The Highlights of the auction on November 21, 2014

Siegfried Wittenburg, ‘Faces of Revolution‘,
GDR, 1990

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Much more than mere Ostalgia

Rolf Kurth, Woodcut ‘Laokoon‘, GDR, 1979

GDR design, art and everyday culture

In coincidence with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Auctionata hosted an exceptional auction on the theme of the art, culture and everyday life of the GDR. The astonishingly wide spectrum of GDR design language and aesthetics was taking center-stage as we explored the treasures of this extinct state. More than mere “Ostalgia”, we were appreciating the creative and improvisational talents, and the inventiveness of GDR artists and designers.

In spite of the planned economy and constant lack of resources, truly creative design icons and notable brands came about in the GDR. Many of these survived the turnaround after reunification and still fascinate consumers and collectors today. It is not without reason that the whole theme has built up a large group of followers who keep alive the cult for Eastern products, design and art with such great enthusiasm.

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Objects of desire from the East

Hedwig Bollhagen, Coffee Set, HB Workshop, GDR, 1956

Modern zeitgeist in spite of a failed economy

Memories of the GDR and its everyday life do not necessarily have to be viewed as nostalgic. On the contrary, the artistic and cultural heritage of the extinct German state are just as seminal and important today. Of course, the GDR was the dictatorship and the Wall, however East Germany was also many people’s home, culture and attitude to life. All of this is reflected impressively in the products, artworks and design made there.

The GDR produced a particular aesthetic that was considerably different to that of the West. Whole generations drove around in Trabbis, began the day with “bebo sher” shaving devices, “Plaste” eggcups and Nudossi spread, drank and ate from KAHLA porcelain, lived with the MuFuTi (multifunctional table) and went to bed with the (Eastern) Sandmännchen. This resulted in a multifaceted overall image that still fascinates people today. Often derided during its time, more and more people are starting to recognize the artistic and technical design value of many Eastern products.

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GDR artistic masterpieces

Berlin Wall, 6 Pieces Painted by Ben Wargin & Fred Hahn

Important works by GDR artists

On the occasion of the anniversary of the fall of the Wall, it is time to put the well-earned spotlight back on art and iconic objects made by important GDR artists. Sidelined by the West German art scene for too long and often almost forgotten during the turnaround after German reunification, the GDR art world was unexpectedly lively, creative and often subtly critical of the system.

Outstanding examples of this include the expressive woodcut “Laokoon”, made by Rolf Kurth in 1979, and Siegfried Wittenburg’s impressive photograph, “Faces of the Revolution”, taken in 1990. The now-extinct GDR also bore some impressive art highlights. Amongst the highlights are the six original pieces of the Berlin Wall, painted by Ben Wargin and Fred Hahn, and the famous wall installation with a Trabant 600, “Escape I”, by Rough Art Zurich.

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Iconic objects from GDR everyday life

Erich Menzel, Plywood Chair Model 50642, GDR, 1951

Seminal design at your fingertips

Many GDR everyday objects have quite rightly found their way into design history. Thanks to innovative ideas, a modern design language and a largely individual style, the GDR produced iconic objects that are still relevant today and need not hide behind the success of West German design.

A perfect example of this is the elegant, timeless mocha service, made in the Hedwig-Bollhagen Workshops for Ceramic in 1956. The educational toy turtle, designed by Renate Müller in 1968, possesses both nostalgic and great stylistic value. The elegant plywood chair, Model 50642, made by Erich Menzel in 1951, is another testimony to the unexpectedly modern design language of many GDR products.

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