In pictures: how Sibylle Bergemann, one of Germany’s most famous photographers, captured the beauty of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain

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Everything that passes in front of Sibylle Bergemann’s lens seems imbued with a steely glamour.

The celebrated photographer, who died in 2010, captured the life, parties, fashion, architecture and subcultures of East Berlin’s youth at the height of the Cold War. With a sensitive eye and a sense of irony similar to that of contemporary artists such as Nan Goldin or Annie Leibovitz, Bergemann became known for his bold and triumphant portraits of women, as well as his views of the city where she is born. This makes his perspective particularly vital after reunification, when the memory of East German life has been swept away.

Bergemann documented the transformations that took place in and around the city before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, reversing the style of propaganda that prevailed at the time. For example, in a series called “The Monument”, Bergemann systematically documented the creation and erection of statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels by the German Democratic Republic’s Ministry of Culture between 1975 and 1986. Nowadays, it is difficult to say whether these socialist icons are building or dismantling. Instead, Bergemann’s photos seem to speak of the impermanence of political ideas.

Das Denkmal, Berlin, February 1986 © Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin” width=”1024″ height=”721″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Das-Denkmal_Berlin_Februar- 1986_Berlinische-Galerie-1024×721.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Das-Denkmal_Berlin_Februar-1986_Berlinische-Galerie-300×211.jpg 300w, https://news. artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Das-Denkmal_Berlin_Februar-1986_Berlinische-Galerie-1536×1082.jpg1536w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle -Bergemann_Das-Denkmal_Berlin_Februar-1986_Berlinische-Galerie-2048×1442.jpg 2048w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Das-Denkmal_Berlin_Februar-1986_Berlinische-Galerie-505×35, https ://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Das-Denkmal_Berlin_Februar-1986_Berlinische-Galerie-1920×1352.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>

Sibyl Bergmann, Das Denkmal, Berlin, February 1986 © Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

At the Berlinische Galerie, more than 200 works, including 30 images presented for the first time, show not only the parties and the noisy people of East Berlin, but also the artist’s travels to New York, Moscow and Dakar. The latter are particularly meaningful and charged images: It was rare for artists to travel outside of East Germany. “The first time they let me go to Paris I was 38,” she said in later interviews. “I fought for this for nine months and then I was allowed to leave. Without money, of course.

See some of the artist’s works below.

“Statt Land Hund” can be seen at the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin until October 10.

Sibylle Bergemann, Unter den Linden, Berlin 1968 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ

Sibylle Bergemann, Selbstporträt, Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin 1986 © Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

Sibylle Bergemann, P2, 1981 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ

Sibylle Bergemann, <I>Nina and Eva Maria Hagen</i>, Berlin 1976 © Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ.  Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin” width=”1024″ height=”686″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Nina-und- Eva-Maria-Hagen_Berlin-1976_Berlinische-Galerie-1024×686.jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Nina-und-Eva-Maria-Hagen_Berlin-1976_Berlinische-Galerie -300×201.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Nina-und-Eva-Maria-Hagen_Berlin-1976_Berlinische-Galerie-1536×1030.jpg 1536w, https:/ /news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Nina-und-Eva-Maria-Hagen_Berlin-1976_Berlinische-Galerie-2048×1373.jpg 2048w, https://news.artnet.com/app/ news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Nina-und-Eva-Maria-Hagen_Berlin-1976_Berlinische-Galerie-50×34.jpg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle -Bergemann_Nina-und-Eva-Maria-Hagen_Berlin-1976_Berlinische-Galerie-1920×1287.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p id=Sibyl Bergmann, Nina and Eva Maria Hagen, Berlin 1976 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin
Sibylle Bergemann, <i>Moscow</i>1974 © Succession Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ” width=”1024″ height=”679″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische-Galerie-1024×679. jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische-Galerie-300×199.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/ 2022/08/Sibyl-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische-Galerie-1536×1018.jpg 1536w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische-Galerie-2048×1357.jpg 2048w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische-Galerie-2048×1357.jpg 2048w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische-Galerie-50×33.jpg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2022/08/Sibylle-Bergemann_Moskau_1974_Berlinische -Gallery-1920×1272.jpg 1920w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/></p>
<p id=Sibyl Bergmann, Moscow1974 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ

Sibyl Bergmann, Marisa and LianaSellin 1981 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ

Sibyl Bergmann, Catherine Thalbach, Berlin 1974 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

Sibyl Bergmann, friedaBerlin 1982 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ

Sibylle Bergemann, Fenster, Berlin, undated © Succession Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

Sibyl Bergmann, Das Denkmal, Gummlin, Usedom, May 1984 © Succession Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

Sibyl Bergmann, Clärchens Ballhaus, Berlin 1976 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

Sibyl Bergmann, Caravan Ausstellung, Berlin 1980 © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

Sibyl Bergmann, Bernauer Straße, Berlin 1990. © Estate of Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy of Loock Galerie, Berlin

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