The Degenerate Art exhibition, one of the most notorious examples of cultural propaganda in Nazi Germany, opened in Munich on July 19, 1937, subsequently traveling to cities throughout Germany and Austria. The exhibition contained over 600 examples of modern (mostly German Expressionist) art, selected from over 21,000 art objects recently confiscated from Germany’s state-administered art museums. Most of these works were dispersed to the art market, many eventually entering American collections.
Eighty-five years have passed since the Degenerate Art exhibition opened in Munich, yet much about this critical event remains misunderstood, including its targeting of German Expressionism and the role it played in the dissemination of the Third Reich’s antisemitic ideology. This focus exhibition features four art objects that offer a variety of insights the Nazis’ condemnation of German modernist art, their persecution of Jewish artists, and their looting of Jewish art collections. Among the works on view is Emil Nolde’s painting Nudes and Eunuch, which was displayed in the Degenerate Art exhibition, and which provides an opportunity to examine how the artists classified as “degenerate” have been remembered as victims, even when (as in the case of Emil Nolde) they sympathized with Nazi ideology.