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Keep a Stiff Upper Lip! Gundula Schulze Eldowy and Robert Frank

Meeting the American photographer Robert Frank in East Berlin in 1985 became a key moment for Gundula Schulze Eldowy. Frank and Schulze Eldowy instantly discovered the artistic affinity they shared: their eye for misfits and outcasts, their coupling of social documentary photography and poetry and their absolute independence.


A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig (HGB), who had been born in Erfurt in 1954, Schulze Eldowy refused from the outset to be shoehorned into any dogma. Her pictures were provocative: on the one hand, East Berlin neighbourhoods, where the vestiges of the war were everywhere to be seen, and, on the other, nude portraits, which were unsparing yet sensitive and full of dignity. On the other side of the Iron Curtain was the Swiss-American photographer Robert Frank (1924–2019) – regarded to this day as a pioneer of documentary photography – whose 1958 volume of photographs, The Americans, presented a sobering counterimage to the American Dream. Together, they embarked on an intensive exchange of letters that crossed borders and spanned continents.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the young photographer took Frank up on his invitation to New York. There, in the Mecca of the avant-garde, she experienced the free-spiritedness of the art scene and the world of the beatniks, which led to a radical shift in her visual aesthetics. She used new techniques, experimenting with Polaroids, video, double exposures and different ways of processing the material to give form to her impressions and sense of Manhattan visualised as a hall of mirrors. Her photographs are no longer bound to unmediated reality; instead, they go in search of expanded ways of being and fluid forms of consciousness.

The exhibition reconstructs Schulze Eldowy's career as she moved from East Berlin to New York, from straight photography to a poetic visual vocabulary that is expressed in the blending of photography, film, painting and poetry fused into an artistic cosmos. It presents the dialogue between the two artists Gundula Schulze Eldowy and Robert Frank as conveyed in their photographs, films and diary entries. In the film installation The Beast in Me is Germany director Helke Misselwitz maps out a portrait of Gundula Schulze Eldowy based on her artistic development since the 1980s.

The exhibition also presents us with another opportunity to focus on the work of Robert Frank, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. A two-day programme – to be held in the Studio (Hanseatenweg) on 2 and 3 March, curated and presented by Alexander Horwath and Regina Schlagnitweit (Vienna) – will introduce his extensive film oeuvre.
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Price: €12.00

Reduced price: €9.00