BERLIN (Reuters) - Visitors to Berlin's main modern art museum this summer should take care not to step on piles of horse manure, placed as a reminder of art that was stolen, destroyed or went missing under Nazi rule.
With his installation at the New National Gallery of four piles of artificial dung, painted blue, Austrian artist Martin Gostner has said he is paying tribute to Franz Marc's painting "The Tower of Blue Horses".
The Nazis seized Marc's seminal expressionist work in 1937, branding it "un-German" and "degenerate". To this day it is not known whether the work was destroyed or hidden away, but it has never been found.
Each of the piles of blue manure corresponds to one of the horses in the lost painting, and is intended to make it seem as though the horses were alive and trotting around the museum.
"What would happen if the painting still lived, if there were a sign of it, and the horses were to come by here?" said Dieter Scholz, the gallery's curator.
Gostner's installation also recalls a hoard of other modernist masterpieces that the Nazis destroyed or confiscated in an attempt to purge Germany of art they considered Jewish or Bolshevik influenced. The dung heaps are a tacit reminder that these works may still be retrieved.
The New National Gallery's permanent collection includes work from many artists, including Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who were labeled "degenerate" by the Nazis.
Some visitors milling around Gostner's installation, entitled "The Oriel of the Blue Horses," were bewildered.
"It's exotic and foreign to me," said Jota, a 57-year-old clerk who declined to give her surname.
Confiscated Nazi art periodically has reappeared in the decades since World War Two. In 2010, 11 "degenerate" sculptures were recovered during construction of an underground rail line in Berlin.
"Perhaps other works are still hidden away out there," said Scholz. "Many could still come to light."
(Reporting By Samuel Frizell, editing by Gareth Jones and Michael Roddy)