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The Art of Society, 1900 – 1945: The Nationalgalerie Collection

  • Highlights
The Neue Nationalgalerie is showing, under the title “The Art of Society, 1900–1045,” works of classical Modernism illustrating the relationship between art and society. The German Empire, colonial history, the First World War, the “golden” Twenties, National Socialism, the Second World War, and the Holocaust are impressively reflected in the collection’s paintings and sculptures.

The exhibition includes some 250 works, including pieces by Otto Dix, Hannah Höch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lotte Laserstein, and Renée Sintenis, also new acquisitions by Conrad Felixmüller, Laszlo Peri, and Sascha Wiederhold and more than 50 works being shown for the first time in decades, some of which have been meticulously restored.

The exhibition is arranged thematically rather than chronologically. The simultaneity of the various avant-garde movements and their offshoots is emphasized. Mies van der Rohe’s open floor plan does not prescribe any fixed circuit, and because of this it opens up multiple perspectives on the rapid succession of styles like Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Dada, and the New Objectivity. Individual sections of the exhibition center on such themes as the metropolis, the reform movement, politics and propaganda, exile, and war.

Like virtually no other collection in Germany, the Nationalgalerie’s is particularly closely tied to contemporary history. Since Berlin has been the scene of important historical events, collection has been built with a greater focus on political and social processes than elsewhere. Owing to the historical partitioning of Germany, the collection unites East and West with works produced under two political systems.

With the title “The Art of Society,” freely based on that of Niklas Luhmann’s sociological study, the Nationalgalerie is directing attention to art’s role in the social realm, and to the question of which society is dealt with in art and which remains hidden.
The collection has been developed historically under particular social conditions and with different priorities. For a long time the focus was on national and western European art, with only rare acquisitions of works by women artists. Thus for historical reasons the view of society from the perspective of the collection is restricted.

The present exhibition is more inclusive thanks to the inclusion of loans of works by the women artists Hilma af Klint from Sweden, Lou Loeber from The Netherlands, Irma Stern from South Africa, Nadezhda Udalzova from Russia, and Tarsila do Amaral from Brazil.

  • The exhibition “The Art of Society, 1900-1945: The Nationalgalerie Collection” has been curated by Dieter Scholz, Irina Hiebert Grun, and Joachim Jäger.
  • The exhibition has been designed by Holzer Kobler Architekturen and 2xGoldstein in collaboration with David Chipperfield Architects.

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Neue Nationalgalerie, Potsdamer Straße 50, 10785 Berlin

1650326401