Problems from the right

The first time I saw a new-Nazi march here, right past our window on Bornholmer, it was more amusing than appalling. There were maybe 30 people involved, more than half evidently from out of town, surrounded by hundreds of police and probably thousands of protestors. Before it happened, locals distributed flyers asking people along the march to blast their stereos and drown out the marchers. I figured a Chipmunks song was fairly appropriate.

Another right-winger march happened yesterday in Lichtenberg (a relatively poor eastern neighborhood known for its right-leaning tendencies). This time the numbers were more daunting. According to the Morgenpost, about 750 marchers (ie, neo-Nazi types) showed up, with about 700 protestors. Naturally police presence was high, with 1600 cops on the beat. Bottles were thrown, and somewhere around 70 people arrested, from both sides.

That’s a lot of marchers. Berlin is overwhelmingly liberal, even left-wing, with a fabulous gay mayor and anti-Nazi stickers and graffiti everywhere. It’s never going to fall too far to the right. But economic dislocation could well swell the extreme fringes on both sides. That hasn’t worked out well here in the past.

New look at old sculptures

I worried when I first heard of the Egyptian Museum’s curatorial mash-up, sprinkling Alberto Giacometti sculptures into the ancient collection. A modernist and the ancients — potentially interesting, I thought, like seeing Picasso’s work next to the African art he drew on, but plenty of room for over-curated fluff.

We stopped by today. I shouldn’t have worried. It’s brilliant, shedding light on Giacometti in ways I would likely never have noticed on my own. He was apparently entranced by Egyptian art, spending long periods of time studying and sketching ancient sculpture. The collection shows books that had belonged to him, with his own versions of pieces sketched in next to pictures of the originals.

The exhibition works in much the same way, placing a dozen or so of his sculptures next to pieces of a genre that served as obvious models, or inspiration. Tall, eerie striding man next to a classic Egyptian walking man with one leg outstretched, portrait busts that shared structure (and almost the same foreheads), twisted beautiful figures that display feeling and personality in stylized form.

Well worth the visit, particularly on a free museum day.

I’m only beginning to understand Egyptian sculpture, thanks to a visit to the Met last summer. I’d always loved Greek and the best of the Roman (Romans copied dreadfully, but they also gave real personality to what in Greece was often simply beautiful). But even thousands of years before the Greeks, the Egyptians were creating busts and full statues of stunning, almost frighteningly realistic personality. In the Altes, Nefertiti’s head gets all the press, but a little piece called the Green Head is far better — a stone head of a priest, I think, that expresses force and power and personhood in every expert line.