Here’s a bit of art history you may or may not have heard of…
The Monuments Men Description:
An unlikely World War II platoon is tasked to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
Director: George Clooney.
Writers: George Clooney (screenplay), Grant Heslov (screenplay).
Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray.
In essence, The Monuments Men is an art history movie without any art. Well, there is art… but it’s only briefly mentioned and briefly shown.
And while The Monuments Men is based on true events, you need to remember this film is a mixture of action and light comedy with some dark moments thrown in (so take things with an itty bitty grain of salt).
There was in fact a group of about 345 museum directors, curators, art historians, artists architects, from thirteen nations tasked with protecting as man cultural treasures as they possibly could.
Hildebrand Gurlitt was one of four of Hitler’s art dealers. He would purchase works from Jews fleeing the Nazis as well as sell works of art deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis to raise funds for the Nazi war efforts. He also purchased works on his own account… that scene in The Monuments Men where they find a cabin full of masterpieces? Not so far fetched as you’d think.
And you know what…
The characters in The Monuments Men are ridiculously shallow. The characters pasts are hinted at throughout the movie yet never fully explained to the viewer… which means the hints are fairly pointless. Despite their shallowness, Bill Murray is still funny. It’s actually kind of a shame… They got all of these wonderful actors to be in this movie and yet they gave them shallow characters. That’s actually why I think people like this movie. They like it not because of the art or the story but because the characters are so shallow that what you see is these famous actors that everybody loves being themselves.
Ultimately this movie is good, contains great actors, but fails to thrill anybody who wanted to you know… actually see and hear about the art taken during the years of war.
Now for some news related to the film….
Hildebrand Gurlitt had a son, Cornelius Gurlitt, who seemingly inherited the masterpieces that his father had purchased and hoarded for himself. In 2013, the outside world finally discovered this hoard in Cornelius Gurlitt’s residence. (I think it needs to be mentioned that Cornelius Gurlitt does not seem to have been out to profit or abuse these works of art and that he’s reclusive and socially autistic.)
The hoard contains masterpieces from Manet, Monet, Courbet, Chagall, Munch, and supposedly Picasso that all had been acquired by Hildebrand Gurlitt in the war years. There are approximately 1,400 pieces in all. The ownership of these pieces is in great doubt and many organizations, states, and people are arguing over who should get what.
Sadly, this desire for rightful ownership will mean that the works will most likely not be displayed for decades to come.
And when questions of ownership are settled… because these works are all from masters and will most likely be in one way or another acquired by the more prominent museums, they will most likely be displayed for a very short time and then hidden away in the museums vaults (it’s said some museums display only 10% of the art they have with some masterpieces NEVER being displayed before).
People may very well spend decades waiting to see the lost art only to see it once before it hoarded again. The only thing that changed is who is hoarding it.
And when you think about it, when you think about why all these people dedicated themselves to saving art, it’s a damn shame that all that art isn’t being displayed this very moment for the world to see.