Friday, May 8, 2015
story in The New Quarterly
A gracious thank you to The New Quarterly for publishing a story I wrote after a visit to Berlin in 2013.
I was walking through the Berlinische Galerie, looking at the paintings of artists whose work was repressed during the rise to power of the Nationalsozialisten in the 1930s. There were letters in display cases, pages stamped with a now-faded eagle gripping a swastika. The letters were utterly polite yet tense with menace, telling museum directors that the very paintings, which were no longer allowed to be displayed in German museums should, however, fetch a high price on the foreign market. There were lists of paintings by Kokoschka, Munch, Nolde, Dix, and more with prices beside them.
The paintings seem to have been sold, since all had a figure next to the suggested selling price with a date in ink. The ink had bled but I could make out a couple of 1937s.
The works of the artists, who had been denigrated as insane, morally corrupt, worthless members of society, were being used to fill the nation's coffers.
I knew I wanted to write a story about these letters--but didn't yet know what that story would be--and visited the museum three times to copy out the letters, word by word, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to read them off my camera.
Here's a link to order a print or digital version of the magazine.