PHOTO: © Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Porträt Otto Mueller, Detail, 1915, Farbholzschnitt von zwei Stöcken © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Jörg P. Anders

Die gerettete Moderne. Meisterwerke von Kirchner bis Picasso

In the organizer's words:

In 1937, numerous works of classical modern art were also removed from the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett as part of the National Socialist "Degenerate Art" campaign. The curator at the time, Willy Kurth, bravely saved hundreds of prints from imminent loss. Based on the 2023 publication "Die Aktion 'Entartete Kunst' 1937 im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett", the exhibition uses selected works to show what escaped confiscation at the time. With works by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso, it also demonstrates the Kupferstichkabinett's outstanding profile in the field of modern art.

The exhibition uses around 95 selected works to illustrate the individual prints and portfolios that were courageously saved in 1937 and escaped loss. Many of these works, which today are among the best of the respective artists, were confiscated from German museums at the time and in some cases sold abroad for foreign currency. The exhibition also illustrates the outstanding profile of the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett in the field of modernism in terms of the quality and quantity of the works, which was painstakingly and successfully rebuilt after the Second World War - during the years of German division in West and East Berlin.

The "Degenerate Art" campaign in Berlin's Kupferstichkabinett in 1937

In the summer of 1937, as part of the Nazi "Degenerate Art" campaign, a large number of works of what is now classical modern art were removed from the holdings of the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett as "decaying art to be eradicated". During the first confiscation on July 7, which took place in the run-up to the "Degenerate Art" exhibition that opened twelve days later in Munich, the collection lost over 100 works by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Emil Nolde, among others.

On August 14 and 16 of the same year, when an even larger deaccession took place, which ultimately affected more than 700 works, the then curator of modern art, Willy Kurth, managed to save particularly important groups of works by important artists. His risky operation, which consisted of the targeted exchange of prints, was carried out secretly behind the back of his director Friedrich Winkler, who was cooperative with the National Socialists. In this way, hundreds of works remained in the collection - often hidden in other areas of the collection. While portraits of artists and color prints were saved, Kurth "sacrificed" many landscapes and works by less important artists.

The occasion for the special exhibition is the book "Die Aktion Entartete Kunst 1937 im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett. Kustos Willy Kurth rettet Meisterblätter der Moderne" (Lukas Verlag, Berlin) by Anita Beloubek-Hammer, the long-time curator of modern art at the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett. The comprehensive publication was initiated and generously financed by the Ferdinand Moeller Foundation, Berlin.


"The rescued modernism. Masterpieces from Kirchner to Picasso" is curated by Andreas Schalhorn, curator of modern art at the Kupferstichkabinett.

Media cooperations: ARTE, tipBerlin

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Price information:

8,00 EUR, reduced 4,00


Kupferstichkabinett Matthäikirchplatz 10785 Berlin