Revolutionary Romances? Global Art Histories in the GDR

This exhibition focuses on the ›revolutionary romances‹ – the friendly revolutionary relations – that were carried on by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) with countries of the Global South. It thus takes a closer look at the little-studied subject of East German art in the context of global, transcultural art histories.

  • DATES 04/11/2023—02/06/2024
  • Opening Hours daily 10—18, Monday closed
  • Admission Fees normal 12 €, reduced 9 €, under 17 free, groups (10 persons and more) 11 €
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Revolutionary Romances? Globale Kunstgeschichten in der DDR | Albertinum  (4.11.2023—2.6.2024)

Mit der kubanischen Revolution

In the 1960s, following on the heels of the Cuban revolution, decolonization in Africa and erupting communist liberation movements, socialism seemed to be on the rise worldwide: the utopian vision of a socialist world community mobilised the Eastern Bloc. 

Mit der kubanischen Revolution

Turning to the Global South gave the GDR the international recognition it had long hoped for and had been denied in the West, and enabled it to demonstrate state sovereignty and openness to the world. ›International friendship‹ and ›international solidarity‹ were ideological leitmotifs that shaped East Germany’s foreign policy in Asia, Africa and Latin America, motivated as it was by not only political but also economic interests. These concepts also informed foreign cultural policy and became important themes in state propaganda and in the visual arts of the GDR.

Teppich mit bunten figürlichen Personen
© Familie León Pellegrin
Margarita Pellegrin, Demonstration, 1975


Ausgehend vom Sammlungsbestand

Based on the collections of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD), supplemented by selected loans, the exhibition explores the artistic practice, themes, and motifs of these actual and supposed ›Revolutionary Romances‹. On display are works from the 1950s to the 1980s by artists from the GDR, Cuba, Chile, Vietnam, India, Iraq, Libya, Mozambique, Burma (Myanmar) and other countries. The works include representations of ideals and icons of socialist internationalism, images of solidarity, works of artistic protest against war and violence in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and Cuban revolutionary graphic works, travel images, mail art as well as diploma works by foreign students at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts.

lilafarbene Plattform mit drei digitalen Figuren
© Arlette Quỳnh Anh Trần
Arlette Quỳnh-Anh Trần, PLATTENLOTUS, 2022 Filmstill

Neben Werken

Shown alongside works from the collections of the SKD are contemporary international positions and commissioned works by Georges Adéagbo, Sven Johne, Hamlet Lavastida, Dana Lorenz, Sonya Schönberger, Wenke Seemann, Sung Tieu and Arlette Quỳnh-Anh Trần, which consider and critically analyse from a present-day perspective the former ideals of ›solidarity‹ and ›international friendship‹.

Aus heutiger Sicht

From today’s point of view, it is necessary to question some of the exhibited artworks that were created in the GDR because they express a dominance of Eurocentric perspectives, forms of cultural appropriation as well as stereotypes about people and cultures of the Global South. What must further be taken into consideration is the contradiction between ideology and reality in East Germany, which is obvious in retrospect: the contradiction between criticising Western imperialism while failing to acknowledge the imperial expansion practiced by the East, between the demand for universal human rights in foreign policy and the repressive politics in the country itself, as well as between the anti-racism proclaimed by the state and the real living and working conditions of foreign contract workers and students.

asiatisch gelesene Frau lehnt auf einem Kleiderständer
© Matthias Rietschel
Matthias Rietschel, aus der Serie Vietnamesen in Dresden, 1987–1990

Mit Revolutionary Romances?

With Revolutionary Romances?, the Albertinum is approaching for the first time – through study, questioning, self-criticism and in the face of many gaps in knowledge – a topical subject area which the Dresden collections are only now beginning to investigate. To achieve the goal of discussing the art history of the GDR in a global, transcultural context, further art historical, historical and artistic research is needed – research in which the perspectives and the expertise of people from the Global South are seen and heard.


Der Vermittlungsraum

The exhibition's education space offers visitors the opportunity to participate in this process through their individual perspectives. At the end of the exhibition the cooperation with the association Kultur Aktiv e.V. is presented. Accompanying the exhibition in the Treffpunkt ostZONE, the association invites to a transgenerational and transcultural dialogue. The exhibition will also be accompanied by an extensive educational program on the topics of art and socialism, travel and migration, and solidarity.



Publication accompanying the exhibition

Revolutionary Romances? Globale Kunstgeschichten in der DDR

Herausgeber: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; Mathias Wagner, Hilke Wagner, Kerstin Schankweiler, Kathleen Reinhardt, 176 Seiten, Erscheinungsdatum 2024, Spector Books, ISBN 978-3-95905-781-3, 19,80 € im Museumsbuchshop / 25 € im Handel

Buchcover mit Frau, welche eine Fahne schwenkt
Our digital exhibition space voices

Revolutionary Romances? on voices

On our digital map, the art of the GDR can be read as part of a global art history based on the collection holdings and loans.

Sponsored by


Sponsoring of the exhibition

Schriftzug der Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung

In cooperation with

The ostZone project was developed in cooperation with Kultur Aktiv e.V. and Verena Böll.

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