The monumental work by American conceptual artist Mel Bochner represents a particularly sweet triumph of art.

The building in Munich that now houses the contemporary art museum Haus der Kunst, or House of Art, was originally conceived as a grand expression of Nazi values. Designed by architect Paul Troost, one of Hitler’s favorites, the austere neoclassical structure was intended as a vessel for the "true, eternal art of the German people."

When it opened, under the name Haus der Deutschen Kunst, in 1937, Hitler used the occasion to proclaim a "relentless, cleansing war" against the forces of modernism in art. It was a defining moment in the Nazis' crusade against all culture that they proclaimed to be "degenerate."

And so the current installation on the museum’s façade of “The Joys of Yiddish,” a monumental work by American conceptual artist Mel Bochner, represents a particularly sweet triumph of art. Bochner adapted the work, which he originally displayed in Chicago in 2006, specifically for this location. A series of Yiddish words -- now also part of American slang – are rendered in bright yellow and black above the Haus der Kunst’s columns. These are, quite intentionally, the colors of the stigmatizing patches and armbands the Nazis forced Jews to wear.

KIBBITZER, KVETCHER, NUDNICK, NEBBISH: the expressive vocabulary of a language once spoken by as many as 13 million people, then nearly wiped out, now graces the building that Hitler saw as an apotheosis of his twisted Aryan supremacist aesthetic. We should all be kvelling.

Top image: Mel Bochner, The Joys of Yiddish, installation view, Haus der Kunst, 2013, photo Wilfried Petzi. (Haus der Kunst)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  2. a photo of a man surveying a home garage.
    Transportation

    How Single-Family Garages Can Ease California's Housing Crisis

    Given the affordable housing crisis, California cities should encourage single-family homeowners to convert garages into apartments and accessory dwelling units.

  3. Transportation

    Will Ottawa Ever Get Its Light Rail?

    Sinkholes, winter-weary trains, and political upheaval have held the Confederation Line light-rail transit back from a seriously overdue opening.

  4. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  5. a photo of a Metro PCS store in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    What D.C.’s Go-Go Showdown Reveals About Gentrification

    A neighborhood debate over music swiftly became something bigger, and louder: a cry for self-determination from a community that is struggling to be heard.