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Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men: The Berlin Masterpieces in America

July 9, 2021–October 3, 2021

Thomas R. Schiff Gallery and Balcony (Galleries 234 and 235).

Ticketed. Free for members. | Press Release | Exhibition wins NEA grant

From July 9–October 3 2021, all active-duty military members, reserves, retirees and veterans of the United States Armed Forces are invited to receive a complimentary three-month Cincinnati Art Museum membership, available at the museum’s front desk or by calling (513) 639-2966, with which they can see this and other ticketed exhibitions for free.


From the Nazis’ exploitation of artworks to the protection and restitution efforts of the “Monuments Men,” art and politics were frequently intertwined in the World War II era.

This exhibition focuses on the fate of some of the finest European paintings from the Berlin State Museums that traveled to the United States soon after the end of the war and were exhibited at fourteen museums across the country before returning to Germany. Longtime Cincinnatian and supporter of the arts, Captain Walter Farmer led the Monuments Men’s protest against the paintings’ controversial transfer from Germany. Featuring paintings that made the journey, alongside artworks and historical material from the Cincinnati Art Museum and other lenders, the exhibition delves into the complex role of artworks in a time of social upheaval and war, and highlights the importance of tracing the movements and uses of cultural treasures.

Explore the exhibition in person or remotely with audio descriptions of the artworks and exhibits, and audio versions of all accompanying interpretive texts.


by Peter Jonathan Bell, Kristi A. Nelson


224 Pages
7 ½ x 9 ½ in
311 color illustrations

As the Allies advanced into Germany in April 1945, General Patton's Third Army discovered the collections of the Berlin museums hidden in a salt mine 2,100 feet underground. Placed in the care of the Monuments Men, the collections were sent to the Wiesbaden Central Collecting Point, directed by Captain Walter I. Farmer of Cincinnati. In November 1945, the U.S. military government in Germany ordered that 202 works of art of the greatest importance from German public collections be sent to Washington for safekeeping. After two years in storage, they were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in 1948, before being sent on a whistle-stop tour of 13 U.S. cities.

The Berlin Masterpieces in America: Paintings, Politics, and the Monuments Men tells the story of how, and why, some of the world's most iconic artworks toured the USA in what became the first blockbuster show. This fully illustrated volume is the first to examine the entire journey of the 202 and its historical-political implications - from the salt mines to the Wiesbaden CCP to their sensational tour and return to a very different Germany at the onset of the Cold War. It offers insights into Farmer and his fellow Monuments Men's protest of the transfer, the Wiesbaden Manifesto; the logistics of the US tour and popular reactions to the unprecedented exhibition in post-war America. This history is framed by essays on the fate of artworks in Nazi Germany and during the war, and on the significance of modern efforts to research the history of ownership of works of art. Augmenting the essays are an exhibition catalogue, interviews with the people closest to Walter Farmer in his later life, and a complete illustrated checklist of the 202. The Berlin Masterpieces in America is a significant contribution to the growing interest in re-evaluating the policy of using art as political propaganda, and with the enduring problems of provenance and restitution.

Friday, July 30, 2021 at 05:00 PM
Adults/General | IN PERSON

Final Fridays at the museum are back–join us for our first in person Art After Dark since February 2020! Enjoy live music from the Monday Night Big Band in the Alice Bimel Courtyard, live music from DJ ETrayn on the Art Climb, swing dancing with Pones, food for purchase from Dewey’s Pizza and Sweets & Meats BBQ, cash bars and free admission to special exhibition Paintings, Politics, and the Monuments Men. #ArtAfterDarkCincy


If you need accessibility accommodations for this event, please email [email protected]. Please contact us at least two weeks in advance to ensure accommodations can be made.



Saturday, September 4th from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Families | In Person

Spend the morning in our galleries with hands-on preschool activities from 11 a.m.–12 p.m, then enjoy a family-friendly performance at 1:30 p.m. Don't miss out on the hands-on art-making in the Rosenthal Education Center or the My CAM custom scavenger hunts available all day. FREE.

If you need accessibility accommodations for this event, please email [email protected]. Please contact us at least two weeks in advance to ensure accommodations can be made.

Film Screening | THE TRAIN

Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 07:30 PM
Outdoor screening at Cincinnati Art Museum

Burt Lancaster stars as a French Resistance rail worker in John Frankenheimer’s 1964 thriller, The Train. Join for a screening under the September night sky. Guest speaker Dr. Valerie Weinstein expands on the film’s connections with the stories of art and power in Paintings, Politics, and the Monuments Men.

Learn more

September 24, 2021

Watch the Symposium


This virtual symposium expands upon themes of the exhibition Paintings, Politics and the Monuments Men. Speakers will explore interdisciplinary connections that link the past to the present through art as diplomacy, current restitution efforts, and art and cultural heritage law and preservation. Each presentation will be followed by audience questions, and a moderated panel discussion among the speakers will conclude the day.

The symposium is convened by the Cincinnati Art Museum and the University of Cincinnati.

If you need accessibility accommodations for this event, please email [email protected]. Please contact us at least two weeks in advance to ensure accommodations can be made.


Schedule of events

10:00 am            Welcome remarks

10:15 am            Jennifer McComas
Curator of European and American Art, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University
“Degenerate Art” and German reconstruction: rehabilitating modernist art in postwar Munich

              11:15-11:30 Break

11:30 am            Claire Whitner
Director of Curatorial Affairs and James A. Welu Curator of European Art, Worcester Art Museum
What the Nazis stole from Richard Neumann (and the search to get it back)

              12:30-2:00 Break

2:00 pm              Jennifer Kreder
Professor of Law, Chase College of Law, Northern University of Kentucky
Nazi looting and modern litigation in the United States

              3:00-3:15 Break

3:15 pm              Keynote: Richard Kurin
Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large, Smithsonian Institution and Chair, Preservation Working Group, U.S. Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee
The Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative: ongoing efforts in the preservation of culture

4:15 pm              Panel discussion

This exhibition was organized with the generous support of the Harold C. Schott Foundation.


Presented by:

National Endowment for the Arts

F.E.G. Investment Advisors


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With additional support from:

The Wieler Family Foundation

August A. Rendigs, Jr. Foundation

Marnick Foundation

Shannon and Lee Carter

Jack and Joyce Steinman

Charles Scott Riley III Foundation