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Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism

2018
Author:

Michael Tymkiw

Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism

A new and challenging perspective on Nazi exhibition design

While National Socialist exhibitions are seen as platforms for attacking modern art, they also served as sites of surprising formal experimentation among artists, architects, and others, who often drew upon the practices and principles of modernism when designing exhibition spaces. Michael Tymkiw reveals that a central motivation behind such experimentation was the interest in provoking what he calls “engaged spectatorship.”

Michael Tymkiw’s book Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism makes an important contribution to the rapidly growing body of literature on exhibition design in which narratives of modern art are turned to the spaces where audiences encountered what was often cutting-edge material. The contents of the displays in this study, however, complicate our expectations of modernism and of the National-Socialist-era visual culture that art and architectural historians long preferred to overlook. This disregard allowed scholars to peer past uncomfortable linkages between the heroic modernist period that preceded these years and the postwar return to legitimacy that followed. By looking closely at this difficult subject, Tymkiw finds moments of formal invention, as well as bold, even shocking, exhibition spaces that expressed a deeply reactionary cultural climate that we often associate with banal canvases and repetitive, monolithic structures.

Andrés Mario Zervigón, Rutgers University

In one of the most comprehensive analyses ever written on the subject, Michael Tymkiw reassesses the relationship between Nazi exhibition design and modernism. While National Socialist exhibitions are widely understood as platforms for attacking modern art, they also served as sites of surprising formal experimentation among artists, architects, and others, who often drew upon and reconfigured the practices and principles of modernism when designing exhibition spaces and the objects within. In this book, Tymkiw reveals that a central motivation behind such experimentation was the interest in provoking what he calls “engaged spectatorship”—attempts to elicit experiences among exhibition-goers that would pique their desire to become involved in wider processes of social and political change.

For historians of art, architecture, performance, and other forms of visual culture, Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism unravels long-held assumptions, particularly concerning the ideological stakes of participation.

Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism

Michael Tymkiw is lecturer in art history at the University of Essex.

Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism

Michael Tymkiw’s book Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism makes an important contribution to the rapidly growing body of literature on exhibition design in which narratives of modern art are turned to the spaces where audiences encountered what was often cutting-edge material. The contents of the displays in this study, however, complicate our expectations of modernism and of the National-Socialist-era visual culture that art and architectural historians long preferred to overlook. This disregard allowed scholars to peer past uncomfortable linkages between the heroic modernist period that preceded these years and the postwar return to legitimacy that followed. By looking closely at this difficult subject, Tymkiw finds moments of formal invention, as well as bold, even shocking, exhibition spaces that expressed a deeply reactionary cultural climate that we often associate with banal canvases and repetitive, monolithic structures.

Andrés Mario Zervigón, Rutgers University

Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism

Contents
Introduction: Experimental Exhibition Design under National Socialism
Part I. Entangled in Debates on Modern Art and Architecture
1. Falling into Line: Three Early Experiments in Visualizing Collectivity Formation
2. Reconfiguring Expressionism: Otto Andreas Schreiber and the Mass Production of Factory Exhibitions
Part II. The Persistence of Formal Dialectics
3. Photomurals after Pressa
4. Fragmentation and the “Jewish-Bolshevist Enemy”
Epilogue: German Exhibition Design after National Socialism
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index