Notes: A poster for the most notorious art show in history, the Entartete Kunst Ausstellung (Degenerate Art Exhibition) organized by Joseph Goebbels in 1937 as a public denunciation of modern art by the Nazis.
After an opening exhibition in Munich, the show toured Germany. This poster is for the Chemnitz showing, August 11 to September 10, 1939. In all, perhaps a million Germans saw the exhibition, and one wonders how many went to mock the art and how many went to see the largest exhibition of modern art ever held in Germany to that time. Many hundreds of works were presented, culled primarily from German museums, with the prices paid noted on the captions as a way to attack the alleged profligate spending of public institutions. While the show had a decidedly anti-Semitic attitude, in fact relatively few of the artists displayed were Jewish.
The poster, a three-color lithograph (yellow-orange, green, and dark brown), measures 13-1/4 by 18-9/16 inches (approximately 33.5 by 47.5 centimeters). Quarter-folding, possibly original
The designer, Rudolf Hermann, featured a central image of either a modern sculpture or perhaps a tribal mask. The Nazis, like all movements based on conspiracy theories, developed complex mythologies mostly known only to insiders. This poster is a good example. Behind the sculpture is the head of a shadowy figure that echoes the main image. Only the most committed Nazi would have recognized this as a caricature of the greatest German dealer of modern art, Alfred Flechtheim. By the time the Entartete Kunst show opened, Flechtheim had died in exile in London. As a Jewish promoter of the avant garde, he was one of the first targets of the Nazis when the NSDAP took power in 1933. Within a few months, he fled to England, leaving his galleries and personal collection behind. This poster thus works as both a tribute to Flechtheim's influence—his galleries represented many of the "degenerate" artists and he probably sold many of the works exhibited—and also a graphic representation of the Nazis persecution of Jews.
Two stops on the Entartete Kunst tour used Hermann's illustration, Hamburg and Chemnitz. The scarcity of the Chemnitz version is likely due to a combination of 1) a relatively small print run for a short exhibit; 2) the intense allied bombing of which leveled nearly half of the city; and 3) the postwar destruction of Nazi propaganda when the city came under Soviet control at the end of the Second World War.
For more on Flechtheim and this poster, see Two Expressionist Masterworks Restituted to the Heirs of Collector, Dealer and Bon Vivant Alfred Flechtheim, published by Sotheby's. This copy came from the collection of the French bibliophile Paul Destribats.
An example of this poster is held by the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz (recorded at a slightly different size, 33.0 cm by 47.3 cm). That copy of this poster is reproduced in Christoph Zuschlag's Entartete Kunst (1995). There was a large version of this poster (118 cm) with the text arranged in slightly different positions relative to the central image. An example of that size was offered by Kedem, an auction house in Israel, in 2017.
Edition + Condition: This poster is linenbacked, with infill and recoloring at the folds visible in raking light. In addition to the quarter folding, the poster was folded once more, irregularly. Overall, it presents very well.
Publication: Chemnitz, Germany: Grossdruckerei Pickenhahn, .
Item No: #362574