Trench Art

1 minute read
Amanda Bower

HOW IT STARTED Soldiers transformed battlefield objects into objets d’art; thanks to the Internet, they’re being traded

JUDGMENT CALL It’s beautiful, bizarre, and can be worth a bomb

Californian Jane Kimball never planned to write a book or start a website. But one $15 engraved brass vase inspired a collection of more than 700 pieces and the pursuit of the stories behind them. The vase–originally a 1915 German artillery shell–is an example of trench art, mostly produced in World War I but still being made in Kosovo today. It has recently taken off as a hot commodity and subject of scholarship: the first book on trench art was published in April by Nicholas Saunders of University College London, and an exhibition opened in May in France. Three exhibitions are planned for the U.S., and prices are climbing on eBay: shell casings are going for as much as $1,000. Why now? Saunders isn’t sure, but he advises anyone with trench art to dig up its story. “This isn’t just a weird bunch of objects. It cuts across social, cultural, military and art history.”

–By Amanda Bower

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