WE TYPICALLY ASSOCIATE BURIED treasure with desert islands and remote monasteries, but sometimes it’s lying right beneath your nose. That’s what Berlin workers discovered earlier this year when they came across a lost trove of so-called degenerate art that had been eliminated from the city’s collections during the Third Reich. “Degenerate art,” of course, was the Nazi term for any kind of modern non-representational or else all-too realistic painting or sculpture that did not fit into the regime’s conception of a heroic Aryan…
Home at last:
The Bust of Nefertiti in Berlin’s New Museum
(14th century BCE)
IT TOOK ONLY A few hours to obliterate Berlin’s New Museum, the brightest jewel in the capital’s proud crown of cultural heritage sites. British bombs blasted holes through its roof on the night of November 22/23, 1943 and then the flames took over the job. A further bombing in February, 1945 finished off the last undamaged wing. Pitched battles by SS and Red Army forces in the last days of the war destroyed what little had been preserved from the flames, leaving only blackened walls and shattered exhibition rooms behind.
The museum itself had already closed at the oubreak of war in 1939. This means that its more mobile treasures were hidden away in mine shafts and other protected sites, preserving most of them for later generations to view in a hodge-podge of museums scattered across Berlin. But these seventy years of improvisation are finally over, because on October 17, 2009 the New Museum finally reopened its doors, allowing visitors to admire some of the world’s greatest historical art collections at their original site.
Sleeping Beauty awakes
The New Museum was commissioned by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in 1841…