Politicized Aesthetics: German Art in Warsaw of 1938

  • 1 Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland

Summary

This paper focuses attention on the reception of the exhibition “Deutsche Bildhauer der Gegenwart”, which was inaugurated on April 23rd, 1938 at the Institute of Art Propaganda in Warsaw – an institution whose exhibition hall was considered a venue of crucial importance to the cultural policy of the Polish state. The presentation was organized in the framework of a cultural exchange between Poland and Germany which was initiated by an exhibition of Polish contemporary art mounted in 1935 at the Preußischen Akademie der Künste in Berlin.

I will present the response of the Warsaw public to the presentation of contemporary German sculpture within the context of traditionalist ideology which was promulgated in Poland as much as across Europe in the decades between the two world wars. Drawing on traditionalism, which heralded a prevalence of national cultural values strongly anchored in the past, I will question the relevance of its rhetoric to the artistic phenomena evolving under political pressure. It seems intriguing to juxtapose the accounts provided by Polish and German authorities from the art world in an attempt to grasp the semantic content of such categories as “the genius of the race”, as reflected in the 1930s’ critical discourse. Moreover, in order to reflect upon the concept of propaganda art – another key notion of the time – it is worth considering the response of Polish commentators to official exhibitions of other nation-states held in Warsaw in the 1930s.

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