A second in the chronology of the world New chapter for the Carte Blanche project of the Leipzig Museum of Contemporary Art


Leipzig. At the Museum of Contemporary Art VNG Verbundnetz Gas AG has taken the floor.

The company presents photos from the year the Wall fell, alongside works from the art collection …

In this case, 20 years is a short time. Head to toe and piled atop one another are the photos from summer 1989 to the first half of 1990. The viewer is drawn in to those months, to the tension, the closeness, the drama; to the melancholy, the laconic moments, proximity and the perspectives on randomly changing horizons. Leipzig and Berlin are the centres of the world. The same days in the Bronx, in Kühlungsborn, Cologne, Rome and Port Bou, in Georgia, Bucharest and Leningrad form the colourful stage setting. Appearing on that stage, a piece of world history that relieves the agony that preceded it. This bold journey covers half of the annexe at the Leipzig Museum of Contemporary Art, the second half mellowing.

Documentation of change

Stage VI of the Carte Blanche project sees VNG – Verbundnetz Gas AG to the fore. It presents the current expansion of the company's photographic collection, together with a cross-section of its acquired paintings and graphic art. Verbundnetz AG, is that not the building in the north-east of Leipzig, with the big courtyard containing the Parisian bar installation of Michael Fischer-Art?

The photo archive of VNG is more comprehensive than what is on display here. It aims to document the transformation in eastern Germany over the last decade of the 20th century. Concentrating on landscape and industrial photography, it enables a time comparison of this transition – at least as far as visible circumstances are concerned.

The exhibition is dedicated to autumn ’89. A key consideration in this is the simultaneous nature of disparate aspects: how the nation and the world live, between birth and maturity, whether in Munich and Berchtesgaden; what is happening amongst wrecked cars in America and why tourists in southern England are in a hurry. The result is a broad spectrum, including private perspectives, by a total of 70 photographers from East (more) and West – from these historic months.With hindsight, it is noticeable how quickly the documentary pictures of the drab reality of the common people or the political rituals in the DDR assume an exotic appearance. However, this was merely the capturing of the absurd fascination prior to the surprising conclusion. At the same time, these pictures rapidly acquire a historical weight. The effect of the unrepeatable ennobles them. Every visitor will compile a different list of favourites from the range of superb photographs (for example: Sybille Bergemann, Ulrich Wüst, Helga Paris, Renate Zeun, Thomas Steinert, Frank-Heinrich Müller, Gerhard Gäbler, Regina Schmeken, Arno Fischer, Timm Rautert, Michael Ruetz, Peter Oehlmann).The pictures are dated, the timeline accompanies them. As always, the artistic value is not dependent upon the elevation of the historic moment. However, the date of the photos is important for the distinctive political stages of that time, drawing the observer through autumn and winter of ’89/’90.

History is written here.The photographers were requested to add their own comments, which can be read at the exhibition – the catalogue is still in the process of being printed. Matthias Hoch reports that Prof. Evelyn Richter supplied him with highly-sensitive black and white film, as the demonstrations took place in darkness and flashes would have been noticeable. At the same time, she impressed upon the younger colleagues: history is being written here, for a matter of weeks: a second in the chronology of the world, and one that must be captured.The art exhibition commences with Werner Tübke's strange image of figures dancing around a high wall. Fischer-Art is absent from the selection of the curators – Christine Rink and Frank-Heinrich Müller, with Ilina Koralova and Barbara Steiner for the GfZK.

Two strengths of the collection are stated. As the collection was initiated in 1992, there is a stylistic weighting towards certain transitional years that is probably not to be found anywhere else. Many artists of the generation of ’90 were not required to make a radical clean sweep of their work. What had long since commenced was continued at a remarkable standard: a figurative underlying sentiment aiding the energetic inventiveness of the process. The older artists of this movemement are Jens Hanke, Petra Kasten (Dresden, less pronounced here), Anette Schröter, Gudrun Petersdorff, Olaf Nicolai, Roland Borchers (represented by a later picture) together with Hirschvogel, Nicolai Angelow, Jan Dörre and Ulrike Dornis.The second strength is the selection from the successful generations of the past ten years. Contact to the local academy was always close, thanks to the mediation of Christine Rink. Older candidates were selected on a more random basis. Different eyes will accentuate different aspects, however: the early pictures of David Schnell perhaps, or works from the fluidly casual phase of Michael Kunert. Or astonishingly classical, form-conscious watercolours by Oliver Kossak, clear graphics from Neo Rauch, a fleeting piece by Matthias Weischer, meditative concentration from Sebastian Rug – and more.

Proximity to the present

Art soothes the preceding turmoil. It is a guide to the present. The fine oscillation of this two-piece exhibition is all the more remarkable as a consequence: contemporary history is both near and far away …