In 2015, in preparation for the big move to the Armory and new ways to present the collection, we have started a series of thematic exhibitions culled from the Museum’s holdings. The first of these was Communism for Dinner, an exhibit featuring East German commemorative plates with complementary paintings and objects. Until now, there have been no publications or exhibitions on this fascinating subject, which provides a new perspective on East German history. The next exhibition, Face to Face, explored painted and photographic portraits from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It illustrated the fluid boundaries between official and unofficial imagery. The current exhibition, Artist Collaborations in the GDR and the Soviet Union, demonstrates how unofficial and counterculture artists created their own universe. The last in the series is Facial Recognition. Starting from The Wende Museum’s archive assembled by the head of the East German border guards at Checkpoint Charlie, the exhibition will investigate present-day developments in facial-recognition technology and highlight various art projects responding to these techniques.
Programming in 2014 largely focused on the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the launch of our TASCHEN encyclopedia, Beyond the Wall, Art and Artifacts from the GDR. Moreover, Competing Utopias, an exhibition in collaboration with the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in Los Angeles, powerfully confronted the iconic modernist American Cold War architecture by Richard Neutra with Eastern European modern furniture and everyday objects from The Wende Museum Collection. The Museum also brought Berlin-based artist, Christof Zwiener, to Los Angeles with his movable ADN Guardhouse that was formerly in the parking lot adjacent to the central news agency in the GDR; Zwiener continued curating a series of art installations initiated in Berlin with various artists in Los Angeles, El Segundo and Culver City.
2013 saw the culmination of the Wende’s historical witness project on Soviet Jewish immigration to Los Angeles, started with a grant from Cal Humanities and others. On December 15, we premiered the documentary From Red State to Golden State: Soviet Jewish Immigration to the City of Angels to a sold out audience at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.
Deconstructing Perestroika mounted at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, in 2012, was the first major U.S. exhibition of hand-painted Soviet-era political posters from The Wende Museum’s Ferris Collection. Conceived to mark the demise of the U.S.S.R., the exhibition examined key political and cultural shifts that undermined the very foundation of Soviet ideology. The satirical sting of these artworks vividly addresses a nation in flux.
Beginning in the fall of 2011 for ten months, Across/The Wall was The Wende Museum’s contribution to the Downtown Art Walk in Los Angeles for ten months. The exhibition featured 21 high quality reproductions of portrait paintings from the former Soviet Union. At the time when street artists were exhibiting in museums, the Wende brought its treasures to the streets, creating a “museum without walls.” The Wende Museum also commissioned internationally known street artists Herakut (Berlin), D*Face (London) and Retna (Los Angeles) to paint a mural on the traditionally undecorated East side of the wall pieces. These murals formed part of The Surveillance Project, an exhibition featuring 27 pieces of Stasi and KGB Cold War-era communication and surveillance equipment from the Soviet Union and from East and West Germany with the aim to promote dialog about a topical theme.
2009 was an exceptionally productive year for The Wende Museum. It began with the Museum lending a key painting to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures, followed shortly by the launch of Wende Flicks: Films from the Last Days of the GDR, a film series that traveled to museums and universities in Los Angeles and Berlin. Later in the year, The Wende co-hosted a three-day international conference, Germans’ Things, and produced two critically-reviewed exhibitions, IconoClash! and Collected Fragments.
Most notably, the Museum conceived and produced The Wall Project, a public art initiative which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Garnering press in over two-dozen countries and broadcast live in Europe, The Wall Project’s culminating event on November 8, 2009 was the largest of its kind outside of Berlin.
The Wende Museum also hosts a variety of special events designed to advance the Museum’s programming initiatives, increase awareness about the Museum and raise funds to support its ongoing operations. Special Events are usually ticketed events or by invitation only. Join the Museum’s Email Subscription List to receive invitations and advance notice of Special Events and other Museum activities.