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More about the exhibition

The title – The mad square – is drawn directly from Felix Nussbaum’s 1931 painting, included in this exhibition, depicting Berlin’s famous Pariser Platz as a crazy and fantastic place. The ‘mad square’ is both a place – the city, represented in so many works in the exhibition – and a state of mind that gives these works their edginess. The ‘square’ can also be seen as a modernist construct that saw artists moving away from figurative representations towards increasingly abstract forms.

Explore the themes in the exhibition online.

  • Expressionism in Berlin

    The starting point of the exhibition is Berlin in the heady years leading up to World War I when artists moved to the city to seek out new subject matter and audiences.

  • WWI and the revolution

    The artists who experienced war first-hand turned away from the bright sunlight of many prewar landscapes toward the representation of shredded nerves and nocturnal terror.

  • Dada

    Though the Dada movement in Germany was short-lived, it has profoundly influenced subsequent developments in avant-garde art and culture.

  • Bauhaus

    Founded in Germany, Bauhaus is widely considered the most important school of art and design of the 20th century.

  • Constructivism

    Having emerged in Russia after World War I, Constructivism fused art with technology in response to the age of the machine.

  • Metropolis

    The metropolis of Berlin became the cultural and entertainment capital of the world, providing a rich source of imagery for artists.

  • New Objectivity

    By the mid 1920s a new style emerged that came to be known as Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity.

  • Power and 'degenerate' art

    As the Nazis increased their power and launched their brutal campaign against modernism, artists realised their situation was becoming increasingly precarious.