A campaign has been launched to build a permanent memorial to the ‘Modern Artists’ who were persecuted by the Nazis in World War II. Works deemed ‘Entartete Kunstdegenerat’ (degenerate) by the delusional, former art student, Adolf Hitler, whose hatred for progressive and ‘modern art’, by artists such as Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters and Paul Klee led to their exile or death in concentration camps. Their cultural contribution will finally be recognised and honoured. The memorial will be created in Cumbria, where Schwitters lived after being forced out of Germany and then Norway by the Nazis. The Littoral Arts Trust hopes to raise £30,000 for the monument.
Confiscated works were exhibited in Germany in a show titled Entartete Kunst, which took place in Munich in July 1937. The show was advertised as “culture documents of the decadent work of Bolsheviks and Jews”. The press and public, who visited in huge numbers, subjected works to vicious criticism. The campaign for a memorial is launched by Professor Ute Meta Bauer, the dean of fine arts at the Royal College of Art in London and the former chief curator of the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany. Prof Bauer will deliver the Kurt Schwitters Memorial Lecture on Saturday at the site of his “Merz barn”, a stone barn near the village of Elterwater in Cumbria, where Schwitters worked before his death in 1948. The campaign for an Entartete Kunst memorial will form part of a wider plan to build a Schwitters museum next to the Merz barn.
The Merz barn building still stands much as Schwitters left it in 1948. Located in a remote woodland in the heart of the Langdale valley in Cumbria, NW England it serves as a symbolic connection and poignant memorial to the spirit and tenacity of the artist who worked there. This project is about the recovery, documentation and restoration of Kurt Schwitters’ last Merzbau project; the Elterwater Merz Barn, and the international fundraising campaign that is intended to pay for vital restoration work and sustain the development of the project in the longer term.
During his lifetime Schwitters worked on four Merzbauten: the Hanover Merzbau (1923 – 36); two Merzbauten in Norway: the Haus am Bakken at Lysaker near Oslo (1937 – 40 ), and the Schwittershytta on the island of Hjertoya (1934 – 39); and finally the Elterwater Merz Barn in England (1947). Left unfinished after the artist died in early January 1948, the almost forgotten Merz Barn was neglected for many years until Richard Hamilton arranged for the surviving art work to be removed for safe keeping to the University of Newcastle’s Hatton Gallery in 1965, where it is now on public view. The Merz Barn building itself still survives and contains evidence of Schwitters’ original working methods and materials.