Description - Castaway Modernism: Basel’s Acquisitions of “Degenerate” Art by Eva Reifert

Torn Modernism illuminates an important moment in the history of the Kunstmuseum Basel's collection. In 1937 the Nazi cultural policy denounced thousands of works as "degenerate" and forcibly removed from German museums. The Third Reich's Ministry of Propaganda correctly assumed that a portion of such works would find buyers abroad, in this way certain artworks deemed "internationally exploitable" reached the art market via various channels. Georg Schmidt (1896-1966), the museum's director at the time, managed in 1939 to acquire the Painting Animal Destinies by Franz Marc (1880-1916) and twenty avant-garde masterpieces all at once.

In the catalogue, renowned experts trace the events based on the seizures in German museums and explain the historical contexts. The actors of the institutions and the art market are presented, and the Nazi regime's act of cultural violence is revealed, which resulted in an artificial fragmentation of Modernism into art that was "exploitable" on the one hand, and art that had been destroyed or forgotten on the other. Contributions on the auction of the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne, on Georg Schmidt's approach, and on the classification of the acquisitions in the context of Basel's collection history bring specific Swiss aspects into focus.

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