Anita Berber (1899-1928) was immensely famous in 1920s Berlin - for reasons not acknowledged in polite society. She danced (nude) in nightclubs, seduced a wide swath of the the population (both male and female), appeared (also frequently nude) in soft porn silent films, drank (on the average) one bottle of cognac per day, married three times, was addicted to cocaine and opium, was never seen in public without heavy make-up, talked incessantly, lied like a rug and, predictably, died at an early age.
Incredibly, given her notoriety, almost no one in the present day would have heard of Anita Berber were it not for this Otto Dix portrait. The artist was never huge on using the color red, but did so here for his friend to eye-popping effect. It is the red of Venus, the red of rubies and we are nearly physically assaulted with her sexual power - even on canvas, even 80+ years after the fact.
About the show:
The years of the Weimar Republic in Germany were short, sad and, particularly in Berlin, spectacular. A contingent of German visual artists moved on from Dada to Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), from which a leftist sub-branch now known as Verism arose.
The Verist works on view in this exhibition were painted during a society's death spiral. Prostitutes, war cripples, transvestites, wealthy industrialists, doctors, lawyers and, yes, often the Verist artists themselves, are captured here in a now-lost era. Less 'enjoyable' than many themed exhibitions, Glitter and Doom... is superlative at compelling the viewer to look and think.
"Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s" is on view from November 14, 2006 – February 19, 2007 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, New York, NY 10028-0198. (Telephone: 212-535-7710; Website). The museum is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 AM to 9:00 PM. Suggested admission is $20.00 for adults, $15.00 for seniors and $10.00 for students. Paid parking is available in the Museum Garage.