Degenerate Art, Cardinal Joachim Meisner Extends the Nazi Persecution of Artists
BERLIN (AP) — A Roman Catholic cardinal used the term “degenerate” at the opening of an art museum on the ruins of a church, drawing criticism Saturday for employing a phrase strongly linked to the Nazi persecution of artists. Joachim Meisner, the influential Cardinal of Cologne, warned in a sermon at the opening of a museum built on the ruins of Cologne’s St. Kolumba church that it was dangerous to allow art to break away from religion.
“Let us not forget that there is an indisputable connection between culture and religion. Where culture is uncoupled from… the worship of God, religion becomes moribund in rituals and culture degenerates,” Meisner said Friday.
In German the phrase “degenerate art,” or “Entartete Kunst,” carries deep associations with the Nazis’ attempts to ban artworks they deemed did not uphold their ideals. In 1937, they staged an exhibit in Munich called “Entartete Kunst,” which included 650 artworks confiscated from museums and considered unacceptable, including many by Expressionist artists.
Germany’s main Jewish group said the cardinal’s remarks went too far. “Meisner … is a notorious spiritual firebrand who tries not just to test the boundaries of what is allowed, but to deliberately overstep them,” said Stephan Kramer, a leader in Germany’s Central Council of Jews said in a statement.
Meisner was one of three German bishops who made controversial comments comparing the separation barrier in the West Bank to the Berlin Wall. He also recently criticized the taste of a leading artist who designed stained glass windows for Cologne Cathedral.
Theodor Lemper, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and responsible for culture in Cologne, said use of the word “entartete” should be taboo.
“In addition, culture does not grow only out of the worship of God,” Lemper was quoted as saying by the Cologne daily Express. “The absolutism preached by Cardinal Meisner is false and inappropriate.”
July 11, 2007 (AP)
Organizers of an exhibition on the relationship between homosexuality and art said Wednesday they were removing a controversial sculpture depicting Pope Benedict XVI in drag. The exhibit drew protests from the Catholic Anti-Defamation League, which threatened to seek charges against the organizers for defaming a head of state. The group expressed outrage at “the vulgar offense against Christ’s vicar and the feelings of Roman Catholics,” the group said in a statement. The sculpture of the artist Paolo Schmidlin, titled “Miss Kitty,” shows the pope in a blond bob wig wearing nothing but a stole, a pair of panties and thigh-high stockings. Organizers postponed the opening by three days to remove the sculpture and another controversial piece featuring a photo that appeared in the Italian media of Premier Roman Prodi’s spokesman talking to a transvestite, whose face is superimposed in the work with an image of Jesus Christ.
July 13, 2007 – Finally this exhibition titled “Vade retro: arte e omosessualità” (Vade retro: Art and Homosexuality) which was supposed to open in Milan was definitely stopped, after many polemics, and attempts to keep it open and simply remove the most controversial works.