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Both aesthetic and ideological reasons lay behind the clash in the art world of the 1930s. The contrast between modernity and tradition gradually deteriorated until, in an increasingly radical international context, it turned into an open clash with the dramatic debate around “degenerate art” in Germany. Two conflicting exhibitions were inaugurated in Munich in 1937, one on Entartete Kunst (“Degenerate Art”) with avantgarde work confiscated from German museums and banned by the Nazi Regime, the other entitled the Great Exhibition of German Art with traditional painting and sculpture celebrating the German people and the power of the Third Reich.
In Italy, this dichotomy, which came to a head in the racial laws of 1938, was reflected in the clash that took place around 1940 between the “reactionary” Cremona Award, devised by Fascist hierarch Roberto Farinacci to extol the virtues of Fascism with illustrative works of art, and the Bergamo Award, for which some of the entries were outright modernist provocations and which won the support of National Education Minister Giuseppe Bottai.