Made in Germany? Art and Identity in a Global Nation

, Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
A multicolored fragmented painting portraying people walking on a city street.

Corinne Wasmuht, “50 U Heinrich-Heine-Str.,” 2009. Oil on wood. Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Ann and Graham Gund in honor of Martha Tedeschi, 2016.387. © Corinne Wasmuht.

Special Exhibitions Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Discover an array of artworks that transcend borders and spotlight the complexities of modern German identity.

Made in Germany? Art and Identity in a Global Nation takes an unprecedented look at German art since 1980. Featuring artists from different generations and diverse backgrounds, the exhibition complicates notions of German identity, especially the idea of ethnic and cultural homogeneity. In fact, the country is second only to the United States as a destination for immigrants from around the world. The exhibition offers a range of reflections on nationalism and the ways in which it was shaped in the post–World War II period by labor migration, the unification of East and West Germany in 1990, and the recent influx of asylum seekers to the country. Made in Germany? does not offer easy or ready answers. Rather, the exhibition asks in the broadest possible terms: Who or what represents Germany today?

Race, migration, labor, history, and memory are at the forefront of this inquiry into German identity. The works on view often focus attention not solely on racial, ethnic, or religious diversity, but on marginalized groups at the very edges of German society: recent refugees and asylum seekers as well as the aging, the economically disadvantaged, and the unhoused. The exhibition contributes to wide-ranging debates on diversity, nationalism, and social change in the face of migration and globalization; it frames discussions on racial violence, right-wing populism, and ethnically defined national identity—issues that are resonating not only in Germany but also in the United States today.

The 20 artists represented in the exhibition span several generations, and their works—often made and remade over an extended period—address German history and identity through film, video, photography, painting, printmaking, drawing, collage, and installation. Supplemented by key loans, the exhibition showcases works from the Busch-Reisinger Museum and, in particular, highlights recent acquisitions by artists such as Nevin Aladağ, Marc Brandenburg, Katharina Sieverding, Cornelia Schleime, Ngozi Schommers, Hito Steyerl, Sung Tieu, Corinne Wasmuht, and Ulrich Wüst. Hans Haacke’s poster Wir (alle) sind das Volk (We [all] are the people) will be available for free in the exhibition, and visitors are encouraged to further disseminate the message by displaying it in their schools, workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods.

Uniquely positioned as the only museum in North America devoted to the art of German-speaking Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day, the Busch-Reisinger Museum is one of three museums that comprise the Harvard Art Museums. Established at Harvard in 1903, the holdings continue to grow and expand to reflect the diversity of modern Germany.

An accompanying print catalogue, the first of its kind published in English, includes contributions from curators and scholars who examine the circumstances that have shaped notions of identity in modern-day Germany as well as the diverse artists who are challenging ideas of what it means to be “German.”

Curated by Lynette Roth, Daimler Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Peter Murphy, Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum (2022–25), with Bridget Hinz, Senior Curatorial Assistant for Special Exhibitions and Publications, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums.

The exhibition is made possible by the Daimler Curatorship of the Busch-Reisinger Museum Fund, the Carola B. Terwilliger Bequest, German Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Care of the Busch-Reisinger Museum Collection Endowment. Additional support was provided by the Goethe-Institut Boston and the Dedalus Foundation. Related programming is supported by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund and the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund. 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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