Art exhibition "Means of Survival – Testimony – Artwork – Visual Memory"
Artworks have been on display in the former disinfection building of Buchenwald Concentration Camp since as early as 1990. In 1998, the memorial's permanent art exhibition was installed there on approximately 400 square metres of floor space. The thorough refurbishment of the building – a part of the original concentration camp complex – got underway in May 2012. The new exhibition inaugurated there on 11 April 2013 features some 200 objects – paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures, installations and collages.
The objects on view were created by inmates under the conditions prevailing in the camp, or retrospectively by survivors. They are joined by works of present-day artists exploring various ways of coming to terms with the National Socialist crimes.
The exhibition is divided into the following sections:
- Art from Concentration Camps
- After Liberation
- Reminiscences (Józef Szajna)
- Contemporary Approaches
- Art in the Public Realm
In the section “Art from Concentration Camps”, artworks (landscapes, still lifes) executed in external Buchenwald labour detachments are on view. They are spatially juxtaposed with drawings and sketches carried out by inmates in the parent camp on the Ettersberg, arranged by theme: “The Site”, “Everyday Life”, “Portrait”, and “Landscape”.
Drawings by Paul Goyard are on display in a separate room. In these scenes, the artist recorded the unloading of inmate corpses into a mass grave on the south slope of the Ettersberg. In addition to Goyard's works, a series of etchings by José Fosty entitled The Buchenwald Sundays is also presented here.
As was already the case before the recent refurbishment, one of the key works in the show is the room installation entitled Reminiscences by world-renowned Polish stage director Józef Szajna. It is dedicated to the professors of the Cracow art academy who were deported to Auschwitz and murdered there. Shown at the Venice Biennale in 1970, this work is among the most prominent artistic investigations of what has been called the “rupture of civilization” under National Socialism.
A wall hanging by Anne Aknin, who lives in Paris, is on exhibit for the first time, Aknin was deported to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp women's subcamp in Leipzig in early August 1944. A direct reaction to the wars taking place in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the work also reflects Aknin's memories of her time in the camps.
Further new additions to the exhibition are a number of contemporary projects, including works by Klaus Steinke (Wortbilder / Word Images), Friedrich Press (Der Rufer von Buchenwald / The Caller of Buchenwald), Susanne Theumer (Besucherin in Buchenwald / Visitor in Buchenwald), Anke Binnewerg (Material Board) and Susan Donath (Falling Waters). What they share is the search for a means of reflecting on the historical locations of former camps.
The glazed wing of the disinfection chambers now serves as a space for presenting sculptures and monument designs: works in stone and bronze for monuments of the 1950s in Bad Salzungen, Ravensbrück and Buchenwald, studies by Erich Wurzer, Will Lammert, Theo Balden and Fritz Cremer, and designs (never realized) of the 1980s for Buchenwald Memorial by Johann-Peter Hinz (Mahnmal für sowjetische Kriegsgefangene / Monument to Soviet Prisoners of War) and Wieland Schmiedel (Wegplatten – Gedanken in Buchenwald / Path Plaques – Thoughts in Buchenwald).
A brochure containing the biographies of the artists represented in the show is available to visitors free of charge. The cellar of the former disinfection building offers space for special exhibitions.