Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt

The average person might not immediately associate the Germanic sensibility with a propensity to laugh, but that was precisely Charles Baudelaire’s argument in the 1850s when he singled out Germany as a nation where “all is weighty, profound and excessive” and which was therefore particularly suited to the grotesque, a genre that, he said admiringly, inspires “immediate laughter.” Featuring work by a wide variety of modern and contemporary German-speaking artists, from Arnold Böcklin to John Bock, “Grotesque! 130 Years of Witty Art” put the poet’s theory to the test. Clearly, the mode of grotesque comedy—what Baudelaire called the “absolute comic”—had enough practitioners in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland to develop an absurdist strain in modernism (and through to today) alongside the more familiar rational and stable one.

Indeed, while exhibition curator Pamela Kort notes in the show’s

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