Art amidst the Catastrophe

Daniel Pešta

Berlin, Deutscher Bundestag 20/8/2013 – 15/9/2013

The exhibition Art Amidst The Catastrophe (Kunst in der Katastrophe) represents the culmination of the long-term collaboration between the Museum Montanelli and the Centre for Persecuted Art of Solingen. A range of authors do their utmost to point out the situation of politically and culturally persecuted artists in their work, appeal to empathy, request the most basic of democratic values and call for tolerance towards those with divergent ideas.

For example the painting by Felix Nussbaum The Desolate Street (Die trostlose Straße) dating from 1928 metaphorically depicts the fate that awaits Europe. This German-Jewish painter, murdered in the concentration camp of Auschwitz in 1944, created an early memento pointing at the destruction of Western-European culture. The poetess Mascha Kaléko reminisces about her old home in Berlin and wartime in her collection Verses for my Contemporaries (Verse für Zeitgenossen). She delivers Kaddish for Poland (Kaddisch für Polen) and composes Written Plea for the Bomb (Bittgesuch an eine Bombe), in which she requests the complete obliteration of Nazi Germany saving nothing but the flowers. In the cycle Hell (Peklo) the Czech multimedia artist Daniel Pešta does all he can to make the stories live on. In the videos The Cry (Výkřik) and Narcissus (Narcis) dating from 2012 he holds a mirror up to the viewer to show how important it is not to hide behind a mask and remain silent when faced with a catastrophe.

The Centre for Persecuted Art through the Art Museum of Solingen and the Museum Montanelli have worked together since 2009, organising exhibitions while also jointly exhibiting their collections and being partners at the European level.

The Museum Montanelli (MuMo) of Prague is one of the few small private museums of contemporary art in the Czech Republic. Its came into being at the initiation of patron of the arts and art collector Dadja Altenburg-Kohl; MuMo was founded in 2009 in the centre of Prague under the auspices of the former president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel.

The Centre for Persecuted Art through the Art Museum of Solingen began their activities in 2008 with the exhibition Heaven and Hell Between 1918 and 1989. Burnt Poets (Spálení básníci). The Collection of Jürgen Serke. The Centre creates collections of works by persecuted artists for which it organises exhibitions, while at the same time also acts as a documentation and research department for exploring the life journeys and the work of the persecuted intelligentsia in exile. This institution is unique in Europe connecting literature to the creative arts and concentrating on the two totalitarian regimes of the last century.

The exhibition Art Amidst the Catastrophe was organised by the Museum Montanelli of Prague and The Centre for Persecuted Art through the Art Museum of Solingen, which is presenting works here from the collection of Jürgen Serke: Burnt and Expelled Poets (Spálení a vyhnaní básníci), on permanent loan from the Else Lasker-Schüler Society, and the Citizens’ Foundation for Rejected Art with the art collection of Gerhard Schneider. The exhibition curator is Jürgen Kaumkötter.

Visits: According to the regulations regarding entry to the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundestag), the exhibition may only be visited by prior arrangement.

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