The cold gaze
- Germany
in the 1920s

14.10.22 - 19.2.23

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome! A sweeping journey through the roaring and explosive 1920s in the Weimar Republic. Centre stage, the significant movement of "Neue Sachlichkeit" and its sober realism – ranging from the harsh and satirical to the razor-sharp, almost clinical. Sharing the limelight: groundbreaking photographer August Sander.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Crises and turbulence, but also a period of wild and violent artistic innovation. After the First World War, German society during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) experienced years of deep poverty and political unrest, but also a short-lived flourishing of democracy and a strong culture of freedom. The period, which came to an abrupt end with the Nazi takeover in 1933, was characterized by both euphoric creation and a constant sense of impending dissolution. A “fragile” state that translated into a rich and varied cultural life.

Modern times

Louisiana’s large-scale autumn exhibition takes up the entire South Wing and mixes painting, drawing, photography, architecture, design, film, theater, literature and music. Here, thematic chapters will focus on the significant artistic current of the time “Neue Sachlichkeit” (New Objectivity). In a society marked by great upheavals and opposing forces, the Neue Sachlichkeit artists sought to capture modern, everyday life and to portray the lives and actions of ordinary people in a realistic and sober way – cleansed of any sensitivity and often in a deliberately distorted way.

Crises and decadence

Urban life, modern, functionalist architecture, industrialization and technological advances are widespread motifs for the artists of the period, but also the vivacious entertainment life of the time with nightclubs, cabarets, sexual liberation, promiscuity and prostitution. At the same time, socially critical depictions of the harsh living conditions of the working class, the new role of women and the decadent lifestyle of the upper class are seen. These are all themes that the exhibition unfolds across the arts and with the help of extensive historical documentation material.

August Sander - capturing the modern world

A large selection of the German photographer August Sanders’ (1876-1964) life’s work “Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts” (People of the 20th Century) will form a sort of exhibition in the exhibition. Sander embarked on this project in 1919 with an ambition to create encyclopedic and comparative documentation.

August Sander portrayed both prominent and anonymous Germans from all parts of society in a simple and matter-of-fact pictorial style that exemplifies distinctive ‘types’ in order to let the individual step into character at the same time. The monumental image atlas consisting of over 600 black and white photographs in its entirety, constitutes a unique group portrait of German society during the Weimar Republic and stands as a classic in European art and photography history.

August Sander, Sekretær ved Vesttysk Radio i Köln, 1931 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; VISDA, Copenhagen, 2022/23