Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Little escap(ad)e: Searching for Marg Moll, continued

While I was sitting in the Museum Kunst der Westküste’s café in Föhr two weeks ago, waiting for Ms Heims to return and show me around I idly leafed through some of the free art newspapers that were lying around. On the first round I did not really notice it, but on my second thoughtless turning of the pages this brief article struck my eye, stopped my breath and – apart from all that was going on while I was still trying to get to see the Föhr Reef – made my mind churn.

The sculptures which had been located in a dig in Berlin were on display in the HamburgMuseum für Kunst und Gewerbe” (Museum for Arts and Crafts) ! My search for Marg Moll, creator of the sculpture „Dancer“, which had caught my eye upon its first appearance on the front page of our newspaper one and a half years ago, had been slightly less intensive recently, but it had not left me entirely. For one thing I was planning to go to Berlin next year to meet a friend there, hoping that I would also be able to hit the museum where the sculptures were first presented after their restoration. Only as I am writing this post have I found out that a symposium was held on these sculptures in Berlin in March of this year.
  . And now this – the discovery that these sculptures were basically waiting for me right beside the path we were supposed to be following on our way home the next day. Now I felt as if I had already stretched my husband’s patience with my interest for the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef – could I bring up another exhibition now? On the other hand – could I really ride past this museum and not see this particular exhibit? Certainly I would not find a chance to return to Hamburg before October, if I wanted to see it, I had to see it now. In the end I figured I would have to live without having seen this exhibit.

But that’s not how it all came to be.
Even before I had discovered that this exhibit was waiting for me, my husband and I had begun to talk about how we would spend our last day on the island/travel day. We were booked on the overnight train from Hamburg in the evening and had to vacate our apartment in the morning – should we procede to Hamburg early on and take a tour of the harbour, or visit the zoo? Add to this that the weather forecast was not exactly calling for lots of sunshine. On the day of our departure, at the breakfast table, my husband suggested that we take the opportunity and pay a brief visit to the Stiftung Ada und Emil Nolde   in Seebüll. Which turned out not easily feasible, as we soon found out. But now that my husband had made the mistake of introducing the option of another museum visit, I gathered all my courage and told him about this fantastic discovery I had made the day before. In the end, we decided that we would proceed to Hamburg directly, my husband and son would then search for an appropriate bar where they could watch the European Soccer Championship game of the day, while I would be going to the Museum.
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is located directly across the street from the Hamburg main station, and they kindly do take small pieces of luggage which did not fit into lockers at the station...

It turned out to be one of the most moving art exhibits I have ever seen.
Five of the eleven sculptures that were retrieved from the excavation site in Berlin had belonged to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, before the Nazis declared them “entarted” (degenerate) and removed? them from the museum and subsequently showed them in the huge propagandistic exhibition „Entartete Kunst“ (Degenerate Art) before World War II.  Several other artists who were represented in the museum fell victim to this infamous policy of the Nazis as well, and the Hamburg exhibit is built around this topic, in addition to showing the sculptures from Berlin. The names and fates of these artists are presented in addition to several of their works. A documentation shows how the sculptures were found in Berlin.

The eleven artists whose works have been unquestionable identified are presented individually.

And then, finally, the core element of the exhibition: the sculptures. All of them are indeed impressive, and their current condition, more or less badly damaged or even fragmented transforms them into monuments of a special kind.
My personal concentration on the „Dancer“ by Marg Moll is a rather subjective preference and perhaps not understandable for someone else. But when I stood in front of thise sculpture which I had first seen on the newspaper front page more than one and a half years ago, I was close to tears.

Photo documentation of the original condition of the sculpture made it possible to compare the current condition with the original. A small part is missing – the dancer’s band – and for me the current condition seemed much more impressive. Partly, of course, because of the visible damages and scars that the bronze has acquired in sixty years in soil. But also because the missing part forces the viewer to concentrate on the dancer’s position and movement, thus entering into a more intensive communication with the sculpture than had the band still been there, I thought.

A small catalogue is available which documents the Berlin section of the exhibition, Hamburg’s historic addition is unfortunately missing.

When I left the museum I was completely shaken. It hurts to think about the cultural losses that were caused by the Nazis’ infamous policy, e.g. the severy disruption of the Bauhaus style in Germany, or the restrictions of artistic development by prohibiting artists to continue working. Not to mention the lives and fates of all the people who were afflicted.
These are the names of the artists whose works were retrieved in the Berlin construction site - not all of them have an entry in Wikipedia in English, and if they do these tend to be on the brief side, therefore I give all the German links, and an English link where possible:

Otto Baum (1900-1977) 
Karl Ehlers (1904-1973) - no separate entry, only mentioned in another entry 
Richard Haizmann (1895-1963) 
Karl Knappe (1884-1970) 
KarelNiestrath (1896-1971) 
MillySteger (1881-1948), mentioned in English entry on Karl E. Osthaus 
Gustav Heinrich Wolff (1886-1934) 
Fritz Wrampe (1893-1934)  no separate entry, only mentioned in another entry 

According to a museum guide the five sculptures which had been removed from the Hamburg museum will be reconstituted after this exhibit. I assume that means that this exhibition will not travel any further, or at least not in its complete form. The guide was not certain whether this applied to all the other pieces as well. For the “Dancer”, that would mean restitution to Breslau. Who knows when I will ever get a chance to go and visit the museum there – what a lucky coincidence that I caught notice of this exhibit on our way home!

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