Looted Nazi haul is not going to cause a revolution in the art world

 

Share
Related Topics

A slow drip-feed of information is always tantalising, if not pulse-quickening. It can also raise us to levels of excitement which represent perhaps too extreme and over-excitable a response to the evidence in front of our eyes.

Previously we had almost no images of the works found in that stinking, chaotic apartment in Munich. All we saw was an image of a rather disappointing circus scene by Max Beckmann which had been sold off at auction in order to make some quick cash for Mr Gurlitt. All we had by way of wider and harder evidence of the find was a litany of celebrated names, which did indeed make it seem mouth-wateringly important.

Now the images of the works themselves are emerging, one by one, and we need to ask ourselves two questions: why is it being stage-managed by the German authorities in this way? To soften up the auction houses? And is it really true, as the BBC is hysterically claiming, that the works now being presented to us are so radically different from the works that we already know by the likes of Otto Dix, Marc Chagall, Franz Marc and Henri Matisse, that we are likely to need to rewrite the history of 20th century art?

This is a large claim indeed, and it does not deserve to be taken seriously. In fact, it is utterly ridiculous. Take the Matisse, for example. This is the latest in a long line of Matisse odalisques, inscrutable, dispassionate beauties. It is a good piece of work, but it does not show us anything new. The same can be said of the Chagall. Yet again, lovers kiss in a nocturnal dreamscape peopled by a donkey, a chair, and several slivers of moon – all very familiar motifs in the paintings of Chagall. Dix is savage in the way that Dix is often savage and tortured. But not half as tortured as he was in his etchings of the Great War. And what of the Franz Marc? Nothing could be more characteristically Marc-like than this surge of blue horses.

Are these works important then? Well, yes, because these artists are very important. Interesting? Of course. Valuable? Undoubtedly. But there is no cause to register a seismic shock, no reason to believe that we are seeing aspects of these artists’ work which will cause us radically to re-evaluate all that we know. Such talk is ignorant piffle.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Flowers and candles are placed at the site where a refrigerated truck with decomposing bodies was found by an Austrian motorway  

EU migrant crisis: The 71 people found dead in a lorry should have reached sanctuary

Charlotte Mcdonald-Gibson
Ablaze: Forest fires threaten homes near Camarillo, California in 2013  

Climate change: A 'pause' in global warming? Not on this evidence

Steve Connor
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future