Given that cosmetics companies spend most of their efforts convincing women of 50 that they must look 25, it is thoroughly refreshing, that Estee Lauder is linking itself in a promotion with an upcoming exhibition at the Ronald S. Lauder Neue Galerie in New York of the German painter Otto Dix. In addition to his brutally harsh depictions of World War I and post-war Berlin, Dix was a scathing portraitist. His paintings, needless to say, are the complete antithesis of airbrushed glamour. How perfect that the piece being used to promote the exhibit is a portrait of the Weimar Republic’s most outrageous performer, “The Priestess of Depravity,” Anita Berber. Dix painted this portrait of her in 1925. She was 25 years old at the time, but looked not a day younger than 50. She died four years later, not even 30 years old.
The publisher of The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber, a biography by Mel Gordon describes her:
Anita Berber was the notorious actor/dancer/poet/playwright who scandalized sex-obsessed Weimar Berlin during the 1920s. In an era where everything was permitted, Anita Berber’s celebrations of “Depravity, Horror and Ecstasy” were condemned and censored.
And from Wikipedia:
Her performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber's overt cocaine use and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. She was allegedly the sexual slave of a woman and the woman's 15-year-old daughter. She could often be seen in Berlin's hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos; she would walk around naked except for a sable fur, carrying a pet monkey and a silver brooch full of cocaine, while flaunting her lesbian lovers—removing the barrier between performance and normal life.
Otto Dix includes over 100 works by the artist and runs from March 11 to August 30, 2010. Available exclusively in the Neue Galerie gift shop is the lipstick, “Berlin Red” and an Art Deco inspired compact.
Read more of the salacious details of Anita Berber's performances here.
See more Otto dix here.