The presentation of the collection with works from 1900 to 1945 is titled The Art of Society to point out the museum holdings’ close association with contemporaneous events. Berlin has always been at the centre of Germany’s political and historical affairs, which explains the collection’s strong focus on social processes. Going beyond a mere history of aesthetics, the collection impressively illustrate the connection between art and society. The paintings and sculptures mirror the German Empire, colonial history, the First World War, the Weimar Republic’s Golden Twenties, and the ostracism of the avantgarde under National Socialism, as well as the effects of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
The exhibition does not trace a linear chronology of art movements in the first half of the 20th century. Instead, it seeks to emphasize the simulaneity between various avantgarde tendencies. The open floor plan of Mies van der Rohe’s architecture does not prescribe a fixed course through the exhibition, offering visitors a variety of perspectives on the erratic transition of art styles, including Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Dada and New Objectivity. The exhibition sections focus on social themes, such as the big city, the German Lebensreform (life and reform) movement, politics and propaganda, exile, and war.
The exhibition presents some 250 works of Classical Modernism by artists including Otto Dix, Hannah Höch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lotte Laserstein and Renée Sintenis. Works by internationally active women artists have been included via loans, such as Hilma af Klint or Irma Stern. Two films by artists Julian Rosefeldt and Javier Téllez provide a contemporary critique of modernism.
The exhibition is curated by Dieter Scholz, Irina Hiebert Grun and Joachim Jäger.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication edited by Dieter Schol, Joachim Jäger and Irina Hiebert Grun: The Art of Society, 1900 – 1945, an exhibition catalogue of the Neue Nationalgalerie, DCV Verlag, Berlin, 2021. Price: 29 euros.
A collection presentation by the Nationalgalerie, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
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