Christian Borchert. The Tectonics of Remembrance

17 October 2019

[Translate to English:] Tektonik der Erinnerung

Christian Borchert (1942–2000) is among the outstanding photographers in the GDR and reunited Germany. Born in Dresden, he worked largely in Berlin and his home town, developing a visual vocabulary in equal parts delicate and powerful with his dispassionate and analytical photographs. With his serial methodology and narrative form, his archival practice and his idiosyncratic approach to visual media like film and television, he plays a prominent role in the history of German photography in the 20th century.

  • DATES 26/10/2019—08/03/2020
  • Opening Hours currently closed

[Translate to English:] Borchert 2

© Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Foto: Andreas Diesend
Christian Borchert, Kamenzer Forstfest, 1986 Silbergelatinepapier, 252 x 377 mm, 299 x 399 mm

[Translate to English:] Borchert 3

Almost 20 years after Borchert’s untimely death, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s Kupferstich-Kabinett presents the first comprehensive overview of his diverse oeuvre in a four-part retrospective. The main exhibition in the Residenzschloss (Royal Palace) introduces the photographer under the heading ‘Christian Borchert. The Tectonics of Remembrance’ not just as a conscientious chronicler of everyday life in the GDR and the period after reunification, but also as a creator of images and series with a fine appreciation for the conceptual and media history. Besides key constellations of works like the Portraits of artists and families, his documentation of the reconstruction of the Semperoper opera house or Images from documentary films, the exhibition also presents less known groups of works as well as images and items from Borchert’s working archive and the German Photographic Library Dresden. These exhibits in particular showcase his passion for archival and give insights into his working processes as a photographer.

The main exhibition will be complemented by three smaller satellites, which focus on less prominent aspects from Borchert’s life and work. Since 7 July 2019, Wuischke/Wuježk in the Sorbian region of Upper Lusatia has been hosting the outdoor poster exhibition ‘Christian Borchert in Wuischke/we Wuježku’, which highlights Borchert’s ties to the local colony of poets including Elke Erb, Kito Lorenc and Heinz Czechowski. This exhibition will continue until 26 January 2020.

At the same time as the main exhibition, the two other satellites will be opened on 26 October 2019 in Dresden. The Albertinum will show Borchert’s photographs of sculptures by Georg Kolbe. These images were taken between 1987 and 1990 on commission by Verlag der Kunst Dresden, and have not been seen in public in almost thirty years. The show entitled “… a peculiar kind of abstraction”. Christian Borchert’s Looks at Georg Kolbe’ will offer an intimate opportunity to compare Borchert’s photographs and Kolbe’s works from the Albertinum collection.

Finally, in the Residenzschloss Studiolo, the Kupferstich-Kabinett will present the 22-part work ‘Departure of the Soul, Ch. B. by Maria Sewcz. The Berlin-based photographer documented Borchert’s apartment and archive in powerful black and white photographs after his untimely death. These images give us a vivid impression of Borchert’s almost reverential relationship with his photographic material as well as the photographer’s grief at the loss of her cherished colleague and friend. The Studiolo will also present idiosyncratic objects and audio documents from Borchert’s estate held by the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden.

With over 1,000 photographs, the Kupferstich-Kabinett houses a large part of Christian Borchert’s artistic estate. As early as 1977, the then Museum Director Werner Schmidt purchased 71 Artist portraits by Borchert – at that time the largest purchase from a living photographer. In 1995, the museum also bought the photographer’s cycle The Tectonics of Remembrance. After Borchert’s death in July 2000, the Kupferstich-Kabinett, with the assistance of its Association of Friends, was able to purchase roughly 900 exhibition prints from the estate, making the Borchert inventory the most comprehensive collection for a single photographer in the catalogue.

A research project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and overseen by Bertram Kaschek has been underway since April 2016, enabling the museum to take a fresh look at this significant photographic oeuvre, and consider it in its context for the first time. In February 2020, Leipzig-based publisher Spector Books will release an extensive publication.

The exhibition and publication were conceived in cooperation with the German Photographic Library in Dresden. The German Photographic Library is home to Christian Borchert’s working archive with roughly 230,000 negatives and 20,000 prints, and many loans from this collection will feature in the exhibitions. In addition, the Berlinische Galerie has also provided major works from its extensive Borchert inventory.

With its Borchert retrospective, the Kupferstich-Kabinett is not only continuing its active research and exhibition work in the field of photography, it is also making a key contribution to the debate on international status of East German art before and after 1989. Stephanie Buck, Director of the Kupferstich-Kabinett: “In our ambitious Borchert retrospective, we are showcasing a photographer who has not yet received the recognition he deserves. At the same time, we at the Kupferstich-Kabinett are proud to mark the successful completion of an outstanding multi-year research project with the exhibition.”


In February 2020, Leipzig-based Spector Books will publish ‘Christian Borchert. The Tectonics of Remembrance’ in German and English. Publisher: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett, Bertram Kaschek, Text: Bertram Kaschek, 434 pages, € 38, Museum edition: € 28, ISBN: 978-3-95905-323-5.

Curator-guided tours
With Bertram Kaschek
On the following Mondays at 4:30 pm: 28 October 19 / 25 November 19 / 13 January 20 /
24 February 20
Kupferstich-Kabinett, Exhibition

Panel discussion
With Hansgert Lambers, Andreas Rost and Maria Sewcz: Christian Borchert and German Reunification
Thurs., 21 November 2019, 6 pm
Kupferstich-Kabinett, Studiensaal

Film night
Video taken by Christian Borchert with Bertram Kaschek and Claus Löser (film scholars, Berlin)
Wed, 04 December 19, 6 pm

Art discussion
Christian Borchert in the context of the collection with Björn Egging and Bertram Kaschek
Wed, 15 January 20, 6 pm
Kupferstich-Kabinett, Studiensaal


The SKD communicate using #ChristianBorchert, #KupferstichKabinettDresden and #skdmuseum on social media.

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