Project Restores Schwitters Art Barn

Cumbria, UK - A campaign has been launched to build a permanent memorial to the 'Modern Artists' who were persecuted by the Nazis in World War II, and to save a famous art barn known as a 'merzbau'.

Yesterday, art collectors of ArtKabinett social network viewed a similar exhibition in Paris.

Works were deemed 'Entartete Kunstdegenerat' (degenerate) by the former art student, Adolf Hitler, whose well-known hatred for progressive works by such artists as Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters and Paul Klee led to exile or death in concentration camps.

The memorial will be created in Cumbria, where Schwitters (1887 - 1948) took up residence, after being forced out of Germany and then Norway by the Nazis.

In July 1937, confiscated works were exhibited in Munich in a show titled Entartete Kunst.

The show was advertised as "culture documents of the decadent work of Bolsheviks and Jews". German press and public, who visited in huge numbers, subjected the works to vicious criticism.

The campaign for an Entartete Kunst memorial will form part of a wider plan to build a Schwitters museum next to the Merz barn.

The Merz barn building still stands much as Schwitters left it in 1948.

Located in a remote woodland in the heart of the Langdale valley in Cumbria, it serves as a symbolic connection and poignant memorial to the spirit and tenacity of the artist who worked there.

Merzbau Constructions

This project is about the recovery, documentation and restoration of Kurt Schwitters' final Merzbau project, the Elterwater Merz Barn.

During his lifetime Schwitters worked on three Merzbauten projects:

The Hanover Merzbau (1923 - 36); two Merzbauten in Norway -- the Haus am Bakken at Lysaker near Oslo (1937 - 40), the Schwittershytta on the island of Hjertoya (1934 - 39) -- and finally the Elterwater Merz Barn in England (1947).

Schwitters described the merzbau constructions as his life's work.

The first project was begun in Hannover, Germany (sometime between 1919 - 1923).

In 1938, Schwitters was forced to leave his homeland. He traveled to Norway and began a second Merzbau. When the Nazi's invaded there in 1940, he escaped to London.

After the war, Schwitters settled in Ambleside in the Cumbria Lake District. In 1945, he began his third and final Merzbau. It is the only one still existing.

The Hannover and Norway constructions were destroyed in Allied bombing raids, although historic photographs of the projects remain.

Merzbau Design

Schwitters built his constructions into his residences incorporating rooms he lived in into the structure. Ceilings and walls were covered with three dimensional shapes and countless nooks and grottos were filed with a variety of objects -- "spoils and relics" (personal items Schwitters stole from friends and acquaintances).

These nooks and grottos were sometimes obliterated by future additions, leaving them existing only in the memories of the earlier versions of the work.

Schwitters considered the Merzbau on principle, an uncompleted work that by its very nature, continued to grow and change constantly. Art interacted directly with its human inhabitants.

There were grottos for such friends and acquaintances as Hans Arp, Theo van Doesburg, Hannah Hoch, El Lissitzy.

Other grottos were dedicated to abstract ideas e.g. a murders' cave, a Goethe grotto, and a love grotto.

Left unfinished after the artist died in early January 1948, this almost forgotten Merz Barn was neglected for many years until Richard Hamilton arranged for the surviving art work to be removed for safe keeping to the University of Newcastle's Hatton Gallery in 1965, where it is now on public view.

The Merz Barn building itself still survives and contains evidence of Schwitters' original working methods and materials.

Tomorrow, AK Files offers an in-depth reconstruction of the original Hanover merzbau...