Amandeep Sandhu | on his facebook wall
Early twentieth century Europe was characterised by startling changes in artistic styles. In the visual arts, such innovations as Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. But the majority of people in Germany, as elsewhere, did not care for the new art which many resented as elitist, morally suspect and too often incomprehensible. In comes Hitler, a failed artist, to whom the standard was classic Greek and Roman art – an art whose exterior form embodied an inner racial ideal. Goebbels, his minister, explained, ‘We National Socialists are not un-modern; we are the carrier of a new modernity, not only in politics and in social matters, but also in art and intellectual matters.’ Notice, how like the right wing in India today, the sentence plays on words but does not offer any new approach.
In July 1937, two officially sponsored exhibitions opened in Munich: Entartete Kunst, (the Degenerate Art Exhibition), displayed modern art in a deliberately chaotic installation accompanied by defamatory labels that encouraged the public to jeer; in contrast, the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung (Great German art exhibition) made its premiere amid much pageantry. This exhibition, held at the palatial House of German Art, displayed the work of officially approved artists. The audience entered the portals of the new museum – Munich Art Terminal – to a stultifying display carefully limited to idealized German peasant families, commercial art nudes, and heroic war scenes, and so on.
The show was a flop and attendance was low. Sales were even worse and Hitler ended up buying most of the works for the government. At the end of four months the Degenerate Art Exhibition had attracted over two million visitors, nearly three and a half times the number that visited the nearby Great German Art Exhibition.
Our pathos is, today in India, not just that Karni Sena has been allowed to grow so influential that they challenge the Supreme Court and police in different states. It is not even that we have allowed a sectarian ideology to create such forces. Those are sadnesses, stupidities. The pathos is in we having to defend a gala non-realist, pomp and show saga, based on fiction by Sanjay Leela Bhansali which would be the equivalent of Great German Art Exhibition. Even more than that, the pathos is we having no Degenerate Art Exhibition as a counter to this lumpen hooliganism. This is not a contest, a debate, a discussion, but an end of imagination.