In 2012, The John Heartfield Exhibition Curator John J Heartfield determined a new type of website was needed to display his grandfather’s work and courageous political artists. He wanted to encourage visitors to share their thoughts on political art, collage art, and photomontage. Emails such as the one below deeply affected the curator.
“Dear Professor Heartfield,
I’m 16 years old and have chosen (as part of my art GCSE) to do an essay on John
Heartfield’s brilliant work. I have a 2000 (give or take) word limit and still
pondering on an idea of a question. I was just wondering if you would be able to
direct me to any perhaps more personal insight of his triggers of his art that
he created, especially his anti-Nazi works. I am keen to take a current spin on
his work perhaps contrasting it with the fake propaganda and promises made
during Brexit and the Presidential Election. I personally find his works
incredibly effective for all sorts of reasons and really look forward to
exploring his art more closely.”
To create an even better experience for exhibition visitors, the curator began designing a new interactive Official John Heartfield Exhibition for all digital devices. He planned from the beginning that the site would not just feature his grandfather’s art. It should be an online museum for art and artists with integrity and courage. So many modern artists have told the curator that his grandfather’s life and work was their greatest influence. They know the messages in John Heartfield’s art are as relevant and important today as they were when Heartfield risked his life to create them!
The next paragraphs require the reader to know some information about John Heartfield’s grandson.
John J Heartfield received his degree in the production of digital media from New York University. Professor Heartfield taught over twenty-five courses in digital media and programming at schools such as Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
When he began constructing the first John Heartfield Archive website, John J Heartfield decided it was the time to put away past differences with the Heartfield Archiv, Akademie Der Künste, Berlin. He began exchanging pleasant and productive emails with high-level members of the Heartfield Archive. He believed the Internet archive and the Heartfield Archiv, Berlin, had a great deal to offer each other. He felt it was in the interest of all to increase John Heartfield’s recognition and renown.
In April 2014, John Heartfield’s grandson wrote to Wolfgang Trautwein, the director of Heartfield Archiv, Akademie Der Künste. He asked him for photographs of his grandfather’s art. The public has not seen much of John Heartfield original art since John Heartfield’s death in 1968. On March 12, 2014, Dr. Wolfgang Trautwin categorically refused his request for photographs or scans.
This is a direct quote from the email response Dr. Wolfgang Trautwein addressed to “Dear John Heartfield.” Please think about the letter from the 16-year-old quoted above as you read Walter Trautwein’s letter about providing images for display online in The Official John Heartfield Exhibition.
“an internet-publication of a larger scale should necessarily have an elaborate academic background, an expertise to be found with museums and art-institutions. More exactly we emphasize that these organisations will have to meet all the relevant cross-referential data delivered by the Akademie der Künste. It remains our view that these high-quality standards should be guaranteed in reproducing digital images of your grandfather’s work.
As you know the Academy is very interested in making Heartfield’s work and legacy available to the larger public. We regularly support exhibition projects and Heartfield scholars and enthusiasts are always welcome to come to our students’ room.”
Dr. Trautwein did not mention John J Heartfield’s own collection of Heartfield art and ephemera. This collection includes the only surviving John Heartfield oil painting, The Cottage In The Woods.
The curator’s response to Dr. Trautwein’s email is the expanding section of this exhibition entitled HIDDEN GENIUS.
John J Heartfield knew his grandfather well. He did not respond to Dr. Trautwein’s email. There was no point. If he had, his response would have been his quote at the top of this page.
By 2015, the curator felt it was time to try a different action. He wrote a comprehensive letter directly to Monika Grütters, Germany’s Minister of Culture. His sister, Catherine Jacobson, co-signed the letter. The minister was kind enough to respond.
Please go to the 2016 year of the Chronology section to learn about the incredible events the occurred in 2016 concerning John Heartfield’s art, this exhibition’s curator, and politics in America.