0281 From Unwanted Heritage towards Difficult Heritage

Revisiting the Legacies of Arno Breker and His Portrait Busts of the Ludwig Couple

  • Margaret Tali (Author)

    Margaret Tali is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Institute of Art History and Visual Culture. Her research interests include curating difficult and sensitive histories, art and war, histories of the art museum, and the historiography of art history. She holds a PhD from the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam. She is the author of Absence and Difficult Knowledge in Contemporary Art Museums (2018) and co-editor, with Ieva Astahovska, of the Memory Studies special issue Return of Suppressed Memories in Eastern Europe: Locality and Unsilencing Difficult Histories (2/2022). Together with Astahovska she has initiated the project "Communicating Difficult Pasts" that brings together humanities scholars, curators and artists, and as a part of which she co-curated the exhibition "Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds" in the Latvian National Museum of Art (2019) and Lithuanian National Gallery of Art (2022).

Identifiers (Article)


This article discusses Arno Breker’s portrait busts (1986) of the German collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig and the debates that surrounded this work during its displays in Germany and Hungary. Focusing on the contingent ways in which difficult pasts are attached to artistic heritage, it articulates how cross-border travels complicate this attachment. The work of Hitler’s once-leading artist Breker serves as a case study for analyzing how meanings are on the one hand produced and on the other hand suppressed and willfully ignored in the context of exhibition settings. The analysis of these portrait busts’ curatorial contextualisation from the 1980s to the 2020s reveals a shift in curators‘ attitudes towards Breker’s works: from an 'unwanted heritage' that is intentionally neglected to a 'difficult heritage' and the articulation of its difficulties and dissonances. Analysing the biography of these works makes it possible to show the important roles that curatorial problematising has carried in the framing of these works, both in Germany and Hungary.


Arno Breker, portrait bust, Peter Ludwig, Irene Ludwig, private collectors, art museums, unwanted past, curating, exhibition, collection