The Collector Curt Glaser — From Champion of Modernism to Refugee
Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau
Until February 12, 2023
The art historian, curator, and art critic Curt Glaser (1879-1943) was a central figure in Berlin’s art scene in the 1910s and 1920s, yet he has been nearly forgotten in the years since his death. The biography of this champion of modern art was caught up in the cataclysms of the 20th century. He and his first wife Elsa assembled a private collection that included outstanding works by Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, and Max Beckmann, among others. Persecuted by the Nazis for his Jewish background, he lost his position as director of the Berliner Kunstbibliothek and emigrated to Switzerland in 1933, moving to the United States in 1941. When Glaser had most of his collection auctioned off in 1933, it was scattered across the globe.
In the same year, the Kunstmuseum Basel acquired 200 prints and drawings from the collection. In 2020, the museum reached a just and fair solution with Glaser’s heirs to retain the works. Internationally, this has since been deemed best practice. This exhibition links Glaser’s life and work with impressive pieces from his private collection that are being shown together again for the first time since they were dispersed in 1933. By bringing a fascinating collection back to life and examining Glaser’s broad impact on the art world in Weimar-era Berlin, as well as exploring the circumstances of his persecution and the fate of his art collection during the Nazi era, the show illuminates a hitherto little-known chapter in the history of Modernism.
image: edvard munch, “elsa and curt glaser,” private collection, photo: © petegorsky / gipe for smith college museum of art, northampton, massachusetts