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Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men: The Berlin Masterpieces in America

American Painting: The Eighties Revisited

Future Retrieval: Close Parallel

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Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men: The Berlin Masterpieces in America
July 9, 2021–October 3, 2021
Galleries 301, 302, and 303

During the final years of World War II, Allied forces endeavored to protect artworks, archives and monuments of historical and cultural significance across Europe, and they worked to return works looted by the Nazis to their rightful owners in the postwar period.

These efforts were led by the “Monuments Men,” the men and women of the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives program,
established in 1943 under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies. Their ranks included museum curators, art historians, and others trained to identify and care for works of art.

From the rise to power of the National Socialists in 1933 through the end of the war in 1945, Nazi policies and practices resulted in systemic repression of modern artists in Germany, the looting and forced sales of artworks—especially from Jewish collectors—across Europe, and artworks changing hands through other unethical or questionable transactions.

Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men explores examples of these uses and abuses of art with paintings on loan from the National Gallery of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum. It turns the spotlight on a lesser-known episode in the movement of artworks in this era: 202 sixteenth- to eighteenth-century paintings from the State Museums in Berlin that were recovered by the US Army in a salt mine at the end of the war, and their long and controversial journey that followed. They traveled to the US in 1945 and were exhibited in 14 cities across the country, before returning to occupied Germany and, decades later, back to the rightful possession of the Prussian State and the German people. The paintings’ temporary transfer out of Germany was met with outcry on both sides of the Atlantic, but their exhibition in America was greeted with huge enthusiasm, drawing almost 2.5 million visitors.

At the heart of the exhibition, visitors will see four of the original paintings lent by the State Museums of Berlin, including Sandro Botticelli’s “Ideal Portrait of a Lady,” paired with paintings from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection by artists represented in the “202,” such as Andrea Mantegna and Peter Paul Rubens.

The exhibition also addresses “Monuments Man” Walter I. Farmer, who served as the first director of the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point in Germany, where after the war artworks were gathered, documented, and prepared for return to their rightful owners. Farmer was responsible for assembling “Monuments Men” from across Europe to draft the Wiesbaden Manifesto, a document protesting the shipment of paintings to the US. It may have been the only collective act of protest by US officers in World War II. Following the war, Farmer was a resident of Cincinnati and supporter of the arts in the region for almost 50 years.

“This exhibition offers a valuable look into a landmark event in the history of art and twentieth-century geo-politics. The fate of the ‘Berlin 202’ and the broader context of how art was used in the World War II era has affected how we think about ownership and value and cultural patrimony, and how we look at art today. In Cincinnati we are fortunate to have had, in Walter Farmer, a direct link to the decisions and events at the heart of this history, and we have benefited from his role as a teacher, arts professional and patron later in life,” said Peter Jonathan Bell, curator of European paintings, sculpture and drawings at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

An award-winning major publication, produced by the Cincinnati Art Museum with D Giles Limited, accompanies the exhibition and features new scholarship from European and American curators and historians. The publication was organized by Dr. Bell and Dr. Kristi A. Nelson, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of Cincinnati, who are also co-curators of the exhibition.

Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men will be on view in the Thomas R. Schiff Galleries (234 and 235). Tickets for the exhibition are free for museum members and will soon be available to purchase by the general public online at cincinnatiartmuseum.org. All active-duty military members, reserves, retirees and veterans of the United States Armed Forces are invited to receive a complimentary three-month Cincinnati

American Painting: The Eighties Revisited
Through Sept. 5, 2021
Galleries 301, 302, and 303

Reconstituting the landmark exhibition American Painting: The Eighties from New York University’s Grey Art Gallery exhibition in 1979, American Painting: The Eighties Revisited captures a pivotal moment in twentieth century art. It features abstract paintings by artists, including Sam Gilliam, Nancy Graves, and Elizabeth Murray, all of whom were new to the New York art scene at the time. American Painting: The Eighties toured to Houston, Texas, then to 13 cities abroad, from Paris to Tel Aviv.

Along the way, a lively argument ensued about the direction that art was headed: would the best paintings reflect back on the Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s, or would they launch from the subsequent Pop Art or Minimalist movements?

All 41 artists featured in the original exhibition are shown here, including 35 paintings shown at the Grey Art Gallery. This collection has been acquired by the Cincinnati Art Museum through the generosity of Ronnie and John Shore.

Organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum, Guest Curator Kate Bonansinga

Future Retrieval: Close Parallel
Through August 29, 2021
Free admission | Advanced registration required

Vance Waddell and Mayerson Galleries (Galleries 124 and 125).

Future Retrieval, the studio collaboration of former University of Cincinnati faculty members Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis, appropriates imagery and forms from historical objects to create new art that speaks to our twenty-first-century experience. Their practice is rooted in ceramic art, but also incorporates a diverse mix of media and techniques that combine age-old methods with new technologies.

For this exhibition, Future Retrieval will take over two museum galleries as project spaces where they will construct an unconventional response to objects “borrowed” from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s decorative art and design collection. In pairing their own work with objects from the museum’s collection, the artists will create an experience that encourages visitors to consider aspects of our historical collections and practices in a new light.

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