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Arts in Exile // Virtual exhibition and network

There are many different reasons for leaving one's country, not all of which related to political persecution. The effects which such exile has on artists and the arts are equally diverse. The virtual "Arts in Exile" exhibition is dedicated to exploring these effects.

Its aim is to highlight exile in all its complexity as experienced by artists, firmly embedding its approach within the contemporary culture of remembrance. Exile has special significance in Germany because it signifies a range of contradictory phenomena. In the time of the National-Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945, thousands of artists were forced to flee into exile. However, after 1945 the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic became countries in which persecuted artists sought refuge. Even today, Germany remains a haven for persecuted people.

The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library was requested by the former Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs, Bernd Neumann, to assume overall control of co-ordinating the "Arts in Exile" virtual exhibition and network. From the outset, the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach was involved in the conceptual development of the virtual exhibition and also devised its educational section. "Arts in Exile" is explicitly conceived as a network project. Content and exhibits have been incorporated from more than 30 research institutions, archives, exhibition centres and initiatives in Germany and abroad.

The exhibition is overseen by an advisory committee which includes Dr. Ingeborg Berggreen-Merkel, Prof. Doerte Bischoff, Prof. Dan Diner, Prof. Burcu Dogramaci, Abbas Khider, Dr. Ursula Langkau-Alex, Prof. Michaela Melián and Volker Weidermann.

Virtual exhibition "Arts in Exile"

Background information on the "Arts in Exile" project

"Arts in Exile" focuses on the arts under the conditions of exile – from 1933 to the present. The first modules of the exhibition went online on 18th September 2013. The portal was developed under the auspices of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library and is constantly being expanded. The exhibition can be viewed either in German or English.

The virtual exhibition went online on 18 September 2013 after being activated in the Federal Chancellery by the then Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, Bernd Neumann, and the Director-General of the German National Library, Dr. Elisabeth Niggemann.

"In Germany, with its double history of dictatorship, the 'Arts in Exile' exhibition will provide significant new impetus for the country to come to terms with its past. I am convinced that, by highlighting individual fates and the central topics of exile, the exhibition will bring forgotten treasures to light and finally give the artists the recognition they deserve – late enough, but not too late," said Bernd Neumann at the opening. EUR 745,000 were made available in 2012 from the budget of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media for the construction of the virtual exhibition. A further EUR 2 million followed for digitisation of the exhibits.

"The German National Library is showing a strong commitment to memory and to raising awareness of exile by coordinating the virtual 'Arts in Exile' network," said Elisabeth Niggemann. "The link to the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 and the connections between the virtual presentation with the expanded and newly designed exhibition rooms planned for the coming year in Frankfurt will firmly anchor the subject of exile in the public perception. The virtual umbrella connects more institutions with the Museum and brings together work on different aspects of the topic, including Germany's present role as a haven for persecuted artists."

The concept of the exhibition exploits the technical possibilities of the Internet and uses curated galleries to link exhibits together which come from different places, belong to different fields of the arts, and make use of different types of material and media. Each exhibit in the exhibition is linked to other exhibits. Every user makes his or her own exploratory way through the exhibition.

"We use the possibilities of the Internet to connect the past and the present. However, the appeal of a virtual exhibition lies in its extensibility, its ability to generate new lines of connection," said Dr. Sylvia Asmus, head of the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library and director of the project. "We are pleased to have reached our first milestone by going online. We have launched the site with a basic stock of content. Our aim with the 'Arts in Exile' website is to give a digital home to a variety of known and unknown biographies, works and objects."

The technical and conceptual planning of the virtual exhibition was conducted in conjunction with the agencies Iglhaut + von Grote and ]Init[ AG.
The following institutions have been involved in setting up the exhibition in addition to the German Exile Archive 1933–1945:

  • Academy of Arts
  • Federal Archives
  • German Emigration Center Bremerhaven
  • Deutsches Filminstitut
  • German Art Archive in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum
  • Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach
  • edition memoria
  • Else-Lasker-Schüler-Gesellschaft
  • Felix-Nussbaum-Haus
  • Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung
  • Gesellschaft für Exilforschung e.V.
  • Hindemith Institute Frankfurt
  • Institut für Musik der Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
  • Interkulturelles Forschungsinstitut Mexiko-Deutschland
  • Jewish Museum Berlin
  • Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main
  • Jewish Museum Munich
  • Kulturstiftung Hansestadt Lubick mit dem Buddenbrookhaus und dem Heinrich-und-Thomas-Mann-Zentrum
  • Justus Liebig University Gießen
  • "Musicians persecuted during the Nazi period" research post at the University of Hamburg
  • Max Beckmann Archive
  • Monacensia
  • musica reanimata
  • Austrian Exile Library at Literaturhaus Vienna
  • PEN-Zentrum für deutschsprachige Autoren im Ausland
  • Swiss Literary Archives of the Swiss National Library
  • Thomas-Mann-Archive at ETH Zurich
  • Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
  • Clément Moreau Foundation
  • Deutsche Kinemathek Foundation
  • Villa Aurora Forum Berlin
  • Walter A. Berendsohn Research Unit for German Exile Literature at Hamburg University
  • Vienna Library in the Vienna Rathaus
  • Centre for Persecuted Arts at the Art Museum in Solingen

Project coordination

Project management

Last update: 8.3.2018

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