George Baselitz Calls for Removal of Nazi-Era Painting in Munich Museum

George Baselitz Calls for Removal of Nazi-Era Painting in Munich Museum

German artist Georg Baselitz has called for the removal of a painting from the permanent collection of a Munich museum, claiming that it has ties to the Nazi regime.

In a letter to Bernhard Maaz, director of the Munich State Painting Collections, and Markus Blume, German’s art minister, Baselitz criticized the Pinakothek der Moderne for displaying the painting. He called the work “Nazi propaganda” and said its continued installation at museum was “shocking.”

Baselitz has called on leaders at the Pinakothek der Moderne to remove the piece, titled Four Elements, from public display. The German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung first reported news of his letter.

Adolf Ziegler’s painting features a group of naked women posed as allegories for the natural elements. It is on view as part of the state-run museum’s exhibition “Mix and Match” alongside other works from its permanent collection.

The painting appeared in a 1937 Munich show called “The Great German Art Exhibition.” That exhibition was organized by Nazi officials as a counter to the “Degenerate Art” exhibition put on the same year, which condemned modernist art as being antithetical to the values of the Third Reich. Much of the work on view was by Jewish artists and artists of color.

In 2014, in New York, Four Elements was showcased at the Neue Galerie exhibit “Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937.” In that show, Ziegler’s canvas—which once hung in Adolf Hitler’s residence—was used to exemplify the social realist style put forward by Nazi leaders.

In response to Baselitz’s letter, Maaz and Pinakothek der Moderne curator Oliver Kase addressed Baselitz’s comments in a statement to the German press agency dpa. Maaz and Kase said the museum’s leadership was open “to critical reactions and discussions,” including ones that deal with the “context of Nazi art.” They denied Baselitz’s arguments that the painting’s current installation has a “propaganda effect.”

“The ongoing hiding of problematic art never leads to critical discourse, but only to the continuation of the taboo,” they continued.

In a statement to dpa, Blume acknowledged that Baselitz’s calls “carry weight,” due to his status as an internationally recognized contemporary artist. The arts minister said he intervened to ask the museum to get into contact with Baselitz.

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