A Dream Project Died – No Lesbian Art Show in Frankfurt am Main

Art and love are two unpredictable things. We love them both because the both aim at taking us to a sublime state of mind. Some kind of art are however less popular. ‘Lesbian art’ is an especially tricky subject to promote as a lot of negative ideas and biases are linked closely with it. The awareness about lesbian art is very low. This story is about the dream of organising ‘Lesbische Existenz im Bild’, the first ever show of contemporary lesbian art in Germany as project team leader Sylvia G. has told it to me.

Frankfurt Rhine-Main, with a total population exceeding 5.8 million, is the second largest metropolitan region in Germany. It is situated two hours’ drive south of Kassel. Kassel is the Mecca of contemporary art every 5th year, when it hosts the big famous documenta art show of modern and contemporary art. Sylvia G. had high hopes that her city would to be good place to present the first public group show of lesbian art in Germany. For the last 2-3 years she and her project team have been working voluntarily without any pay besides their fulltime jobs on finding a venue for the show. However not much of the innovative spirit of documenta has rubbed off on the art scene in Frankfurt am Main. Nobody loved the idea of hosting a lesbian art show.

Sylvia G. explains: “We contacted eight possible exhibition places or institutions in Frankfurt and surroundings – some more, some less renowned. There were – amongst others – four very famous art institutions / exhibition places in Frankfurt and even two women museums. For different reasons none of them were willing or able to show or arrange our exhibition on our minimum conditions. Our minimum conditions were:

  • The exhibition must be a single exhibition – not part of another exhibition.
  • The word “Lesbian” has to appear in the title.
  • Artists must be lesbians or must have been in the past (no art of male artists showing lesbian depiction).
  • The presenting art institution must take share in the costs.”

“There were a total of 25 artists who were interested and agreed to participate in an excibition. Amongst others: Antje Doll (DE), Anja Müller (DE), Anne-Kathrin Coordes (DE), Martha Ambrocio, Christiane Buck (DE), Ute Nolte (DE), Risk Hazekamp (NL), Anna Leopolder (DE), Conny Kunert (A) and Martina Minette Dreier (DE).”

The ‘Lesbische Existenz im Bild’ exhibition project aimed at presenting contemporary art by German speaking lesbian artist, thus giving the German audience a chance to learn about lesbian lifestyle and the way lesbians express themselves through art and culture. The project team believes that lesbian artists make a valuable contribution to the world and it is important to raise the awareness about lesbian artists in Germany. The team has offered to share their contacts with lesbian artist and general research about lesbian art with the art institution and give the art historians of the venue the honor of curating the show. Furthermore the team had a nice carrot. – The carrot that the city council of Frankfurt am Main really wanted to see the exhibition realized and had offered to refund the highest budget item (expenses of approx. EUR 25.000 to 30.000) as related with a lesbian art show, but that was not enough for any of the eight Frankfurt art institutions to accept to curate and host the first lesbian art show in Germany.

The project team was given several explanations by the arts professionals at the different art institutions as to why they would not support the project. Sylvia G. remembers: “One women museum feared for the money of their sponsors if they made a purely lesbian exhibition. The other one did not want to be curator as they usually are. They just offered to rent the rooms to us. The curating, media work, literature and financial risk would have been all ours.” “The answer we heard most often was: “There is no such thing as black art or Jewish art. And so there is no LESIBAN art. There is just ART for the sake of art itself.” Another answer we heard quite often was: “It’s better to wrap a subject like this into another outfit or packaging. For example: Showing an exhibition on SUBCULTURE. But all artists are lesbians. Then people come to visit SUBCULTURAL ART but actually they see lesbian art and can so make contact with the subject of lesbianism.” – This is exactly what we did not want at all…… Another answer was: “We are absolutely tolerant and have nothing against lesbians at all but we are not sure about our sponsors and regular guests. So sorry….” Sylvia concluded: “We did not find much innovation or courage.”

Now Sylvia G. and her team have decided to cancel the ‘Lesbische Existenz im Bild’-project in Frankfurt am Main. Spiritual seers and clairvoyant teachers tell us that we are creating our future (tomorrow) by the way we think and feel today, but that we are unfortunately also very much conditioned by the society in which we live. – Only a few private galleries in the world can actually write on their resume that they have presented a contemporary lesbian art show. I don’t know if there are any public art institutions at all in Europe which has hosted an out and proud lesbian art exhibition, but one still feels sorry that the time isn’t right yet for the first public exhibition of contemporary lesbian art in Germany.