Spectacular find in excavations in Berlin: Unearthing of works of ‘degenerate art’ believed lost forever

Neues Museum

During excavation work conducted in Berlin's historical centre, archaeologists from Berlin city council have discovered eleven sculptures that were originally confiscated from German museums in 1937 as part of the Nazi's 'Degenerate Art' campaign. The works in question include bronzes by Edwin Scharff, Otto Baum, Marg Moll, Gustav Heinrich Wolff, Naum Slutzky and Karl Knappe, as well as parts of ceramic works by Otto Freundlich and Emy Roeder. Three further salvaged works have yet to be identified. These include the bronze figure of a woman, an incomplete and badly damaged ceramic sculpture, as well as a torso and head that probably belong to the same cast stone figure. The bronzes have for the most part survived unscathed, although they are covered in a thick patina, due to the long time spent in a confined space in the earth, as well as the effects of a fire they survived.

The objects are on show from 9 November 2010 in an exhibition in the Greek Courtyard at the Neues Museum, Musuem Island Berlin.

As part of their campaign against 'degenerate art', the Nazi regime confiscated and removed a great number of artworks, primarily from public museums and collections, but also from private collectors. The high point of their propaganda came in 1937 with the opening of the 'Degenerate Art' exhibition in Munich that was subsequently also shown in Berlin and numerous other cities. The works on show there, however, amounted only to a fraction of the total holdings created as a result of waves of confiscations. The works were supposed to be sold as a way to raise foreign currency. This plan only succeeded in part, however, and a large number of artworks remained in Berlin. They fell under the control of a department at the Reich Ministry for Propaganda. A number of these works later found their way into various art dealers' collections and were, as such, saved. The regime's actions were retroactively legalised through the passing of the 'Law on the Confiscation of Products of Degenerate Art', on 31 May 1938.

Even today, many public collections still have gaps in their collections in the area of high modernist art. This also applies to the National Gallery's own collection, which has been fortunate, however, to have some of its works that survived the war reacquired on its behalf.

The Berlin Sculpture Find
01.10.2014 to 12.10.2014

The Berlin Sculpture Find
09.11.2010 to 18.03.2012

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