Correspondence between Georg Schmidt and Paul Westheim
With: Ueli Jäggi and Bernhard Schütz
The collection of works of classical modernism in the Kunstmuseum Basel is one of the most famous of its kind. Yet it was created comparatively late. In the summer of 1939 - shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War - the museum's director at the time, Georg Schmidt (1896-1966), succeeded in acquiring 21 masterpieces. These had been defamed as "degenerate" in 1937 in the course of National Socialist cultural policy and forcibly removed from German museums. The Reich Ministry of Propaganda assumed that it would be able to sell some of the works abroad for foreign currency. For this reason, selected works of art deemed "internationally usable" reached the market through various channels.
The exhibition Zerrissene Moderne (Torn Modernism) sheds light on this important moment in the history of the Basel collection in all its facets. In addition, it is dedicated to the artificial fragmentation of modern art through the cultural-political act of violence of the Nazi regime. After all, the selection into "usable" and alternatively forgotten or destroyed art still has an impact on museum collections all over the world today. The exhibition, which is both art-historical and historical, conveys unexpected stories of people, works and trade.
NOUS has produced a sound collage for the last room of the exhibition and transforms the correspondence between the then director of the Kunstmuseum, Georg Schmidt, and the art critic Paul Westheim, who lived in exile in Paris, into an intense and interesting listening experience. The two renowned actors Ueli Jäggi and Bernhard Schütz bring the correspondence between Schmidt and Westheim from July 1939 to life. A dialogue in the context of public criticism of the auction, buying and selling strategies of art and the joint attempts to "save modernism".