Introduction to German Art Gallery

How do we value German art from the 1930s and 1940s?
Are these works unethical, worthless kitsch? Are they inconsistent, politically incorrect trash? Or are they sometimes beautiful? Citizens of modern Western democratic systems are able to decide for themselves what they like or dislike and they have a clear understanding that a large proportion of this art was used for propaganda purposes.

Transparency

This type of art has been hidden for more than 70 years, but times change. We welcome the increasing transparency in this area. The Great German Art Exhibitions were put online by GDK Research in 2011, the Texas Tech University has put online the German works of art in the possession of the U.S. Army Center of Military History and an online database was created by the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Along with these encouraging initiatives, there have been more then 20 recent expositions in museums in Berlin, Bochum, Herford, Munich, Regenburg, Wiesbaden, Würzburg, Bergen (Norway), Graz (Austria) and New York of German art from the 1930s and 1940s. These exhibitions also help citizens to get a better understanding of the art and of this troubled, dark and tragic period in European history.

Destruction and scarcity

The prices of the art in our gallery are a reflection of its scarcity. Based on the Potsdam Agreement of 2 August 1945, subparagraph 3, Part III, Section A and OMGUS, Title 18, more than 95% of this type of art was destroyed, along with many German monuments, after the end of World War II. The rest was shipped away during a systematic looting of art in 1945 and 1946 by the American, British and Russian forces (2,5 million works of art were stolen by Russia). This looting included the plundering of German medieval and ancient art of invaluable historical importance from the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, the Saxon State Library and the Berlin Nationalgalerie. Nowadays most of what is left of the art from the 1930s and 1940s is stored in the cellars of the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington D.C., in Russia and in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.

Scope of German Art Gallery

The works in our art collection were made between 1900 and 1945 with an emphasis on the ‘30s and ‘40s. Due to the scarcity of the art produced in the 1930s and 1940s, we have included in our gallery the works of artists -popular in the '30s and '40s- that were made before and after this period. For example, there are paintings depicting scenes of World War I from Fritz Erler, Albert Reich, and Claus Bergen, as well as sculptures from Arno Breker that were cast after World War II.

Registration

Art made during this period was often used as propaganda by the National Socialist party. A small section of our gallery contains art with images of political leaders of that time and/or National Socialist symbols. We think it is important that we alert our visitors to the fact that some items might be upsetting. In order to comply with legislation, especially in Germany and in The Netherlands, visitors who wish to enter this part of our gallery must first register.

German Art Gallery is sponsor of Human Rights Watch, the Anne Frank Foundation and member of a national Humanist Association.