FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

You will find here the most frequently asked questions regarding the history of the Haus der Kunst and their answers. 

What connection was there between the "House of German Art" and the vilifying exhibition "Degenerate Art"? 
On July 18, 1937 Adolf Hitler opened the "House of German Art" on Munich's Prinzregentenstraße with the first "Great German Art Exhibition". The building was the first architectural showpiece project of Nazi propaganda and served to establish a general, authoritative "German" art. At the same time, this "new" German art was integrally connected to the exclusion and defamation of Modernism. In his opening speech, in an almost fanatical manner, Hitler settled old scores with the Modernism he so detested and threatened its representatives and supporters with a "relentless cleansing war". That this was no empty threat was demonstrated on the following day. On July 19, 1937 – as a deliberate 'contrast event' to the first "Great German Art Exhibition" – the vilified show "Degenerate Art" was opened in the rooms of the Archeological Institute (today's Theatermuseum and Kunstverein)in Munich's Hofgarten. In a distorting presentation, the show - organized by Joseph Goebbels - presented close to 600 Modernist works as "degenerate". All the exhibited paintings, sculptures and drawings had been previously removed from the collections of German museums. This expropriation was subsequently legalized with the adoption of the "Act of Confiscation of Degenerate Art" in May 1938. Some 17,000 artworks by more than 1,000 artists were confiscated and mostly sold on the international art market to raise cash. The exhibition "Degenerate Art", which until 1941 toured in twelve other German cities, was not the first event in which the Nazis so outrageously vilified Modernism. Since 1933 individual groups of the "Militant League of German Culture" organized so-called "horror chambers of art" in order to publically mobilize "healthy popular sentiment" aginst unpopular artists and their dealers and collectors.

What happened to the artworks that were exhibited between 1937 and 1944/45 in the "House of German Art"? 
The "Great German Art Exhibitions" were sales exhibitions. In the eight shows staged after 1937, a total of 12,550 artworks of sculpture, painting and graphics were exhibited - more than 7,000 of these were bought by leading Nazi party members and their organizations, as well as by government agencies, companies, museums and private individuals. 
Acting in accordance with decisions made at the Potsdam Conference, works of art with Nazi representations and military content were confiscated following the collapse of the "Third Reich". In October 1945, the U.S. military government engaged former employees of the "House of German Art" to process the works that were still in the building. The return of a work to its artist or buyer took place only after the submission of an official political clearance certificate. As of August 1946 and May 1947, the works stored in the Haus der Kunst's depot, as well as Hitler's purchases and those of the former German Reich, were transferred to the "Central Collecting Point" in the former "Verwaltungsbau" [Administration Building] (today's Haus der Kulturinstitute) and the "Führerbau" (today's Hochschule für Musik und Theater)on Munich's Königsplatz; this was the largest collection point for looted art in southern Germany. In 1949 a part of these works was transferred to the Treuhandverwaltung für Kultur [Trust Administration for Culture]; in 1963 the works were transferred to the Oberfinanzdirektion München [Regional Tax Office of Munich] and stored in Munich's Hauptzollamt [Main Customs Office]. Since 1998 – a collection of contemporary documentation - some 700 of these works have belonged to the Deutsches Historisches Museum.

How long has the building been called "Haus der Kunst"?
The renaming of the "House of German Art" into the "Haus der Kunst" took place as part of a series of measures and efforts to "denatzify" the historically troubled building. The name "Haus der Kunst" has been in use since 1946. The deletion of the adjective "German" from the title was also intended to suggest international openness, since a connection to international Modernism was sought in the postwar period.

Is it true that the building housed a basketball court following the war?
Following the collapse of the "Third Reich" and the liberation of Munich by American troops, the U.S. military government took over the former "House of German Art" and established an officers' club in it that contained a restaurant, dance hall, and several shops and sports facilities for high ranking officers. "The lines for basketball games were painted in white oil paint on the glass-smooth floor of the central hall. Individual bits of paint are still visible today", wrote the journalist Friedrich Müller in 1958 in the "Süddeutschen Zeitung" (Friedrich Müller, Kunstpalast mit braunen Flecken, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, October 15, 1958).

At what time after the end of the Second World War were art exhibitions again presented in the Haus der Kunst?
In late 1945 part of the west wing was cleared by the U.S. military government and made available to the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. Presented there in January 1946 was an exhibition of "old German masters" with works by Durer, Altdorfer and Grunewald from the holdings of the war-ravaged Pinakothek museums. Im November 1948 the Haus der Kunst was released from the asset management of the  Control Council Authority  and turned over to the Bavarian state (the restaurant, the former "Hall of Honor" and part of the adjacent exhibition space and administrative rooms remained under American occupation as the "Officers’ Club" until 1955). Thus, a lively exhibition program was able to develope in the east wing. In the meantime, the local artists' associations were reestablished and united to form the "Ausstellungsleitung e.V.". The purpose and task of the "Ausstellungsleitung e.V." was to organize the "Great Art Exhibition Munich" and to stage major thematic exhibitions and retrospectives dedicated to classical Modernism. In the east wing in September 1949, the "Neue Gruppe", the "Secession" and the "Münchener Künstler-Genossenschaft" organized their first "Great Art Exhibition", in which Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Karl-Schmidt-Rottluff, and others took part.

Were there really plans to demolish the Haus der Kunst in the early 1990s?
In the late 1980s it became increasingly clear - because of its structural condition - that the Haus der Kunst could no longer cope with its role as one of the international exhibition circuit's most prestigious sites. This situation triggered a public controversy about the future of the building that also reflected how the structural legacies of the Nazi era were being dealt with.
The Munich architect Stefan Braunfels argued vehemently in favor of blowing up the neo-classical building and erecting a two-storey structure in its place. Others, like the painter and art collector Günther Buchheim, countered this with the argument that the Haus der Kunst was "unquestionably a monument in the negative sense, a document of the Third Reich,"(Abendzeitung, January 13/14, 1990). The Free State of Bavaria ultimately decided on a partial renovation, which was completed in 1993.  
A similar debate had already been sparked in 1965, when the Landesbau-Kunstausschuss [State Building Art Committee] suggested demolishing the Haus der Kunst as part of the widening of the Prinzregentenstraße and the expansion of Munich's central ring road. In 1971 the stairs in front of the building were removed and replaced with narrower steps.  

How long was the west wing of the Haus der Kunst used as an exhibition venue by the Bavarian State Painting Collections? 
After 1946 the west wing of the Haus der Kunst was used by the Bavarian State Painting Collections to mount exhibitions; following the restoration of the Alte Pinakothek (1957) and the completion of the Neue Pinakothek's new building (1981), the "Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst" moved into the space. The accommodation of this collection of 20th century art was intended to be temporary and lasted until 2000. Since 2003 the works in this collection have found their permanent home in the recently opened Pinakothek der Moderne From 2001 to 2007 the west wing housed the "Theater im Haus der Kunst" of the Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel.

Does the Haus der Kunst have its own collection?
The Haus der Kunst does not have its own collection, and only presents changing exhibitions. The development of the building and exhibition operation is, however, documented in the institution's Historical Archive.  

Still have questions? 
Please contact us at: archiv (at) hausderkunst.de

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