Berlin, Jan 25 (EFE).- A new exhibition at Berlin’s Brücke Museum examines its artists’ works against the historical context of colonialism, prompting a debate about appropriation in art history.
The Brücke artists, which include Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, worked and lived during Imperial Germany’s thriving colonial empire, one of the largest in Europe.
‘Whose Expression? The Brücke Artists and Colonialism’ questions the relationship between the expressionist artists and colonialism, addressing the tension between inspiration and appropriation.
Germany’s colonial empire extended to Africa, Oceania and Asia, generating Orientalism and a curious interest for these ‘exotic’ places in Europe.
But most of the Brücke artists had never visited the German colonies.
Their artistic fascination with these cultures was based on idealized stereotypes from ethnological museums, photographs and shows such as human zoos that recreated life in the colonies.
“The artists identified with people who lived in that idealized colonial world, charged with eroticism, sensuality and in connection with nature, which served as an escape route for them, because they themselves wanted to break free of the social conventions of the bourgeoisie of their time,” a curator of the exhibition, Sol Izquierdo, tells Efe.
The exhibition showcases over 80 pieces that include artworks, photographs, books and documents that reflect the colonial context that inspired the artists.
The show also unveils the biographies of the non-European models that posed for the Brücke artists’ painting and photographs.
‘Whose Expression?’ deliberately challenges visitors as well as the art scene of this period, presenting complex themes such as cultural appropriation, historical responsibility and the art robbed from countries during the colonial era. EFE