Faking It

Sam Gilpin

  • The Forger by Paul Watkins
    Faber, 343 pp, £9.99, July 2000, ISBN 0 571 20194 6

On 30 June 1937 Joseph Goebbels issued a decree that authorised the confiscation of entartete kunst (usually translated as ‘degenerate’ or ‘decadent’ art) from public galleries and collections. The works of art singled out were seen to ‘insult German feeling, or destroy or confuse natural form, or simply reveal an absence of adequate manual and artistic skill’. Goebbels’s Deutecher Kunstbericht had appeared in 1933 and discredited artists like Otto Dix and Paul Klee had already been removed from teaching posts at German academies. The new decree formalised the persecution of the avant-garde movement in art. Around sixteen thousand works of art were confiscated from public collections. Six hundred and fifty or so were displayed in the famous Entartete Kunst exhibition which opened in Munich on 19 July 1937: it attracted three million people – more visitors than any other exhibition of modern art has done before or since.

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