November 2015 sees the opening of the “Neue Galerie“: a new exhibition space at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, designed with the specific purpose of keeping the Nationalgalerie’s modern art collection on public display while the Mies van der Rohe building undergoes renovations. The space will host different modern art exhibitions every six months until the re-opening of the Neue Nationalgalerie. The first of these exhibitions, entitled “The Black Years. Histories of a Collection. 1933–1945”, is being held from 21 November 2015 until 31 July 2016. It features works from the Nationalgalerie which were either created between 1933 and 1945, acquired by the collection during this period, or seized by the National Socialist regime.
Visitors will have the opportunity to see major works by Pablo Picasso, Lyonel Feininger, Otto Dix, Käthe Kollwitz, Rudolf Belling and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The exhibition also includes objects recently acquired by the collection, as well as other works not seen by the public in over 75 years. Each of the objects has its own individual story to tell, and offers valuable insights into the art, politics and museum history of the Nazi period.
The objects selected for the exhibition are as diverse as the lives of the artists who created them. Some works enjoyed the regime’s approval and were held up as examples of ‘national’ art, whereas others met with derision and were considered ‘degenerate’. Many artists were persecuted by the regime and forced into exile, some were denied the right to exhibit their works, while others could count on state commissions to further their careers. Nevertheless the boundaries between approval and censure were often fluid, and official decisions regarding art were not always consistent.