German Art Strikes a Trendy Note in the U.S. | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 03.12.2003
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German Art Strikes a Trendy Note in the U.S.

German politicians may be grappling with a loss of image in the U.S. since the dispute over the Iraq war, but artists aren’t complaining as German art enjoys a popularity boom with Americans.

In vogue -- the exhibition German Art Now in St Louis.

In vogue -- the exhibition "German Art Now" in St Louis.

Whether in New York or St. Louis, German art is hip, happening and in demand. Never mind the political tensions between the two countries ever since German Chancellor Schröder decided to oppose the U.S.-led war against Iraq earlier this year.

A look at the art calendar shows that German artists, both old and contemporary, are fast becoming fashionable on the American art landscape.

The New York-based Neue Galerie devoted to early 20th century German and Austrian art and design recently celebrated its two-year anniversary.

Ausstellung German Art Now Saint Louis Art Museum

German Art Now

The exhibition "German Art Now" (photo), which focuses on the international impact of German art in the second half of the 20th century and currently showing at the St. Louis Art Museum, has been a success so far. "The exhibition in St. Louis has been a huge popular success and was even well received far beyond the city’s borders," Andrea Firmenich, head of the cultural forum of German pharmaceuticals and chemicals group Altana, which provided financial backing for the "German Art Now" exhibition, told DW-WORLD.

And that’s not all. Another exhibition on German art at the beginning of the 20th century is on show at the Busch-Reisinger Museum of the Harvard University, while the Vassar College in New York state is displaying works by renowned German sculptor Käthe Kollwitz.

Art immune to political considerations

"I believe, that public interest in German art has in fact increased in recent times," Dorothea Dietrich, guest professor for 20th century art at the Duke University said. "Earlier it was mainly French art that enjoyed attention in the U.S., but now German art is increasingly become more important," she said. Dietrich opined that the political dispute over the Iraq war hasn’t had a negative impact on German art in the U.S. "Rather there was a negative fallout with relation to France."

Even Anne Wagner, professor for art history at the University of California in Berkely and presently Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, agrees that the discord between U.S. and German politicians hasn’t spilled over onto the art scene. "In my opinion, the political problems over the war in Iraq had no implications for the reception of German art in the U.S. Perhaps, it’s that art lovers tend to be less nationalistic than other people or maybe they think that art is not a direct reflection of politics," she mused.

Wagner points towards widely-acclaimed East German contemporary artist Gerhard Richter as a case in point. "A good example of that is the Gerhard Richter exhibition in the U.S. last year, which was a huge success. And no one was less interested in Richter’s achievements because of the strained relations between Germany and the U.S.," she emphasized.

Andrea Firmenich of the Atlanta group stressed that art could act as a bridge in the communication process between nations and could provide thought-provoking impulses. "Artists still speak to one another long after politicians have nothing more to say." Firmenich added "German and American artists have always maintained a vigorous exchange and that’s happening again."

"Now more than ever"

There are indications that the current surge in popularity for German art in the U.S. may not be a short-lived one.

"The opening of the Neue Galerie in New York provided an important push to the popularity of German art," art professor Dietrich explained. Even the Atlanta cultural forum plans to continue with its engagement in the U.S., independent of the political climate between Germany and the U.S.

Firmenich emphasized that "now more than ever" is the motto in the art world ever since the German-American fallout over the Iraq war.