GDK Research – research platform for images of
the Great German Art Exhibitions 1937-1944 in Munich

GDK Research publishes unknown photographic documents – evidence of art that was subsidised by the state during the NS era – in order to make source material available for critical discussion and analysis of the Nazi regime’s art and cultural policies. The historical photographic evidence in the Photo Study Collection of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte is part of Germany’s cultural heritage that was returned in 1946 by the American victors. GDK Research completely acknowledges its responsibility in its careful handling of this difficult, partly problematic and in any case controversial material.

This website offers images and art-historical information about each artwork that was displayed at the Great German Art Exhibitions (Große Deutsche Kunstausstellungen [GDK]), as well as a short biography of its artist, the buyer and the persons depicted in the art piece.

Using web links, this website includes additional related information from other web hosts such as the German Wikipedia or the Deutsche Biographie of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

In total, 12,550 art works (sculpture, paintings and drawings) were offered for sale during the eight exhibitions. Landscape, genre paintings, still lifes, portraits and small sculptures were the prevalent items. Although only a minor number of the works openly functioned as propaganda, all pieces were aligned with the regime’s ideology. Many works were purchased by members of the Nazi elite but a large number were also bought by private collectors.

The Great German Art Exhibitions were of central importance for the Nazi policy of art and culture. Coinciding with the first GDK, the exhibition “Entartete Kunst” (“Degenerate Art”) initiated by Joseph Goebbels took place in the gallery building in the Munich Hofgarten (Court Garden) nearby. The Great German Art Exhibitions demonstrated both the self-image of the ‘Third Reich’ as a nation of culture and the artistic concept of the Nazis. According to the catalogue from 1937, only artistic “peak performances” that “give expression to the greatness of the new era, born from blood and soil, from national socialist attitude and ideology” should be put on display.

GDK Research is the first database that makes extensive visual and written sources accessible from the holdings of different institutions. If not otherwise marked, all black-and-white photographs come from the Photo Study Collection of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI) and all colour photographs from the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) Berlin. All details concerning sellers (creditors), buyers (debtors) and prices were taken from the so-called books of accounts that are stored in the historical archive of Munich’s Haus der Kunst. These three core assets are supplemented with information, data, records and documents from various archives, but particularly from the image archive of the Stadtarchiv München (Munich City Archive) and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library, Heinrich Hoffmann image archive), as well as the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Bavarian State Archives).

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