BIELEFELD, GERMANY.- Kunsthalle Bielefeld presents 1937. Perfection and Destruction, on view through 13 January 2008. Ten themes, almost two hundred artists, more than four hundred works on loan: the Kunsthalle Bielefeld is documenting 1937 as a year of Perfection and Destruction. It is about the many reactions to a traveling exhibition entitled Entartete Kunst (Degenerate art), which opened in Munich that year; it is also about the National Socialists campaign against modernism, and the international shock caused by the bombing of Guernica. This artistic synopsis features very famous and less-well-known artists, represented by works on loan from over 120 museums and private collections. It encompasses paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs from Italy and Spain, the Soviet Union, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, France, England, the United States, and Mexico. Seventy years after 1937, the fascist attempt to destroy modern art can be experienced once again, in a relatively authentic way.
The exhibition begins with Arno Breker, Leni Riefenstahl, and the fascist painters supported by Hitler - some of the deceptive ideals of perfection promoted by National Socialism. In bold opposition, more than twenty reputable German artists, including Max Beckmann and Richard Oelze, portrayed the rude awakening. From here, the viewer moves on to entire rooms of works representing the art scenes in Italy, Spain, and the Soviet Union. A change of scenery takes the viewer to the United States, where twenty more painters are represented - some critical of society, and others who were contemplatively resigned - including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. After a look at the various countries follows a comparison of styles, with the aim of introducing the international, classically oriented idea of sculpture. Parallel to these are the great photographers of the epoch; whether it is Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange, they do not portray people as heroic, bur instead, as abandoned to their material and cultural misery. One high point of the Bielefeld show is comprised of the international surrealist works. Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Joan Miró, and many others were politically active. Along with Pablo Picasso, represented by his Femme qui pleure, studies for Guernica, and work photos of Dora Maar, they express their indignation over world events. Finally, a survey of important works of constructivism shows that democracy and peace are almost impossible without balance.
Events will also be part of 1937. Perfection and Destruction. The music of 1937, everyday life in politics and culture; and German, French, and American film - including Zarah Leander and Marlene Dietrich - are features of the evening program. The Kunststiftung NRW is providing generous financial support. The catalogue, produced by Tübingen publishers Ernst Wasmuth, will contain 480 pages and an English-language appendix, and will be available during the exhibition at a special price of 32.