The magazine is catching up with Clooney that plays the leader of a special organization of museum directors, curators, and art historians who join forces to rescue the art stole by the nazi during World War II in the movie The Monuments Men which will make its debute in theaters in early spring. The actor that coproduced, cowrote, and directed the movie opens up about art and his love for it.
What cultural icons have mattered most to you?
I grew up Catholic, and there were always religious icons that I’d see in church. The cross and the altar were big parts of my life. But when I was 10 years old, my father took me to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. I remember walking up those stairs and looking at this carved piece of marble that had nothing to do with a carved piece of marble. That statue said something to me about us as a society. In The Monuments Men, we question whether saving art is worth a life, and I would argue that the culture of a people represents life. When the Taliban destroy incredible pieces of architecture and art, or when American troops don’t protect museums in Iraq, you are seeing people losing their culture. And with the end of a country’s culture goes its identity. It’s a terrible loss, down to your bones.
Hitler was amassing an enormous art collection. Was he planning to open his own museum?
Yes—he wanted to build a Führer Museum. He had a model of it in the bunker with him! He wanted to steal all the great art in the world, and he was well on his way—during the war, he collected 5 million pieces. He also destroyed works he termed “degenerate art.” The Nazis took amazing Picassos and Klees and Mirós and burned them in the garden outside the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris. They wanted to prove that they were illegitimate and had to be destroyed. Hitler pulled off the greatest art heist in the history of the world—luckily, some of that art has been recovered.
Star George Clooney;
Photographed by Emma Summerton;
Stylist Michael Kucmeroski.
Photography assistants: Dean Dodos, Charles Grauke, Alexandre Jaras;
Fashion assistant Anastasya Kolomytseva.
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