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Chair for Modern Art HistoryKurt Reutti - Recollections

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Kurt Reutti: Recollections (1900-1967)

Kurt Reutti

This is a cooperative project between the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in München (Christian Fuhrmeister, Stephan Klingen) and the TU Berlin (Bénédicte Savoy).

Author / Project Organization:
Michael Neumann, Berlin


About the Project

Ausschnitt aus dem 22. Kapitel "Karinhall"

In his unpublished autobiography, the artist Reutti describes the handling of art objects in and around Berlin since June 1945. Trained at the Reimann school for liberal and applied arts, Reutti became both protagonist and initiator for a central storage area for safekeeping of cultural goods in Berlin. His notes do not only provide listings of the works found and brought to safety, but also document the Allies' organizations working for cultural protection as well as the art market which benefited from the often shady provenance records.

In summer 1945, Kurt Reutti began to establish a central collecting point for cultural goods. The so-called “Zentralstelle zur Erfassung und Pflege von Kunstwerken” had the objective of preventing unlawful seizures of found art objects. Working closely with the Allies art protection units, Reutti researched provenance and followed the traces of or information about missing objects. The bulk of his recollections concern the post-war situation of the Berlin museums, with numerous listings of lost and found objects. Reutti played an important role in recovering art removed by the Nazis, for example through locating and safeguarding so-called Degenerate Art in Güstrow and Rostock. His notes also provide important information on Berlin art dealers such as Ferdinand Möller, Karl Haberstock, Wolfgang Gurlitt or Kamensky, who tried to sell a picture that had been stored in the Flakturm Friedrichshain. The Berlin art trade had access to works from the Western as well as Soviet occupation zones.

Reutti was able to continue his work for the Berlin museums until 1949, when his initiative was curtailed by the Cold War and East Berlin authorities. The second valuable part of his recollections concerns the fate of the public monuments in Berlin, documenting a form of urban destruction going far beyond the events of the war. Ideological considerations as well as a concept of modernity played their part. Cf. Reuti's publication „Das Berliner Schloß und sein Untergang“ (hg. von [Karl Rodemann],Pseudonym für K. Reutti, im Auftrag des Gesamtdeutschen Ministeriums 1951). 

Kurt Reutti auf dem Nationaldenkmal Kaiser Wilhelm I. 1950, z.Zt. des Abrisses, Quelle: K.Reutti Bildarchiv.

Michael Neumann

Degrees in German Studies and Politics from FU Berlin; Areas of specialization: Museums and Museum Pedagogy. 

Selected Publications: 

    • Behne, Adolf, Michael Neumann (Ed.), Berlin in Bildern, Neuedition, Fotografien von Sasha Stone, Gebrüder Mann: Berlin 1998. 
    • Michael Neumann, "Zur Geschichte der Italienischen Botschaft. Versuch einer Rekonstruktion jenseits der Bilder", in: Schiera, Pierangelo (Ed.), Italienische Botschaft Berlin / Ambasciata d'Italia Berlino, Jovis: Berlin 1999, pg. 82-95.
    • Michael Neumann, "Hermann Rückwardt. Leben und Werk eines Photographen und Verlegers", in: Rückwardt, Hermann, Berlin zwischen Residenz und Metropole. Photographien von Hermann Rückwardt 1871 - 1916, ed. Märkischen Museum, Nicolai: Berlin 1994, p. 10-24


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