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This Week’s Top Picks: Berlin (June 24-26, 2005)

By Daniel Mufson
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal Europe, June 24-26, 2005, p. P12. 

In one of the arresting moments of the exhibition “Brücke and Berlin: 100 Years of Expressionism” at the Neue Nationalgalerie, Emil Nolde’s painting “The Missionary” hangs next to three sculptures from Sudan, Nigeria, and Korea, which inspired Nolde’s composition. We see how he took three disparate pieces of non-Western sculpture and fused them into a cohesive painting that, along with works by artists such as Max Pechstein, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and others, helped form one of the most remarkable movements of 20th-century European art. This is one of a number of events celebrating the founding of expressionism in 1905 by a group of young architects in Dresden—Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel and Fritz Bleyl—woh called themselves Brücke, or bridge. Featuring more than 500 works, the show explores the personal relationships of the artists as well as the political and social contexts of the movement, which was banned as “degenerate” by the Nazis. W’re treated to surprises such as Pechstein’s stained-glass windows and to jewelry designed by Krchner, Schmidt-Rotluff, and Heckel. However, despite the scope of the show, which makes connections between expressionism and movements such as futurism and cubism, some details are left vague, and it doesn’t live up to its promise of tracing the movement’s controversial, contested legacy over the  course of the past century.

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