasteSite Stories: The Recycling of Memory, edited by Brian Neville and Johanne Villeneuve, 1–28. Albany: State University of New York Press. Pye, Gillian, ed. 2010. “Introduction: Trash as a Cultural Category.” In Trash Culture: Objects and Obsolescence in Cultural Perspective, 1–14. Oxford: Lang. Salzani, Carol. 2009. Constellations of Writing: Walter Benjamin in Figures of Actuality. Bern: Lang. Sokolina, Anna. 2001. “Alternative Identities: Conceptual Transformations in Soviet and Post-Soviet Architecture.” Art Margins, April 30. /archive/371-alternative-identities-conceptual-transformations-in-soviet-and-post -soviet-architecture. Tipton, Frank B. 2003. A Modern History of Germany since 1815. Berkeley: University of California Press. Van der Will, Wilfried. 2000. “Section Two: The Visual Arts.” In German Monitor: East Germany, Continuity and Change, edited by Paul Cooke and Jonathan Grix, 43–44. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Welich, Dirk. 2005. “Hermann Glöckner: Ein Beitrag zum Konstruktivismus in Sachsen.” PhD diss., Technische Universität Dresden. Zatlin, Jonathan R. 1999. “Consuming Ideology: Socialist Consumerism and the Intershops, 1970–1989.” In Arbeiter in der SBZ-DDR, edited by Peter Hübner and Klaus Tenfelde, 555–72. Essen: Klartext. ———. 2007. The Currency of Socialism: Money and Political Culture in East Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Instant Selves: Algorithmic Autobiographies on Social Network Sites

Roberto Simanowski

Broadcast Yourself When YouTube switched its welcoming slogan in 2006 from a self-description (“Your Digital Video Repository”) to a summons (“Broadcast Yourself”), at least rhetorically it linked the 1980s dictum of self-fulfillment—“Experience Your Life”—with the maxim for self-exploration of the 1990s: “Recount Yourself.”1 Facebook does this in a similar way, inviting its members to share their lives extensively with others via a continual posting of developing personal circumstances. Since this request, or rather expectation, implicitly preaches hedonism, social networks are both biotopes and stress tests for Generation Me.2 Those who are unable to present attractive experiences become socially disqualified—especially in the Facebook environment. Manipulating one’s narratives is an inevitable consequence of this constellation, accompanied by depression (when one’s own life pales in comparison with the glamour of the others), self-delusion (when recalling one’s fictional past as one’s genuine past),3 and banality (when trivia is treated as information). No term is ever innocent. It is no surprise that the social network industry operates with positively connoted terms such as “transparency,” which 1. Schulze, Erlebnisgesellschaft, 58–59; Thomä, Erzähle dich selbst. 2. Twenge, Generation Me. 3. The aspect of depression is observed in several studies. Relevant is Chou and Edge, “‘They Are Happier.’” New German Critique 130, Vol. 44, No. 1, February 2017 DOI 10.1215/0094033X-3705766 © 2017 by New German Critique, Inc.



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implies that the obsessive publicizing of one’s own life benefits the social. Mark Zuckerberg’s equation of greater transparency with a better world is notorious. The not always ironical rhyme “sharing is caring” denounces reserved detachment as asocial behavior: “Privacy is theft,” as in the maxim of tech giant The Circle in Dave Eggers’s eponymous dystopia.4 The flip side to this terminological embellishment is a terminological depreciation, as in when “transparency” becomes “exhibitionism” and “narcissism.”5 The problem with such blanket verdicts is that they do not take into account that the idea of transparency has historical roots in the arts and in social utopias. Already in the early twentieth century the transparent man was invoked both by communist ideology and by avant-garde art as an alternative to bourgeois identity. Similarly, the public exposure of private life in digital media was initially intended to subvert mainstream culture.6 The phenomenon of the public self that we observe online today cannot be understood without a reflection on the twentieth century, or the Century of the Self—the title of a 2002 documentary film by Adam Curtis. Since the late 1940s (psychoanalytic) theory defined the narcissist no longer as an “Id” that wants to assert itself against the “Ego” but as an “Ego” that rebels against an alienating and conformist world. The Search for the Self, the title of a 1978 book by Heinz Kohut, had become a positive element of the identity formation since the 1970s and the basis for different movements of emancipation against the old order: for youth, for women, for homosexuals, and for the new Left. It would be a mistake to dismiss the end of modesty (symbolized by excessive self-presentation in social networks) with Andy Warhol’s maxim of “15 minutes of fame.” While this search for the self begins as a nonconformist alternative to the unsuccessful group activism of the 1960s and 1970s, it is eventually co-opted by capitalism, which sells it as a lifestyle. Emancipation of the self—this is the cultural tragedy of this historic process—is finally reduced to consumption as its basic mode of expression. Nowadays, within the framework of social networks, self-expression enlists consumer culture in three additional ways: it demonstrates consumer competence, it provides a basis for customized advertisement, and it undermines resistance to this social constel4. Eggers, Circle, 305. 5. Deresiewicz speaks on behalf of many when he defines the compulsion to share as a “kind of exhibitionism” and as “faintly obscene”(“Faux Friendship”). 6. The protagonists of this “artistic self-monitoring” are Jennifer Ringley (who publicized the events in her apartment on the website JenniCam from 1996 to 2003 by using a camera) and Josh Harris (who—apart from other projects—publicized his life with his partner in the same way); see Ondi Timoner’s documentary film We Live Public (2010).

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lation. The thesis I propose here is that intensified self-presentation does not necessarily lead to or coincide with increased self-reflection; on the contrary— in the course of its taking account of itself, the self simultaneously loses itself. Episodic Self-Experience New media supply the self with diverse forms of presentation (websites, weblogs, and social networks). In social networks like Instagram, Facebook, or Weibo, self-presentation tends to unfold implicitly rather than explicitly, as one shows rather than tells:7 images, contexts (one’s list of friends, the events one attends, the groups to which one subscribes, one’s favorite books, etc.) and spontaneous activities (visits, likes, shares, and short comments) prevail over written personal accounts. Even less intentional or conscious is self-presentation by way of activity on external sites that automatically link up to one’s own Facebook feed. The cue for this was announced in 2011 at the Facebook Developer Conference F8, with the term frictionless sharing. Two examples of its technical implementation were “Beacon,” which failed in 2007 because of user protest, and “Ticker,” an automated message generator for “lighter-weight” information (i.e., songs listened to on Spotify or films watched on Netflix). Frictionless sharing exemplifies the change from a deliberate action to a more or less subconscious automatism through which the message loses its value as something that—from the perspective of the sender—is worth sharing. People no longer describe themselves implicitly through their actions: rather, actions “present” themselves without an intermediary. With a nod to Siegfried Kracauer’s famous distinction between the paradigms of painting as a materialization of how something is perceived and that of photography as a mere recording of the material, we could say that descriptions in social networks become photographic: “For in the artwork [i.e., the painting] the meaning of the object takes on spatial appearance, whereas in photography the spatial appearance of an object is its meaning.”8 Moving beyond the instances of automated recording, one needs to examine the extent to which writing on Facebook as a deliberate mode of selfpresentation displays self-awareness. Contrary to classic forms of self-description, self-profiling in query language does not require narrative competence. As Ramón Reichert has registered in his analysis of network cultures: “To be locatable in the grid of the e-form, linear and narrative knowledge must be 7. Zhao, Grassmuck, and Martin, “Identity Construction on Facebook.” 8. Kracauer, “Photography,” 427.


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broken up into informational units. These form-immanent rules underlie the authority of the e-form.”9 Inevitably the authority of the form is cultural, since the data queries enforce certain preestablished criteria for how we look at ourselves. Less formalized, less compulsory are status reports, commentaries, and life events that, like the ephemeral narratives of everyday life, can be understood as “small stories.”10 These small stories, as Ruth Page argues, may present the plotline of a grander narrative that is then generated outside Facebook by the “narrator’s” “friends,” who also know quite a bit about him or her offline and who can then imaginatively fill in the blanks within the “self-contained units” of the updates and “infer narrative-like connections not explicitly articulated in the updates themselves.”11 Page refers to Paul Ricoeur in her analysis of individual status updates, classifying them as an “attempt to ‘make time human’ by selecting particular events as worthy of narration.”12 While it remains to be seen how probable the “‘fill[ing] in the gaps’ between status updates, online and offline experience” is, the actual problem does not lie in the outsourcing of such narrative acts—or in the switch from “linear connections between individual entries” to a “pointillist technique” of the entries—but in the ambiguous authorship of such “self-portrait[s].”13 One can hardly assume that status updates are organized and reflected on, or in other words, that they would fit into Ricoeur’s framework. In the end the small stories do not establish a pointillist self-portrait (which despite the discrete technique of the brush is created intentionally and “retrospectively”), but—if one wants to remain with the analogy—they correspond to the episodic “moments into which the pointillist time of liquid modernity is sliced,”14 as Zygmunt Bauman would have it. Rather than retrospectively narrated, these moments are either spontaneously reported as they happen or simply documented (the photo as update), if not automatically registered within the technical framework (frictionless sharing). Bauman’s term pointillist time corresponds both to his description of postmodern identity as liberation from compulsory life scripts and as loss of a coherent life story in which the individual stages can be recounted as the necessary elements of a whole. Human beings, he main9. Reichert, “Back-End Science.” 10. Page, “Re-examining Narrativity.” 11. Ibid., 437. 12. Ibid., 428. 13. Ibid., 440. 14. Bauman, “Privacy, Secrecy, Intimacy, Human Bonds, Utopia,” 21.

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tains, are no longer pilgrims on the way to themselves but tourists who want neither to be defined by the past nor to be determined by the future: “The overall result is the fragmentation of time into episodes, each one cut from its past and from its future, each one self-enclosed and self-contained.”15 The identity concept of an “arbitrary sequence of present moments” described by Bauman as “a continuous present”16 is buttressed by the British philosopher Galen Strawson, whose article programmatically titled “Against Narrativity” (2004) differentiates between diachronic and episodic self-experience: “The basic form of Diachronic self-experience is that . . . one naturally figures oneself, considered as a self, as something that was there in the (further) past and will be there in the (further) future. . . . If one is Episodic, by contrast, one does not figure oneself, considered as a self, as something that was there in the (further) past and will be there in the (further) future.”17 Strawson’s perspective is expressly directed against the “dominant view in the academy today” that argues both psychologically and ethically that one becomes a person only by way of the autobiographical narrative.18 Strawson contradicts the imperative of “Bildung or ‘quest’”—which in a way transfers the modern concept of progress to the individual—with a proof of his own (“My own conviction is that the best lives almost never involve this kind of self-telling”). His argument is that because of its coherence bias, narrative activity inevitably leads to fiction and falsification, and ultimately blocks the attempt to understand oneself.19 By focusing on a “life in the present moment,” Strawson answers all those wanting to describe a present with the traditional criteria of identity, authenticity, and coherence while other values like hybridity, change, and instantaneousness have long since been characterizing the activities and the self-conception of the self. Apart from his praise of episodic self-conception, his criticism of narrative self-reflection as a potential distortion is interesting for the present discussion. His perspective is much closer to the practices on Facebook than Page’s attempt to reconcile the communicative processes in 15. Bauman, “From Pilgrim to Tourist,” 25. 16. Ibid., 24. 17. Strawson, “Against Narrativity,” 430. 18. Ibid., 429. Strawson quotes, among others, Jerry Bruner, Marya Schechtmann, and Paul Ricoeur: “How, indeed, could a subject of action give an ethical character to his or her own life taken as a whole if this life were not gathered together in some way, and how could this occur if not, precisely, in the form of a narrative?” He also quotes Charles Taylor: a “basic condition of making sense of ourselves . . . is that we grasp our lives in a narrative . . . as an unfolding story” (436). 19. Ibid., 441, 437.


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social networks with Ricoeur’s thesis of narrativity and narrative psychology. For it is Facebook’s social and technical dispositif that, on the one hand, fosters episodic self-presentation and self-experience—“recency is prized over retrospection” (also in Page’s findings)20 —and, on the other, only horizontally permits linkage within the network and beyond, but not vertically between the updates of one’s own existence. At the same time, Facebook replaces the unreliable first-person narrator at the front end of the interface with an incorruptible (re)counter at the back end. Raw Data It is general knowledge that Facebook is a gigantic database that creates data sets with about sixty categories for every user.21 At the back end of the interface, the data, previously dissected via queries, are recombined in a double way: into individual user profiles and into user networks. Thus the chronological, vertical structure of an individual’s life is amended by a topological, horizontal grid of interpersonal relations. The best working basis for such profiling is not the subjective construction of one’s own history but the objective, automated recording and collection of data. Even though raw data is an oxymoron22—and provided that one accepts an ontological differentiation between the terms data, information, knowledge, and Bildung—from the perspective of the interface’s back end all narrative work at the front end, that is, the selective and strategic account by the individual, is a distortion of data. The algorithmic re/counting on Facebook is the equivalent to the “numerical narration” of the quantified-self movement that favors “self knowledge through numbers”23 over the subjectivity of narrative self-observation. But the shift to numbers only avoids the distortion by the subject if it occurs simultaneously as a shift from its consciousness to its body, that is, when the data are automatically created by the body “itself.” This is what the concept of frictionless sharing, that is in no way limited to Facebook, aims at. Examples 20. Page, “Re-examining Narrativity,” 440. 21. For details, see 22. Gitelman, “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron; see the Semantic Web rhetoric of “raw data,” for example, in the promotional video on the European Linked Open Data project ( video/36752317). 23. See The term numerical narratives originally described bureaucratically organized information of health care; see Coutinho, Bisht, and Raje, “Numerical Narratives.” One Facebook collaborator, Nicholas Felton, uses it for the statistical representation of his life routine (“Numerical Narratives”).

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are the GPS data that one volitionally but subconsciously creates, or the Foursquare app Swarm, introduced in 2014, which rendered automatic the manually and selectively created check-ins.24 To a certain extent, this “shift from human-generated to machine-generated self-representations”25 is also carried out on Facebook. The externalization of authorship ranges from the standardization of queries (e-forms) to the automated reports on activities in the net; from the unsolicited montage of one’s posts with commentaries and updates of friends to the “shadow biographers,” that is, the algorithms, “telling users about themselves while telling the site and its advertisers about the users.”26 As to the latter, according to Laurie McNeill, the “algorithmic auto/biography” on Facebook is “collaboratively, if not consensually, coproduced in ways that suggest that the subject of Facebook is the product of a posthuman process.”27 McNeill’s comment is not meant as a criticism. Referring to N. Katherine Hayles’s How We Became Posthuman and her notion that “conscious agency has never been ‘in control,’” McNeill concludes: “Perhaps personal narrative, then, to borrow Katherine Hayles’s description of humans, ‘has always been posthuman’ (291), a prospect that makes the apparently paradoxical a productive frame for rethinking how we craft and consume selves.”28 Does the taking over of autobiographical writing by networks and algorithms neutralize the usual strategies of self-deception that humans employ when taking account of themselves? Does the machinic auto/narration, in its objectivity, force a confrontation with one’s other? Does the change from words to numbers lead to the withering of self-narrative and thus to the loss of reflexive practice that is at the heart of subjectivation?29 These questions need to be explored on the basis of comprehensive empirical studies that cannot be undertaken here. In this article the aim has 24. The reason for this readjustment illustrates once again to what extent the technical dispositif of self-presentation in social networks is characterized by economy. See Walker-Rettberg, Seeing Ourselves, 77–78: “Foursquare and Swarm are moving away from being shared diaries to being commercial marketing platforms that represent us to our friends in order to convince our friends to buy certain services rather than others.” 25. Ibid. 26. McNeill, “There Is No ‘I’ in Network,” 73. 27. Ibid., 74. McNeill also notes that “agency, seen as so key to the humanist subject, has been transferred to the software that reads and produces users. Where, indeed, do we end and Facebook begins?” (79). 28. Ibid., 80. The internal quote to be found in Hayles, How We Became Posthuman, 288, as is the quote for “conscious agency.” 29. Polkinghorne, “Narrative and Self-Concept,” 136: “Narrative is the cognitive process that gives meaning to temporal events by identifying them as parts of a plot.”


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been to register the shift toward the posthuman narration of the self in three steps: (1) from the word to the number when description is replaced by statistical reports (i.e., the quantification of feedback broken down into units of “likes” and “shares,” or the quantified-self movement); (2) from mechanics to automatics when subjects cease to submit reports consciously (i.e., checking in manually on Foursquare) and authorize the automatic transfer of data; (3) from option to compulsion when the retrieval and analysis of data are no longer initiated by the producers (and “owners”) of the data but are enforced by employers, insurance companies, and governing authorities, or are covertly gathered. That the shift from the narrative to the numeric does not lead to a biographical account as demanded by the ethical narrativity thesis is clear. The surprising twist is that producing such a biographical account is not the actual aim of self-expression on Facebook and other social networks. In fact, the furor around the oversharing culture masks a much bleaker reality: the need to escape from oneself. Present Shock The typical explanation for the obsessive sharing on social networks is our addiction to positive feedback, there represented by “likes” and “shares.” As Bauman notes, we document our “being-in-the-world” according to the motto: “I am seen (watched, noted, recorded) therefore I am.”30 The philosopher Wendy Brown aims at less obvious reasons when she explains the readiness to publicly reveal the private with the decline in modern man’s ability to experience. “If we are subjects increasingly incapable of experience in the Benjaminian and Agambenian sense, might this incapacity be a key to understand our own complicity in an order increasingly indifferent to distinctions between public and private space, and hence private and public experience?”31 The reference to Giorgio Agamben alludes to his 1978 statement that experience is delegated to the camera: “Standing face to face with one of the great wonders of the world (let us say the patio de los leones in the Alhambra) the overwhelming majority of people have no wish to experience it, preferring instead that the camera should.”32 Unfortunately, Brown does not expand on this statement. If one does, one will immediately confirm the relevance of Agamben’s observation, which now is true even of rock concerts. 30. Bauman, Liquid Surveillance, 130. 31. Brown, “‘Subject of Privacy,’” 140. 32. Agamben, Infancy and History, 17.

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Agamben himself refers to Walter Benjamin’s essay “Experience and Poverty” (1933), where the latter claims that human beings “long to free themselves from experience; they long for a world in which they can make such pure and decided use of their poverty—their outer poverty, and ultimately also their inner poverty—that it will lead to something respectable.”33 The means to free oneself from experience are postcards or objects relating to a place that can be taken along: “The souvenir is the complement of the ‘experience’ [des ‘Erlebnisses’]. In it the increasing self-alienation of the person who inventories his past as dead possession is distilled.”34 The travel photographs that Agamben criticizes become the modern-day “something respectable” to which Benjamin alludes. But the camera was never an adequate addressee for outsourcing perception. “Delegated pleasure”35 comes to nothing when left to machines. It needs addressees with the same perceptional abilities—luckily these are to be found in social networks. In the second of their 10 Web 2.0 Theses in 2009, Ippolita, Geert Lovink, and Ned Rossiter comment on the function of social networks: “We initially love them for their distraction from the torture of now-time. Networking sites are social drugs for those in need of the Human that is located elsewhere in time or space.”36 “Torture of now-time” sounds questionably vague—but with Agamben and Blaise Pascal we can hone it into flight from the present. Social networks are the salvation from inner emptiness while, as Agamben put it, “standing face to face” with the wonders of the world. Even in everyday life they rescue us from the empty room in which—according to Pascal in the seventeenth century—without god’s solace, human beings realize their mortal condition.37 The “torture of now-time” is the translation of the horror vacui into contemporary parlance. Today, not only have the theological groundings of individual life lost their persuasive value (i.e., God is dead), but the teleological secular certainties fail to guide us (i.e., end of grand narratives). The end of emotional security within narration as announced by Bauman and as defended by Strawson has existential consequences to which the social networks are the answer. They enable a way to escape from the Present Shock— the title of a book by Douglas Rushkoff from 2014—into the time of the social network. 33. Benjamin, “Experience and Poverty,” 734. 34. Benjamin, “Central Park,” 49. 35. Pfaller, Interpassivität. 36. Ippolita, Lovink, and Rossiter, “Digital Given.” 37. Pascal, “Misery of Man,” nos. 136–39.


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In the era of social networks, sharing transforms the lived moment in a threefold way: (1) by shooting a photo on-site, (2) by uploading it into the network, (3) by occupying oneself with the feedbacks starting directly after the upload and including the catching up with the updates of others. The report of the here and now to others catapults from the lived present into the parallel world of the social network. The camera is not the medium for the booty; it is the protective shield that allows one to flee from the lingering moment—the “Torture of the Now”—into the hustle and bustle of communication. One sees reality only through the “Facebook Eye,” that is, in terms of how lived experience could best be presented to the “friends” and how it generates the most “likes.”38 Those who overlook the horror vacui behind the need for recognition twist the causal relation and mistake the social network for the source of the oversharing when it is in fact the perfect solution to an old problem. Not that the social network prevents real life; it is the loss of a real life that makes the social network so attractive as a decent—or respectable—way out. In pursuing this thesis, Generation Me is “exhibitionist” not because it is narcissistic (or because it has been defenselessly persuaded into the permanent production of personal data) but because it cannot bear the present or itself— and it cannot bear the present because it has lost the past as a source of meaning and the future as an orientation to a goal. The other persons somewhere in space and time are “therapeutic partners.” Publicizing the self is a flight from oneself and toward the “homeland” of the network. The network is therefore not (only) to be understood as a theater stage and a form of self-branding or as a place of monitoring and exploitation: It (also) is a support group in times of need, allowing its members to delegate their experiences to each other in the “group cuddling” of the likes.39 References Agamben, Giorgio. 2007. Infancy and History: The Destruction of Experience, translated by Liz Heron. London: Verso. Bauman, Zygmunt. 1996. “From Pilgrim to Tourist—or a Short History of Identity.” In Questions of Cultural Identity, edited by Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, 18–36. New York: Sage. ———. 2010. “Privacy, Secrecy, Intimacy, Human Bonds, Utopia—and Other Collateral Casualties of Liquid Modernity.” In Modern Privacy, Shifting Boundaries, New Forms, edited by Harry Blatterer, Pauline Johnson, and Maria R. Markus, 7–22. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 38. Jurgendson, “Facebook Eye.” 39. The thesis of self-presentation as flight from the self can only be sketched here. I have developed it extensively in my study Facebook-Gesellschaft, forthcoming in English in 2017.

Roberto Simanowski


———. 2013. Liquid Surveillance: A Conversation, edited by Zygmunt Bauman and David Lyon. Malden, MA: Polity. Benjamin, Walter. 1985. “Central Park,” translated by Lloyd Spencer. New German Critique, no. 34: 32–58. ———. 1999. “Experience and Poverty.” In vol. 2 of Selected Writings, edited by M. W. Jennings, 731–36. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Brown, Wendy. 2004. “‘The Subject of Privacy’: A Comment on Moira Gatens.” In Privacies: Philosophical Evaluations, edited by Beate Rössler, 133–41. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Chou, Hui-Tzu, and Nicholas Edge. 2012. “‘They Are Happier and Having Better Lives Than I Am’: The Impact of Using Facebook on Perceptions of Others’ Lives.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 15, no. 2: 117–21. Coutinho, Lester, Suman Bisht, and Gauri Raje. 2000. “Numerical Narratives and Documentary Practices: Vaccines, Targets, and Reports of Immunisation Programme.” Economic and Political Weekly 35, nos. 8–9: 656–66. Deresiewicz, William. 2009. “Faux Friendship.” Chronicle of Higher Education, December 6. Eggers, Dave. 2014. The Circle. New York: Viking. Felton, Nicholas. 2011. “Numerical Narratives.” Lecture at UCLA Department of Design, Media, Arts, November 15. -narratives/387. Gitelman, Lisa, ed. 2013. “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ippolita, Geert Lovink, and Ned Rossiter. 2009. “The Digital Given: 10 Web 2.0 Theses.” Fibreculture Journal 14. -10-web-2-0-theses. Jurgendson, Nathan. 2012. “The Facebook Eye.” Atlantic, January 13. www.theatlantic .com/technology/ archive/2012/01/the-facebook-eye/251377. Kohut, Heinz. 1978. The Search for the Self: Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut, 1950–1978, edited by Paul H. Ornstein. Madison, CT: International Universities Press. Kracauer, Siegfried. 1993. “Photography.” Critical Inquiry 19, no. 3: 421–36. McNeill, Laurie. 2012. “There Is No ‘I’ in Network: Social Networking Sites and Posthuman Auto/Biography.” Biography 35, no. 1: 65–82. Page, Ruth. 2010. “Re-examining Narrativity: Small Stories in Status Updates.” Text and Talk 30, no. 4: 423–44. Pascal, Blaise. 1910. “The Misery of Man without God.” In Thoughts, Letters, and Minor Works, translated by W. F. Trotter, M. L. Booth, and O. W. Wight. Harvard Classics, 48. New York: Collier and Son. Pfaller, Robert, ed. 2000. Interpassivität: Studien über delegiertes Genießen. Vienna: Springer. Polkinghorne, Donald E. 1991. “Narrative and Self-Concept.” Journal of Narrative and Life History 1, nos. 2–3: 135–53. Reichert, Ramón. 2014. “Back-End Science: Facebook and Big Data Research.” www


Instant Selves

Schulze, Gerhard. 1992. Die Erlebnisgesellschaft: Kultursoziologie der Gegenwart. Frankfurt am Main: Campus. Simanowski, Roberto. 2016. Facebook-Gesellschaft. Berlin: Matthes und Seitz. Strawson, Galen. 2004. “Against Narrativity.” Ratio 17, no. 4: 428–52. Thomä, Dieter. 1998. Erzähle dich selbst: Lebensgeschichte als philosophisches Problem. Munich: Suhrkamp. Twenge, Jean M. 2006. Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable than Ever Before. New York: Simon and Schuster. Walker-Rettberg, Jill. 2014. Seeing Ourselves through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs, and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Zhao, Shanyang, Sherry Grassmuck, and Jason Martin. 2008. “Identity Construction on Facebook: Digital Empowerment in Anchored Relationships.” Computers in Human Behavior 24, no. 5: 1816–36.

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Forthcoming Issue 131 Cristina Cuevas-Wolf • John Heartfield’s Thälmann Montages: The Politics behind Images of International Antifascism Misa Nikolic • First as Tragedy, Second as Farce: Heartfield’s Photomontages and the Engaged Viewer Kurt Beals • Dada: Art and the Discourse of Advertising Stefan Breuer • The Truth of Modern Society? Critical Theory and Fascism Çi÷dem Çıdam • Radical Democracy without Risks? Habermas on Constitutional Patriotism and Civil Disobedience Marianna Papastephanou • Reflections on the European Promise Marc David Baer • Protestant Islam in Weimar Germany: Hugo Marcus and “The Message of the Holy Prophet Muhammad to Europe” Jonathan Gentry • Sound Biopolitics: Modernist Music and Degeneration in the Wilhelmine Empire

ISBN 978-0-8223-6864-9

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