Invitation to press conference | 1 Million Roses for Angela Davis

06 October 2020

An exhibition of the Albertinum at the Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau

In September 1972, jubilant GDR citizens welcomed the US-American communist Angela Davis (*1944) in East Berlin. Hundreds of thousands of them had participated in the officially-sponsored postcard campaign 1 Million Roses for Angela, which had contributed to the young Black Power activist and philosophy professor’s acquittal and release from prison after being on trial for terrorism in the United States.

  • DATES 10/10/2020—30/05/2021

[Translate to English:] 1 Million Rosen

As a “heroine of the other America” she was stylized as a revolutionary icon in the GDR, Eastern Europe, and leftist circles worldwide during the 1970s. Angela Davis, in turn, hoped for a large international movement for a socialist, feminist, and non-racist democracy as a counter pole to her experience of violence and oppression as a Black woman in the USA. 

These moments of political projection, but also of hope, are the historical starting points for the exhibition at the Albertinum of the Dresden State Art Collections (SKD), which is on view from October 10, 2020 at the Kunsthalle in Lipsiusbau. Although you may look around you and judge and categorize others, although you may use and be used by what we call  the system- it’s still not easy to see how exploitation works; simply put how the wealth of this continent, the sense of self-satisfaction of its historically white citizens were all built on the deep violent hardcore exploitation of a huge part of the rest of the world; and that is why now, without any embarrassment or shame, it is extremely important that you take this chance and READ FANON YOU FUCKING BASTARDS. International Contemporary Artworks address the still urgent concerns of the now-emeritus professor and open a discussion about the background, flaws, and unredeemed potential of this extraordinary connection between Angela Davis and the GDR.

In the exhibition’s photographs, videos, sculptures, sound installations, and conceptual works, a young generation of artists consider Davis’ ongoing commitment to social justice, her fight against racism and sexism, as well as the inscription of her iconic image within a global history of resistance. In dialogue with extensive archive materials, as well as works by artists from the GDR, an experimental space for the encounter between past and present is created, which spans an arc from the socialist internationalism of the GDR to the worldwide Black Lives Matter Movement.

A total of 52 artworks and extensive archive material will be presented. This includes a selection of postcards of the solidarity action from a US-American private collection and paintings from Willi Sitte (1921–2013), Bernhard Franke (*1922), and Christoph Wetzel (*1947). Above all, however, the trans-medial works in the exhibition on one hand question the cult around Angela Davis and, on the other hand, place her work as an activist and philosopher as the focus of political art creation: The US-American conceptual artist Sadie Barnette (*1984), for example, pursues strategies of reappropriating Black history. She creates an installation from FBI surveillance files on her father, who was a member of the socialist-revolutionary group the Black Panther Panther Party for Self-Defense and was Angela Davis’ body guard for a while. Gabriele Stötzer’s (*1953) video performance in which she processes her imprisonment during GDR time links the content to Davis’ own imprisonment and her investigations into the American prison-industrial complex. At the same time, it addresses the central contradiction of GDR politics: how a state, by means of the hopeful empathy of its youth, extensively  supported the political prisoner Angela Davis in her show trial while violently suppressing reform efforts in its own country and merely paying lip service to anti-racism.

Four new commissions by international artists (Steffani Jemison & Justin Hicks, Ângela Ferreira, Elske Rosenfeld, Lewis Watts) as well as an interview film with Angela Davis created for the show illuminate the considerable, ongoing significance and influence of the activist’s political work on contemporary art production. In the foyer of the Lipsiusbau, a reading room from Contemporary And (C&)—a magazine that looks at contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora, invites visitors to adopt a literary approach to the subject. The intervention by Hassan Khan will infiltrate the social media channels of the SKD, the exhibition’s entry tickets and the press release you are reading now, pushing the boundaries of institutional structures. 

The educational program for youth places a special focus on explaining terms related to the subject of racism. The accompanying events present Afro-German activists and a Black Power-Film Night in cooperation with ARTE and the Filmtheater Schauburg shows documentaries on the subject.


The exhibition is accompanied by a German and English publication published by Mousse Publishing with contributions by Nikita Dhawan, Kata Krasznahorkai, Sophie Lorenz, Doreen Mende, Peggy Piesche, Kathleen Reinhardt, Maria Schubert, Hilke Wagner, Jamele Watkins, and a new interview with  Angela Davis. ISBN 978-88-6749-439-2, Mousse Publishing, 271 pages, € 27


Yael Bartana, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sophie Calle, Contemporary And, Sadie Barnette, CHTO DELAT?, Melvin Edwards, Ângela Ferreira, Bernhard Franke, Coco Fusco, Ellen Gallagher, Claudia Martínez Garay, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Arthur Jafa, Steffani Jemison & Justin Hicks (Mikrokosmos), Iris Kensmil, Hassan Khan, Kapwani Kiwanga, Raja Lubinetzki & Petra Schramm, Julie Mehretu, Heinz-Detlef Moosdorf, Senga Nengudi, Ahmet Öğüt, Slavs and Tatars, Julia Phillips, Alex Martinis Roe, Elske Rosenfeld, Anri Sala, Willi Sitte, Cauleen Smith, Nancy Spero, Gabriele Stötzer, Strawalde (Jürgen Böttcher), Nasan Tur, Lewis Watts, Carrie Mae Weems, Christoph Wetzel, Charles White, Heinz Wodzicka


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