East German Forgotten Art Treasure, Jens Malling (Le Monde Diplomatic)

Werner Petzold, The peaceful uses of nuclear energy (detail, 1972-74), enamel

Andreas Kemper Wismut GmbH DIK

P.Ass A glass case containing a medal. Next, a cupboard adorned with the heavy ruby ​​red flag that he once used for the May 1st parade. A drawer from the archives of the past contains technical drawings and maps of the mine shaft, with neatly handwritten notes in Russian in the margins. And in total secrecy, he entered the warehouses of the former mining company SDAG Wismut, which once employed up to 100,000 people, extracting uranium for the Soviet atomic bomb.

Nico Rosé, 45, is the Assistant Director of the Foundation currently charged with cleaning up the widespread environmental damage caused by the company, and guided me through. Hidden from public view was what is believed to be the largest collection of art from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR).

Loße said SDAG Wismut, located outside Chemnitz, “collected about 4,300 works from 1946, when excavations began, to the end of East Germany in 1990.”He grabbed the gigantic painting and dragged it into the sparse light: Eva Schulze Knabe’s Haerbrigade Herzog (1973). “A lot of the work is about mining,” says Loße.

It may surprise you to learn that East German mining companies were keen on producing works of art. Indeed, the security implications and scale of uranium mining across the Eastern Block meant that SDAG Wismut slowly built up an extensive network of infrastructure and related services. “Employees were treated in their respective hospitals. They ate in their own restaurant and had access to special holidays at his resort,” he explains Loße.

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Eva Schulze-Knabe, Meeting on a Drill Rig (1971), watercolor

Andreas Kemper Wismut GmbH DIK

“A State Within a State”

There were schools, cinemas, shopping centers, leisure facilities and sports clubs. To compensate for the heavy and dangerous work in the uranium mines, especially the radiation, the conditions were considerably better than for ordinary East German citizens. The company, in particular (…)

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Original text in English. All photographs of Wismut art are from Paul Kaiser and Holger Saupe (eds), Sonnensucher: Die Kunstsammlung der Wismut – eine Bestandsaufnahme, Catalog of the exhibition at the Gera Art Collection 2014, Dresdner Institut für Kulturstudien, Dresden, 2014 . East German Forgotten Art Treasure, Jens Malling (Le Monde Diplomatic)

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