Students couldn’t have chosen a better time than this summer to take Introduction to Modern Art, Architecture and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. Both the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum and the Saint Louis Art Museum saw the opening of SLAM’s much-anticipated contemporary wing as the perfect opportunity to showcase St. Louis’s rich holdings in contemporary German art. In fact, the Kemper’s current exhibition “Contemporary German Art: Selections from the Permanent Collection” complements the new East Wing’s inaugural exhibition, “Post-War German Art in the Collection.” As a class, we took advantage of these focused exhibitions to deepen our understanding of the relationship between art and society in the twentieth century. We visited each exhibition together with museum professionals: Kimberly Broker, Assistant Registrar at the Kemper, told us about behind-the-scenes museum exhibition planning, while Nathan Stobaugh, Research Assistant at SLAM, gave us a tour of the exhibition he helped to organize. The following blog posts are the results of these special tours, students’ additional independent visits to the exhibitions, a rigorous in-class peer-review workshop, and a good dose of thoughtfulness and creativity on the part of these four budding art critics.
Here’s a little more background: The exhibition at the Kemper emphasizes art from this century, while the Saint Louis Art Museum’s exhibition is particularly strong in German art from the second half of the twentieth century. Yet there are still many exciting parallels between them. The exhibitions share overarching themes, feature some of the same artists, and highlight their experimentation with different materials and media. Together, they also suggest a wider shift from German-speaking artists’ preoccupations with the World War II and its legacies to life in today’s globalized society. All in all, the exhibitions offer a variety of ways of engaging with art produced in Germany since 1945 and with contemporary art more generally. In their blog posts, students establish more specific links between the works of art on display at both museums. In advance of the panel discussion “The Legacy of German Art and Culture in St. Louis” on Saturday, September 7 from 1:00-2:30 in Steinberg Hall, these posts are meant to draw attention to some of the ways that these two exhibitions work together. We hope they inspire St. Louis art lovers to visit both exhibitions and to discover connections between them as well!
By Sarah McGavran, PhD
Instructor of Record, Introduction to Modern Art, Architecture and Design
Washington University in St. Louis