On 18 July, the Archive Gallery in Haus der Kunst
will open a new presentation, "Munich, Summer 1937." The exhibition which will be on view through 4 February, 2018, will focus on two pivotal exhibitions "Große Deutsche Kunstaustellung" and Entartete Kunst" which were on view in Munich that summer.
In 1937, with the two exhibitions the National Socialists presented their cultural-political program that opposed the art they favoured and promoted and one which they denounced. With "Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung" (Great German Art Exhibition) in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst and, "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art) in the Hofgarten Gallery - within walking distance of each other, and opening on 18 and 19 July respectively, the Nazi's counter-program could not be more clear.
The exhibition "Entartete Kunst" was organized on short notice. It followed the confiscation of about 650 works of classical Modernism from the collections of 32 German museums. Joseph Goebbels had demanded that the propaganda show be staged as a contrast to the first "Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung." Not until two weeks before the opening did he authorize Adolf Ziegler and his committee to select and seize the necessary works. This expropriation was subsequently legalized when the "Law on Confiscation of Products of Degenerate Art" was passed in 1938.
The first "Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung," on the other hand, had a longer planning time frame. In June 1936, at the annual meeting of Haus der Deutschen Kunst, it was announced that the building was to be opened "according to the will of the Führer" with an exhibition of works by contemporary German painters, sculptors and graphic artists. The "Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung" was to be held annually, thus defining the central role Hitler had envisioned for the building. Although a jury of artists initially decided the selection of the submitted works, Hitler employed his official photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, and Karl Kolb, director of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, in June 1937 for the selection of the works thereafter. Hitler's own opinion, however, remained decisive.
In all, the eight editions of the "Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung" attracted nearly four and a half million visitors, who contributed a total sum of nearly 4.6 million Reichsmarks to the Haus der Deutschen Kunst. A total of 12,550 works of sculpture, painting and graphics was shown in the eight exhibitions, of which more than 7,000 were sold for a total amount of almost 19 million Reichsmarks. Over 9,000 artists submitted works between 1937 and 1944.
The artists' index was introduced in 1938. The counterpart to this index was the list of seized works of "degenerate art", arranged by the Propaganda Ministry according to cities and listed alphabetically. Both indexes are included in the Archive Gallery presentation in digital form.
The Haus der Deutschen Kunst, which opened on 18 July 1937, was praised as one of the most important sights in Munich's tourist brochures. In the summer of 1937, 735,544 tourists visited the city. In addition to the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, they also visited other architectural projects representative of Nazi propaganda, for example, the Königsplatz (King's Square), which Paul Ludwig Troost, architect of the Haus der Deutschen Kunst, had transformed into an NSDAP parade ground and cult site.
The buildings of Nazi propaganda served as settings for numerous amateur films and snapshots, which went into family albums and, thus, into the collective memory of a generation. "Munich, Summer 1937" presents one such anonymous amateur film, which was conceived as a memory and document of a pleasure trip. The impression is given that the year 1937 consisted of private, neutral events. Yet, from a political perspective, the summer of 1937 was a time of deceptive calm. Already the following year, the "Munich Agreement" of September and the Pogrom Night of November 1938 very clearly revealed the extreme political aggression and the murderous racism of the Nazi state.