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Object of the month: Photographs of Jürgen Baldiga’s queen plates (1991)

1. March 2022

Sometimes fate writes stories that sound too curious to be true. For example, our archive manager Peter Rehberg was amazed when we received a black envelope containing 16 portrait-format black-and-white photographs. The photographs show a complete set of queen plates.

The deceased artist and photographer Jürgen Baldiga (1959–1993) manufactured these queen plates in 1991 for his large solo exhibition at the Bellevue Gallery. For the artworks he made use of his fund of photos of queens from the SchwuZ like Pepsi Boston, Melitta Sundström or even himself as DJ Praktica. He then developed the baryt photos, had them mounted on soup plates and varnished for better durability. What every second copy store offers today, was an elaborate procedure in the early 1990s, according to Baldiga’s friend and administrator of his estate Aron Neubert. After the exhibition, Baldiga distributed the plates that were not sold: some photographed queens were happy to receive their own copy, at least one plate was broken during the move, and three copies were given to the SMU Archives with the transfer of Baldiga’s estate.

The photographs of the queen plates were most likely also taken by Baldiga himself. However, they have had an eventful journey, which can only be reconstructed patchily from today. At the end of February we received the photographs by mail with a letter: “I am sending you old magazines and pictures from old SchwuZ times (especially from the location at Südstern). If you can’t use them for the archive, throw them in the garbage can”. Pleased with the lucky find, we contacted the sender, Davide, and learned more about the pictures, which he said were “a idea born in drunkenness”. He received the photographs shortly before his death presumably from Melitta Sundström, who is also depicted – the long years and the onset of dementia, however, do not allow this to be asserted with conclusive certainty.

One thing is clear: Davide has given the queer culture a huge gift by keeping the photos. In 1989 he came to Berlin and was on the road at the SchwuZ. However, he himself did not belong to the queens around the SchwuZ. Nevertheless, he has distinguished himself as a chronicler and keeper of this queen culture and has bequeathed us a complete set of photographs of Jürgen Baldiga’s queen plates.

Photo: mino