The Regime Against Art

Entartete Kunst

The official Nazi exhibition of works deemed repugnant to National Socialist virtues opened in Munich on July 19, 1937. Entitled Entartete Kunst, the exhibition travelled to eleven other cities in Germany and Austria with more than 650 important paintings, sculptures, prints and books, generating the most widely viewed exhibition of modern art of the time. The works were the product of the Degenerate Art Commission's purging of the Reich's public and private collections of art. Of the more than sixteen thousand confiscated works, over 4829 paintings and watercolors would be burned in 1939 by the Commission headed by Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. SZ Photo is an incredible historical archive of 20th century events, including images of the Nazi exhibition and Goebbels' visit to the show in Berlin.

SZP370926 The opening of the 'Degenerate Art' exhibition in Berlin, 1938 (b/w photo)/ SZ Photo/ Scherl
SZP370926 The opening of the 'Degenerate Art' exhibition in Berlin, 1938 (b/w photo)/ SZ Photo/ Scherl

BAL56607 Composition No.7, 1913 (oil on canvas) by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)/ Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
BAL56607 Composition No.7, 1913 (oil on canvas) by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)/ Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

The term “entartet,” or “degenerate,” was used to describe primarily avant-garde art which was characterized as signifying decay, decadence, and chaos. Artistic movements such as Dada, Expressionism, Surrealism, Bauhaus and Impressionism were part of this designation. In the exhibition, works by artists such as Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky (left) and Emil Nolde were deliberately hung askew and displayed anti-aesthetically in the gallery alongside defamatory commentary.

View a lightbox of artists whose works were labeled 'degenerate' by the Nazi regime (works were not necessarily part of the 1937 exhibition).

The exhibition ran concurrently with the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German Art exhibition), which boasted conservative, often neoclassical, Nazi-approved art. Among 'approved' artists: sculptor Arno Breker and painter Adolf Wissel. View a lightbox of artists who were part of the Great German Art exhibition.

Socialist Realism

The reciprocal relationship between the Bolshevik government under Lenin and its contemporary Russian avant-garde artists was not shared during Stalin's regime, which dismissed abstract art as ungrounded in reality. After Socialist Realism was designated as the official style of Soviet art in 1932, many creative groups were dismantled. Socialist Realism became a means to further the regime's ideologies; the depiction of common member of the proletariat, the 'New Soviet Man' by presenting his life, work and recreation as admirable. Unfortunately for artists whose art fell outside the 'official style', like Kazimir Malevich, a key Suprematist artist and leader of the Russian avant-garde, they were denounced and forbidden from exhibiting during Stalin's reign.

BAL89324 Suprematist Composition, 1915 by Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (1878-1935)/ Museum of Art, Tula, Russia
BAL89324 Suprematist Composition, 1915 by Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (1878-1935)/ Museum of Art, Tula, Russia

EAM156814 Giant standing Buddha, 5th-6th century (stone) by Afghan School/ Valley of the Buddhas, Bamyan, Afghanistan
EAM156814 Giant standing Buddha, 5th-6th century (stone) by Afghan School/ Valley of the Buddhas, Bamyan, Afghanistan

Destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas

The Taliban, a Sunni Islamist political movement, forcefully gained control of the government of Afghanistan in 1996 and quickly began to enforce thier strict interpretation of Sharia law. Many things were declared illegal including education, employment and sports for women, and depictions of living things in art and toys such as stuffed animals or dolls. In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed two ancient statues of the Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley in Central Afghanistan. The colossal c. 5th century Buddhas were fashioned from the sandstone cliffs that surrounded them. The Taliban believed these things to be against Islam and sought to cleanse the country of 'Hindu heresy.'

 


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