The first exhibition of its kind, Inventur examines the highly charged artistic landscape in Germany from the mid-1940s to mid-1950s. Taking its name from a 1945 poem by Günter Eich, the exhibition focuses on modern art created at a time when Germans were forced to acknowledge and reckon with the atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust, the country’s defeat and occupation by the Allies, and the ideological ramifications of the fledgling Cold War. Chosen for the way it helps characterize the art of this period, the word Inventur (inventory) implies not just an artistic stocktaking, but a physical and moral one as well—the reassurance of one’s own existence as reflected in the stuff of everyday life. The exhibition, too, “takes stock,” introducing the richness and variety of the modern art of this period to new audiences, while prompting broader questions on the role of the creative individual living under totalitarianism and in its wake.
Inventur includes more than 160 works, encompassing nearly 50 artists; many of the works have never been on view outside Germany. The exhibition draws from the Harvard Art Museums’ Busch-Reisinger and Fogg collections and is complemented by works from more than 50 public and private collections in the United States and in Germany. It includes key artists from across Germany who worked in an array of media: photography, collage, photomontage, drawing, painting, sculpture, and commercial design.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with two essays and sixty in-depth object entries written by the curator and emerging scholars in the field. This publication, the first of its kind in English, will contribute a wealth of new knowledge to scholarly understanding of 20th-century German art.
Organized by the Harvard Art Museums. Curated by Lynette Roth, the Daimler Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum and Head of the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Harvard Art Museums.
Support for this project was provided by the German Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum (Verein der Freunde des Busch-Reisinger Museums) and by endowed funds, including the Daimler Curatorship of the Busch-Reisinger Museum Fund, the M. Victor Leventritt Fund, and the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. In addition, modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.
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Watch Konrad Klapheck, a renowned German artist whose work is featured in the Inventur exhibition, deliver the February 8 opening night lecture “War and Peace in German Art after World War II”.