The Museum of Lies was founded by Reinhard Zabka, the Dadaist artist also known as Richard von Gigantikow, in 1990 during the political changes of the GDR. It came about by the private initiative of the artist, who was active in the non-conformist and avant-garde art scene during the GDR period. Its origins lie in an art house established by the artist during the GDR in Babe, in the state of Brandenburg. From its very beginning, the museum has been a non-conformist project that has aimed at breaking taboos of content just as those of institutions. After relocating to a rural area of Saxony, the art house was transformed into its current form of the Museum of Lies.
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Name of collection
- Museum of Lies
Provenance and cultural activities
The Museum of Lies was founded in 1990 in a small village in Babe, Brandenburg. Originating in the GDR period (1984), it was the private initiative of Reinhard Zabka, who set the grounds for an art house in Babe. The house he acquired in 1980 was initially transformed into a summer atelier. Here, the artist performed several workshops focusing on unconventional artistic techniques. In the context of regime change, the very premises for the museum were developed in 1990. The small museum was conceived from its very beginning following the principles of Wunderkammer and Gesamtkunstwerk. Its recognition followed in 1995 with membership status in the Museum Association of the State of Brandenburg (Museumsverband des Landes Brandenburg e.V.). In 1997, the museum relocated to Gantikow, and since 2012 it has been located in Radebeul.
Its founder the Dadaist artist Reinhard Zabka, known under the artist name Richard von Gigantikow, presented his artwork during the GDR underground. In the official art scene, his works did not receive much recognition. Among these, one can note his show in 1986 in the Palace of the Republic in East Berlin, Invasion from everyday life (Invasion aus den Alltag), which was eventually confiscated. The artist response to the state’s action to his art was to destroy it. Later he would re-assemble pieces of the artwork into altars, known as Maximalismus. It was indeed a statement by the artist concerning the status of artistic production in East Germany and its lack of recognition by the regime as art. Therefore, following the regime change, the artist recognized the opportunity to provide his artwork and that of other GDR artists the institutional framework to display their works by setting up the Museum of Lies.
The period of the foundation of the museum corresponded with the foundation of the German Historical Museum in Berlin. Zabka's new museum was an artistic response to the official engagement with the recent past, which is why the Museum was envisioned as a German Historical Museum of Lies (Deutsches Historisches Lügenmuseum). Rejected by many as being “unprofessional”, the museum was associated by others with the Wunderkammer museum concept or as a Sammlermuseum.
The private initiative is defined by continuity, despite regime change and changing conditions for the former GDR artists; the museum finds it origins in the artistic opposition to the cultural policies of the GDR, which were manifested in the atelier house project. Established as an underground space, the atelier house provided the Dada artist with the framework on which the institutionalization of GDR artwork could be facilitated in the context of regime change.
The mission of the small museum, through its collections and contemporary artwork, is to question the role of art and the way in which it is displayed. Here the artist takes over the presentation process while the curator becomes obsolete. The museum defines itself as a place of collecting, researching, preservation and exchange. An exchange as also understood between the past, present, and future. The museum therefore aims, among other things, at presenting the artist’s works and those of other artists that “problematize” the recent past and the role of arts during socialism. The writing of history, with regards to the recent past, has become a contested topic in the museum. Among the topics displayed in the museum, the role of avant-garde arts and subculture in the GDR is very much important; thus, the museum is committed to collecting and documenting marginal objects and installations associated with subculture and underground artists in the GDR.
Currently, the museum aims to address wider categories of the public, from youth to elderly, locals as much as the international public, from art lovers to tourists. Through its displays, texts, legends, witty narrative, stories, and events, the museum aims to encourage further personal development for the visitor. The small museum, developed throughout the years with consistent support from locals, actively contributes to local cultural development and its overall revitalization in former GDR states.
Description of content
The museum currently has twelve thematic rooms in its permanent collection, while one room is dedicated to temporary exhibitions. The museum's permanent collection displays Richard von Gigantikow's artwork, including collages and installations, created during the GDR period. These vary from installations to collages, to illustrations, sculptures, and flyers. The museum is, however, not only dedicated to showing arts and artists from the GDR period; it also covers contemporary arts and contributes to ongoing artistic projects and installations in public spaces. The artists’ atelier is open to visitors. In addition, an archive has been set up in order to house documents, samizdat publications, photos, and graphic arts, among others. The garden is used to showcase sculpture projects.
Richard's installations incorporate fine art, collage, video art, sound installations, souvenirs, reliquary, everyday objects from the GDR, and gifts from his artist friends. Among the installations and artwork displayed by the museum, one should note the artist’s works created during the GDR, and after 1989, such as the Atelier of a Dissident (Atelier eines Dissidenten) and the Cathedral of Socialism (Kathedrale des Sozialismus).
The museum has also exhibited the artwork of various avant-garde artists from the GDR period. One notable example is the museum’s support for the organization of the exhibition Between Exit and Action. Subculture in Erfurt in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, organized in 2013 in the Erfurter Kunsthalle together with the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship. Also, the exhibition room Interieur Underground was recently opened, dedicated to subcultures in the GDR and marginal artists, accompanied by an eponymous catalogue Interieur Underground. '89 Geschichten der Friedlichen Revolution (Interieur Underground. '89 Stories of the Peaceful Revolution) issued in 2017, with the support of the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship and the Saxon Regional Representative for the Stasi Archives.
- artifacts: unknown quantity
- memorabilia (posters, flyers, stamps, etc.): unknown quantity
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): unknown quantity
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): unknown quantity
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Neustadt (Dosse) Roddahn, Germany
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Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Lügenmuseum. 2014. Catalogue edited by Lügenmuseum, Radebeul: Notschriften Verlag.
Interieur Underground. 89 Geschichten der Friedlichen Revolution (Interior Underground. 1989 History of the Peaceful Revolution). 2017. Catalogue edited by Lügenmuseum with the support of the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship and Saxon Regional Representative for the Stasi Archives.
Zabka, Reinhard. Interieur Underground. Kunst der Subkultur in der DDR der 1980er Jahre. DDR Geschichte im Museum-neue Themen, neue Ansätze (Interior Underground. Arts of the Underground Scene in the GDR during the 1980s. GDR History in Museum-new Themes, new Perspectives). 2017. Edited by Museumsblätter, 52-60. Mitteillungen des Museumsverbandes Brandenburg.
Author(s) of this page
- Demeter, Laura
Zabka, Reinhard, interview by Demeter, Laura, March 29, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Last edited on: 2020-02-06 20:09:39