On View: The War Chest of Otto Dix

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Published March 12, 2010

RECLINING WOMAN ON A LEOPARD SKIN, 1927. COURTESY NEUE GALERIE

 

In the exhibition of work by Otto Dix that opened this week at Neue Galerie, themes of war and sexuality literally fill the air.

Memory of the Halls of Mirrors in Brussels (1920), a Dadaist painting of a leering officer and a prostitute, is suffused with Guerlain perfume and soundtracked to 1920s jazz. In the room containing Dix’s etchings inspired by the first World War, there’s a faint, loamy smell; for this, Neue’s scent specialist sniffed out a special combination of grass and earth. Crickets chirp in the background.

These effects would be a gimmick elsewhere, but it works for Neue, a museum of early 20th Century Austrian and German art that is concerned with atmosphere almost as much as art itself. Example: the recreation of Viennese dining in the museum’s Café Sabarsky, or reproductions of works by Josef Hoffman and Dagobert Peche textiles in the museum’s design shop.

The presentation suits Dix as well, in the first solo museum show of his work in North America. Dix famously said that he had to experience war first-hand in order to depict it. If the added scents and sounds alone do not quite bring viewers to the front-lines, or  the collapsed geometry of the Federico de Vera-designed entryway-with its walls angling inward, bunker-like before opening into what exhibition organizer Olaf Peters calls “the war room”—they make the experience of viewing Dix’s war portfolio that much richer, and unshakeable.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON ART IN AMERICA.
OTTO DIX IS OPEN THROUGH AUGUST 20. THE NEUE GALERIE IS LOCATED AT 1048 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK.