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A Multi-Sided Talent: Costume Designer Paul Seltenhammer (1903-1987)

12. September 2007 – 12. November 2007

To mark the 20th anniversary of his death, the Schwules Museum presents an exhibition about the homosexual costume designer Paul Seltenhammer as part of the exhibition series Spurensuche (“searching for relicts from the past”).

Yet respected and admired as a “master of his trade”, he was hardly publicly appreciated – a common phenomenon for costume designers and costume makers.  Reasons might be found in his personal modesty, but also in the general lack – which is widespread in the world of cultural activities – of conscience for the special creativity demanded in this profession.

The stations of Vienna-born Paul Seltenhammer´s life and work were Berlin, Vienna, and Paris. Already in the Twenties of the past century, he successfully worked for international revue theatres. The legendary reputation of these theatres and their costume decors in Paris is based on his and his colleagues Charles Gesmar´s and Erté´s (Romain de Tirtoff´s) work. These revues lost their audience due to the inflation of 1929 and the upcoming of sound film. The lack of money made elaborate costume decors impossible. During the Nazi-Era, Paul Seltenhammer made a living as a class teacher for costume design at the Berliner Textil- und Modeschule (Berlin school of fashion and textiles). In the post-war-period, he worked as a costume and stage designer for the Friedrichstadtpalast and the Berlin Opera houses, before he drew his attention towards film and television. He designed posters and composed exhibitions. He ended his career working for TV-Serials.

The exhibits are taken from his different work periods. Original sketches of costumes, scene photos from films and theatre performances as well as historic documents give an insight into his multi-sided talent and technical ability. A salient exhibit is the album compiled after Seltenhammer´s death by his long-time friend Michael Ostwald.

It contains reproductions from the missing estate, documenting not only the life work of Paul Seltenhammer but also Ostwald´s admiration for the loved friend.

Curators: Heike Stange, Wolfgang Theis