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Change of Scenery 2.03: Lotte Laserstein

6. December 2017 – 28. March 2018

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Inspired by this, we present a section dedicated especially to the AIDS crisis in Change of Scenery (version 2.03). In this section there are works from our archive on display, for example photos by Annie Leibowitz. Also, there is a famous photo series by Aron Neubert showing his lover Jürgen Baldiga slowly dying in the course of 17 months (and 17 photos).

This AIDS section is embedded into a general historical overview. It begins with Napoleon and the Code Civil he introduced to many countries in Europe in 1804, moves onto Oscar Wilde, the Eulenburg Affair, Magnus Hirschfeld and his Institute for Sexual Science in 1919 to a room dedicated to the homosexual victims of the Nazis, including a section about lesbians persecuted by the fascists between 1933-45.

Additionally, there are black-and-white photos by Petra Gall and Rüdiger Trautsch documenting (and commenting on) the Gay and Lesbian Movement of the 1970s and 80s in Gemany. Further topics are LGBTIQ* partnerships, marriage equality and the historic vote in German parliament in the summer of 2017.

A highlight in Change of Scenery 2.03 is a new acquisition: Lotte Laserstein’s Nude Seen from the Back (1956). We were able to buy this oil painting thanks to the generous support of the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, the Kulturstiftung der Länder, and the Stiftung Preussische Seehandlung. This important work by Laserstein is a conscious addition to our ‘Lesbian Archive’ which we are expanding.

Laserstein (1898–1993) ranks among the great female realist artists from the first half of the 20th century. After the Berlin-based painteress had to leave Nazi Germany, due to her Jewish origins, her body of work was neglected for several decades. Until her death she lived and worked in Sweden. It was only in the wake of a great retrospective held in 2003 at the Ephraim Palais in Berlin that Laserstein was rediscovered in her native Germany.

Throughout her entire career, Laserstein has challenged the socially constructed ideal of femininity within a masculine hierarchy. Often, she reflected her own position as a female artist, especially in her many self-portraits. In the oil study Nude Seen from the Back, the painteress is only represented only by the easel. The half-naked female in the foreground is her longtime model ‚Madeleine‘, beautiful economist Margareta Jaraczewsky, who also exiled from Germany to Sweden. Both women met in 1939 in Stockholm and remained close friends for almost two decades. In the painting, the artist herself is absent and only represented by her attribute, the easel. She herself remains a void, just like the blank sheet of paper in Madeleine’s hand. Whether Laserstein’s relationship with Madeleine was strictly platonic or also a sexual one, is still subject of discussions.

The Nude Seen from the Back is one of the rare free works from Laserstein’s Swedish exile. Those „works painted for one self“, were supposed as an antidote to the „painting for the daily bread“, as Laserstein put it. The small-scale painting belongs to a body of studies which preceded a now lost painting, The Painteress and Her Model (1956), which is only documented by photographs.