Culture, Identity, Israel

Jewish Art Buffs Finally Giving Hitler Attention

It’s something of an urban legend that Adolf Hitler’s hatred of Jews was a result of the German Jewish art sphere’s rejection of the would-be tyrant as an artist. Of course, were this to be true, they could hardly be blamed. A classicist who decried modern art as “degenerate,” in execution Thomas Kinkade he most certainly was not, other than in terms of his megalomania.
As if Hitler’s chances of wooing Jewish art collectors were not already slim enough — simply on the merits of his poor aesthetic and shoddy technique — exterminating six million of their co-religionists certainly hasn’t helped matters. Such is the discovery of one survivor of Hitler’s crusade against world Jewry, who opened an exhibition of Hitler’s art this week in no-less-than Israel itself.
The Jerusalem Post reports,

Reproductions of six paintings by Adolf Hitler, created while he was an aspiring young artist, are included in an exhibition of art works currently on display at the Pyramida Center for Contemporary Art in Haifa. […] The reproductions were created by two Israeli artists who had formerly collaborated on other art projects related to Hitler and the Holocaust. The artists are French-born Josyane Vanounou, and Dov Or-Ner, who himself survived the Holocaust as a child and whose parents died at Auschwitz.
The reproductions have provoked sharp criticism, feelings of anger, and other highly emotional reactions in the Israeli public since the exhibition opened last Saturday.
[…] “At first I felt uneasy about exhibiting work by Hitler,” [curator Yaacov] Chefetz said. “But then I said to myself ‘just a second, perhaps the very display of this stupid kitsch will serve to further underscore the monstrous nature of this person.'”
Chefetz also said he believed part of the anger and shock the works provoked stemmed from the inability to fathom the dissonance between the horrific nature of Hitler’s acts and the banal, infantile quality of the paintings.

Personally, I can’t but help but ponder the intriguing parallel between Hitler and Kinkade’s aesthetic, in light of his success as one of America’s most prominently collected popular artists in the rising age of American fascism. After all, what is art, if not an indicator of a culture’s ideology? In that, what should one make of the feelings evoked by Kinkade’s art? What preicsely are the “good old days” we’re apparently longing for?

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