NSML January 2014 : Page 68

68 | Lake Effect | art The World’s Greatest Heist | By Selena Fragassi | Photography by Cynthia Lynn | If you destroy an entire generation of a people’s culture, did they ever exist? This is the question posed in a new movie debuting in February, produced and directed by George Clooney, and starring Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. Called The Monuments Men , it details the story of an Allied group during World War II who are on a mission to save art and other cultural items before they are destroyed by Hitler’s army. The 16,000 confiscated works of art, many of them famous works by modern expressionists and surrealists like Picasso, Matisse and Dalí (Hitler’s personal nemesis), became known as degenerate art—and their purge from Europe was considered one of the greatest art heists in history. Today, the topic of degenerate art is being reexamined, recently making news as nearly 1,500 paintings were discovered last November in a German apartment. The headlines follow a well-timed exhibit at The Field Museum exploring the power of Nazi propaganda, as well as the release of an Oscar-hyped movie The Book Thief , which details the cleansing of literature during the war. “Most of the survivors and Nazi officials are dying out at this point. What is left in their place are these discovered possessions that survived the war and belong to survivors and their families,” says Lisa Barr, explaining the renewed interest. The Deerfield author’s debut novel, Fugitive Colors ($18, Arcade Publishing), has become another relevant part of the conversation. Released in October, it’s the provocative fictional tale of young artist Julian Klein, who discovers the price he must pay for his creative passion during the height of the 1930s purge. “People ca n’t hide histor y; eventually it will come to the surface,” continues Barr. As former editor for Degenerate art comes to the surface again with a new movie, museum exhibit and one important book by a Deerfield author. The Jerusalem Post covering the Israeli– Palestinian peace process as well as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she was first inspired to write the book after seeing a massive exhibition of degenerate art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1991. “If art could talk, thousands of stolen paintings have a hidden past just waiting for the truth to be exposed. It is about reclaiming a relic from the past that once belonged to those families.” Barr has her own theory on what motivated Hitler to eradicate the artwork he considered obscene. “Some people may not know that Hitler was a painter, a third-rate one; he was rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts twice,” she says. “I believe those rejections set the stage for what would happen later.” In addition to confiscating art works, the Nazis illegally sold them through auctions in Switzerland to fund the Third Reich’s war machine. As a result, many of the paintings are now on display in major museums around the world, which Barr sees as one of the questions that will arise. “There are those who believe it is a mistake to take a painting from a museum—where the public can learn about its true history— to have it just sit in someone’s private collection,” she says. Her book, Barr says, is also meant to be a learning tool. “Once I understood this historical story, I knew I had to teach about it, but through a back door approach,” she says, noting it took four years of research to complete. With Fugitive Colors now optioned for movie rights, Barr is ecstatic to see this important conversation continue. “Hitler’s war began with an attack on art and freedom of expression, and no one was able to stop it,” says Barr. “We, as a nation, have to always pay attention to the signs of the times so that history doesn’t repeat itself.” write At HOMe Author Lisa Barr at the illinois Holocaust Museum and education Center in Skokie | Winter 2014

Lake Effect Art

Selena Fragassi

The World's Greatest Heist

Degenerate art comes to the surface again with a new movie, museum exhibit and one important book by a Deerfield author.

If you destroy an entire generation of a people's culture, did they ever exist?This is the question posed in a new movie debuting in February, produced and directed by George Clooney, and starring Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. Called The Monuments Men, it details the story of an Allied group during World War II who are on a mission to save art and other cultural items before they are destroyed by Hitler's army.

The 16,000 confiscated works of art, many of them famous works by modern expressionists and surrealists like Picasso, Matisse and Dali (Hitler's personal nemesis), became known as degenerate art—and their purge from Europe was considered one of the greatest art heists in history. Today, the topic of degenerate art is being reexamined, recently making news as nearly 1,500 paintings were discovered last November in a German apartment.The headlines follow a well-timed exhibit at The Field Museum exploring the power of Nazi propaganda, as well as the release of an Oscar-hyped movie The Book Thief, which details the cleansing of literature during the war.

"Most of the survivors and Nazi officials are dying out at this point.What is left in their place are these discovered possessions that survived the war and belong to survivors and their families," says Lisa Barr, explaining the renewed interest. The Deerfield author's debut novel, Fugitive Colors ($18, Arcade Publishing), has become another relevant part of the conversation. Released in October, it's the provocative fictional tale of young artist Julian Klein, who discovers the price he must pay for his creative passion during the height of the 1930s purge.

"People can't hide history; eventually it will come to the surface," continues Barr. As former editor for The Jerusalem Post covering the Israeli- Palestinian peace process as well as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she was first inspired to write the book after seeing a massive exhibition of degenerate art at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1991. "If art could talk, thousands of stolen paintings have a hidden past just waiting for the truth to be exposed. It is about reclaiming a relic from the past that once belonged to those families."

Barr has her own theory on what motivated Hitler to eradicate the artwork he considered obscene. "Some people may not know that Hitler was a painter, a third-rate one; he was rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts twice," she says. "I believe those rejections set the stage for what would happen later."

In addition to confiscating art works, the Nazis illegally sold them through auctions in Switzerland to fund the Third Reich's war machine. As a result, many of the paintings are now on display in major museums around the world, which Barr sees as one of the questions that will arise. "There are those who believe it is a mistake to take a painting from a museum—where the public can learn about its true history— to have it just sit in someone's private collection," she says.

Her book, Barr says, is also meant to be a learning tool. "Once I understood this historical story, I knew I had to teach about it, but through a back door approach," she says, noting it took four years of research to complete.With Fugitive Colors now optioned for movie rights, Barr is ecstatic to see this important conversation continue."Hitler's war began with an attack on art and freedom of expression, and no one was able to stop it," says Barr. "We, as a nation, have to always pay attention to the signs of the times so that history doesn't repeat itself."

Read the full article at http://digital.modernluxury.com/article/Lake+Effect+Art/1599118/190348/article.html.

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