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Julia Friedrich: No Longer Standing. How to deal with a Nazi artwork from Museum Ludwig's collection

Conference: Counter-Monuments and Para-Monuments(WiSe 21/22)

Fritz Behn’s bronze sculpture Standing Woman (1935/36) is a clear example of Nazi aesthetics. The full-frontal nude demonstrates strength and determination. With its smooth and expressionless shape, the broad pelvis and the powerful pose, the statue symbolizes the ideal of the German woman of the Nazi era. Its maker, the sculptor Fritz Behn, was a National Socialist from early on, an anti-Semite as well as an outspoken colonialist. As an artist, Behn is most known and still admired for his many animal sculptures in public spaces, such as the Gorilla Bobby at Berlin Zoo from 1938. But he also created portrait busts of West German president Theodor Heuss, of “Jungle Doctor” Albert Schweitzer, and of Pope Pius XII in the 1950s. The sculpture Standing Woman stood in place in the central recreation area Rheinpark in Cologne from 1962. A plaque next to it marked it as part of Museum Ludwig’s Haubrich Collection, which is a surprise given that the lawyer Josef Haubrich (1989–1961) was a defender of German Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit during Nazi Germany. As Museum Ludwig received the collection as a gift as early as 1946, the statue is in our custody. In her presentation she will reflect on the questions that arose about how to deal with the sculpture and the answers we gave that led to its dismantling in 2018. This also involves comparison with a much more prominent monument by the same Behn, the Elefant, aka the Reichskolonialdenkmal, aka the AntiKolonialDenkmal in Bremen.

Julia Friedrich is Head of Prints and Drawings at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where she has curated numerous exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Her exhibition Picasso, Shared and Divided. The Artist and His Image in East and West Germany is currently ongoing. One of her primary research interests is the practice of collecting and exhibiting during the postwar period. In 2019, for example, she gave the keynote lecture for the documenta symposium at the German Historical Museum, which sparked a debate on traces of National Socialism in postwar Modernism. On March 1, 2022, she will become Director of Collections at the Jewish Museum Berlin.
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