Thursday, October 8, 2009

Idea for a Story:

December 1936: Eugen Hönig, shortly after his dismissal from the position of President of the Reich Chamber of Visual Arts, pays an unexpected visit to the house of Adolf Ziegler, his successor as President. Ziegler has a reputation for producing paintings conforming to the Nazi ideal of ‘racially pure’ art – a reputation which earned him the presidency.

Something occurs during Hönig’s visit (something as minor as a chance remark, a doodle on the corner of a napkin; something as major as a fire which causes a wall to collapse and reveal a stash of hidden paintings) which convinces him that Ziegler is a secret admirer of the avant-garde styles which the Nazi regime has branded ‘Jewish’.

Ziegler tries to defend himself; Hönig assures him that he has no intention of denouncing him. Hönig admits that he himself is excited about the new developments in the word of art; in fact, he was dismissed from his position on suspicion of having avant-garde sympathies. In hushed voices and with almost school-boyish glee, the two men discuss forbidden things – expressionism, Henri Matisse, surrealism, fauvism, Picasso.

Hönig expresses astonishment that Ziegler, whom the Führer himself has declared to be an exemplary painter, should be fascinated by the ‘degenerate’ art which it is his professional duty to suppress. Ziegler explains how he too was originally scornful of these emerging styles which were confusing, often incomprehensible; how in the course of inspecting seized paintings, he found himself coming under their spell. He who fights with artists might take care lest he thereby become an artist. And if you gaze for long into a painting, the painting gazes also into you.

Now the two men fall to discussing what a great tragedy it is that an entire generation of Germans will never be exposed to ‘real’ art. Hönig has an idea – can Ziegler persuade the Chamber to organise an exhibition of avant-garde art? Ziegler is aghast. He would be dismissed for even suggesting such a thing. But Hönig explains how Ziegler should pitch his idea - as an exhibition intended to incite further revulsion against the perverse Jewish spirit which is penetrating and contaminating German culture.

***

In all probability, this is not how the idea for the Entartete Kunst exhibit originated. There is nothing in the history books to suggest it was Hönig’s idea, no evidence that Ziegler had a secret taste for modern art. This is just an idea for a story. But I like to amuse myself with the notion that the Entartete Kunst exhibit was the brainchild of two art-lovers who found an ingenious way to bring forbidden art to the masses. There is something strangely seductive in the idea of the oppressed individual putting one over on the totalitarian regime.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

A pretty good idea for a story, this one.

Priyanka said...

Write it, please :)

Arjun said...

I think you've been reading too much Dan Brown....

Aditi said...

its a good idea, me likey. Btw, Hitler was a bad painter. But the idea has been expressed that, if he had gotten accepted into Art School, he would not have become the Fuhrer.

Sroyon said...

@Anonymous: Thank you.

@Priyanka: Would if I could. :(

@Arjun: No no I have just read Angels and Demons. That too way back when it was released.

@Aditi: Maybe if he didn't have the makings of the Führer in him, he would have gotten accepted into Art School. :)

Priyanka said...

ok. this comment box now reminds me of one of my favourite xkcds, the one about god being an art lover.

new age scheherazade said...

I KNOW, oinka. I was going to comment about that and I found you'd done it.

Karthy said...

Have you linked to the middle of the wikipedia page for this entry? anyways...I've just watched The Rape of Europa and this story would fit in perfectly...collapsing walls and secret hoards of paintings.

Karthy said...

oh wait...i figured the wikipedia bit out...stupid stupid me.

Pratiti said...

I like this idea.