The British Museum Remembers Germany. 600 years, 600 objects.

So… It’s been a while since I updated my blog with a review or anything so HERE WE GO! You’re going to get sick of them in the next few weeks.

Anywho, a few weeks ago I headed over to the British Museum for their opening of Germany: Memories of a Nation which runs until 23 January 2015 so plenty of time to go and see it!

Click on this nifty little wort to find out more about the exhibition.

Wait, what?! THERE’S A TRAILER? Yes. The British Museum made a trailer for an exhibition! LOVE. IT.

Right, back to the exhibition. Here’s a little run down of what I loved about the show… Hint: A lot.

Upon entry, the first thing you’ll see is a perfect quote by one of my favourite artists, Georg Baselitz, to set you up for the rest of show; “What I could never escape was Germany and being German“.

Adler linocut by Baselitz: Adler (Eagle), George Baselitz, 1977. Etching printed from perspex plate with oil on paper. Presented to the British Museum by Count Christian Duerckheim. Reproduced by permission of the artist. © Georg Baselitz
Adler linocut by Baselitz: Adler (Eagle), Georg Baselitz, 1977. Etching printed from perspex plate with oil on paper. Presented to the British Museum by Count Christian Duerckheim. Reproduced by permission of the artist. © Georg Baselitz

After reading this poignant line you’re brought up against something we’ve all come to expect, the fall of the Berlin wall. After this short video in the annex of the main entrance has been brought to your attention, the curators then take you right back to where it all started, way back in the day, the Renaissance.

Memories of a Nation is an incredible showcase of how important Germany has been historically in the canon of art and the 600 objects on view, including rare loans never seen in the UK before, take you on a journey from as early as the mid-1400s to present day.

Johanes Gutenberg reinvented the process of printing in the 15th century which led to the establishment of a major book trade in Frankfurt, which we all know has not changed! The printwork in this exhibition is fantastic and I could talk about Germany being the first to produce printed maps in the whole of Europe, that Germany bore the likes of Hans Holbein and Albrecht Durer, and the fact that the politics embodied the life and work of the great Kathe Kollwitz, someone who in my eyes, is the best female artist who has ever lived. But I won’t. Because I’m afraid you might get a bit bored of me going on and on.

Selbstbildnis en face (Self-portrait, full face) by Käthe Kollwitz. 1904 Lithograph, printed in chocolate-brown with green and ochre tint-stones, overworked with black wash, on thick textured cream paper. The British Museum. © Käthe Kollwitz/DACS 2014
Selbstbildnis en face (Self-portrait, full face) by Käthe Kollwitz. 1904 Lithograph, printed in chocolate-brown with green and ochre tint-stones, overworked with black wash, on thick textured cream paper. The British Museum. © Käthe Kollwitz/DACS 2014

Though I will point out how spectacular the print of Franz Kafka by Hans Frobein is: mesmerising.

Print of Franz Kafka by Hans Fronius. 1937 Woodcut, on thin oriental paper The British Museum © CH Fronius, Vienna
Print of Franz Kafka by Hans Fronius. 1937 Woodcut, on thin oriental paper The British Museum © CH Fronius, Vienna

Although the focus of the exhibition is modern Germany, at the fall of the Berlin wall, the majority of the artefacts are in fact much older than this period. I was only two and a half years old when the divide between East and West was finally brought to an end, but growing up within a British school system means I was not exactly unaware of the impact this had on the whole of Europe. The art of war is something that has always intrigued me; the act of using any medium to remember and evoke something so tragic is universal and Germany gave the world decades of pain and suffering in which to stir its artists.

During the curatorial introduction to the exhibition at the preview, there were a lot of questions raised but one in particular stuck with me, “How can you think about the latest version of a country that has changed so much when there have been so many histories within one history?”

Political issues surrounding Germany’s complex history are not exactly my speciality, but luckily you don’t need to know a whole lot more than what you learnt from Hollywood movies and BBC documentaries to recognise the artistic concerns of memory, especially those showcased in this exhibition.

Gerhard Richter, Betty, oil on canvas, 1988. Copyright www.gerhard-richter.com
Gerhard Richter, Betty, oil on canvas, 1988.
Copyright http://www.gerhard-richter.com

Most evidently, in the last artwork of the exhibition is the stunning Betty by Gerhard Richter, in which the photo-realistic portrait of Richter’s daughter is seen facing away but looking back, according to the curator, looking back at what her father did, what he experienced and seemingly questioning how he lives with Germany’s past.

From printwork to cuckoo clocks, Anselm Kiefer to garden gnomes, I could go on and on about all the different objects you’d see in this exhibition, but it’s easier (and more fun for you) if you just get up and go and see it yourself.

Germany. Memories of a Nation

16 October 2014 – 25 January 2015
Open daily 10:00-17:30, Fridays until 20:30
Room 35, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG.
Tickets £10, children free.

One thought on “The British Museum Remembers Germany. 600 years, 600 objects.

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