WISCONSIN ARTS DIPLOMACY: KUNST KULTURE
The Flagellants’ from West Bend installed in the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany, photograph by Tony Rajer
Fast forward a hundred years to May 2008, The Flagellants was disassembled in West Bend, rolled, placed in a huge crate and flown to Europe, where it arrived without incident in Munich, its birth city. Once there, the painting was again stretched and framed and now, after 115 years, is once more receiving acclaim and interest. The Flagellants is the cornerstone of a huge exhibition in the Haus der Kunst, documenting 200 years of the Munich Art Academy. The German Press love’s the painting, and put it on the front page of the May 30, 2008 Munich newspaper to coincide with the exhibit opening, where nearly one thousand people saw Von Marr’s masterpiece in all its glory. The Flagellants has its own gallery that it shares with several other small American paintings, but Von Marr’s masterpiece takes up all the oxygen in the room. Its size, subject and sheer presence nearly overwhelms the visitors. Displayed on stark white walls without its gold frame, which was too fragile to travel, the painting projects a physical presence that attracts audiences to it. It’s even more surreal as the stone flooring in the gallery blends with the paving stone in the painting, an illusion of space so convincingly painted that the life size figures appear to be walking into the gallery.
The exhibit curator, Dr. Leon Krempel was delighted that West Bend allowed the painting to come to Munich, “We are pleased that America has loaned this great and pivotal work of art for our Academy show. We thank everyone in Wisconsin for this international goodwill gesture.” Other American works in the show could be described, but for lack of space suffice it to say that Wisconsin arts diplomacy has met with great success in Munich. This important European exhibit gave audiences a chance to admire Wisconsin’s own Flagellants: an expression of the power of art and of our own state’s contribution to world history. The show opened on May 29, 2008, with the Museum of Wisconsin Art Director Tom Lidtke and Tony Rajer representing the museum. The Flagellants’ from