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 Michael Morgner:  M. Crossing the Lake near Gallenthin,  1983, Galerie Barthel + Tetzner, Berlin

Behind the Mask: Artists in the GDR

29. Oct 2017 – 4. Feb 2018

The self-expression of artists was the dominant topic of painting in the German Democratic Republic. All facets of this subject were explored for the first time in this exhibition.

Artists in the GDR were caught between providing a role model and retreating into seclusion, between operating within a prescribed collective and pursuing creative individuality. How did they reflect the way they saw their profession and their own take on the official mission to educate the public? This exhibition brought together works of art that in self-portraits and group portraits, role projections, and studio scenes illustrated the critical gaze they turned upon themselves. Behind the Mask: Artists in the GDR was about the self-styling of artists as individuals from 1945 to 1989, presented through four generations in paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, collages, sculptures, and performances. It proved that art cannot be reduced to ideological ascriptions.

 Cornelia Schleime:  I Won’t Hold My Breath After All, Performance in Hüpstedt,  1982, Courtesy of Galerie Michael Schultz, Berlin; Günter Firit: Self-Destruction, 1987, Estate of Günter Firit

Cornelia Schleime: I Won’t Hold My Breath After All, Performance in Hüpstedt, 1982, Courtesy of Galerie Michael Schultz, Berlin; Günter Firit: Self-Destruction, 1987, Estate of Günter Firit

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“Unavoidably, the theme of the artist in the GDR seems to invoke the opposition between the creative individual and the all-powerful state, given that East German cultural politics, with its mixture of sponsorship, repression, and prescriptions regarding both content and form, imposed narrow limits on artists. Despite the totality of bureaucratic oversight, despite state regulation and regimentation, some leeway for artistic self-realization did exist in the GDR.”

Michael Philipp, Chief Curator, Museum Barberini
 
 
 
 
 

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