New Bode Museum Exhibition Asks If War Damaged Art Should Be Restored

Francois Duquesnoys Cherub (17th century) Photo: Berliner Zeitung

An exhibition featuring war damaged paintings and sculptures opened yesterday at Berlin’s Bode Museum, Berliner Zeitung reports.

During World War II, the majority of Berlin’s cultural treasures were moved from the city’s museums to a bunker in the city’s district of Friedrichshain for safekeeping. However, after two fires broke out inside the bunker in May 1945, hundreds of sculptures and paintings were irreparably destroyed.

The exhibition, titled “The Missing Museum: the Berlin Sculpture and Paintings Collections 70 Years after World War II,” shows around 50 works, including pieces by Caravaggio, Rubens, and Donatello.

The exhibition contains a combination of originals, reproductions of lost paintings, and plaster casts of sculptures from the museum’s collection. Many of the works haven’t been on public display since 1939.

According to curator Julien Chapuis, the exhibition explores the ethics behind the restoration of war damaged art. “Whether or not to show war-damaged art is a controversial issue among conservators, historians and archivists,” he explained.

“We will be showing a number of horrendous-looking pieces, works that are so badly damaged that they haven’t been displayed in generations,” Chapuis told the Art Newspaper. “We want to be brutally honest about the condition of these works so that we can start a dialogue as to how they can be presented in the future,” he added.

War damaged art remains a controversial subject to this day, especially in light of ISIS cultural cleansing in Iraq and Syria (see Militants Storm Museum and Smash 3,000 Year Old Sculptures on video and ISIS Bulldozes 3,000-Year-Old Major Assyrian Site in Nimrud, Iraq)

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