Ernst Barlach - The Skeptic                 Figures of a better future                     

Exhibition for the Venice Biennial 2015                           June 13 to September 13, 2015            

Opening times: Wednesday to Monday 4 pm - 8 pm (Tuesday closed)


The exhibition Ernst Barlach - The Skeptic is organized by Ernst Barlach Association Hamburg, in cooperation with the Comunità Evangelica Luterana di Venezia, as an independent contribution to the 56th Venice Biennial, focusing the theme: All the World‘s Futures.


The exhibition is highlighting and arousing the debate around present and future issues in consideration of the historic crossroads at the beginning of modern times. At the same time, Barlach’s works radiate a strong sense of solidarity and responsibility.


The exhibition provides an opportunity for reflection, pause and awareness of the historical dimensions of All the World's futures. It provokes a special quality of reminiscence and intercultural understanding from historical to current issues.


Ernst Barlach puts man at the center of his work, man with his fears, concerns and questions about the future, all issues that remain relevant today. "My artistic mother tongue happens to be the human figure, or the environment, the object through which or in which the person lives, suffers, rejoices, feels, thinks", Barlach wrote in 1911. "I do not extend beyond that. What man has suffered and can suffer, his greatness, his affairs, including myths and dreams for the future."


In the more than two meter high "beggar character" of 1930, created by Ernst Barlach as a façade figure in the "communion of saints" series for the St. Catherine's Church in Lübeck, the artist articulated the antithesis to an increasingly materialism-oriented progressive thinking. Even today, the beggars, the images of man portrayed by Ernst Barlach, are a challenge to the observer: "We human beings," wrote Barlach, "are essentially all beggars and our existence is problematic. That's why I had to create what I saw, and of course, among all the sufferers, a fraternal feeling grew in me."


This compassion shines through in all the figures Ernst Barlach created, from the peasants and the beggars, those playing music, the readers, dreamers and hopeful ones to the desperate, the fighters and the mourners, the ones in awakening and ecstasy, and those in deep peace and concentration. As much today as in the past, Ernst Barlach's work evokes empathy, the capacity to feel for fellow human beings, to feel responsible for them and for the state of the world. Detached from time and space, they are and remain figures of a better future, powerful, admonishing, comforting and inevitable.


Ernst Barlach is also in Venice as an art-ambassador of the Reformation Anniversary. Martin Luther's great accomplishment 500 years ago was the translation of the Bible into the German language, and its dissemination in words and images. It was this that formed his emancipatory contribution to the transition from the late Middle Ages to modern times, that he initiated the independent relationship between man and God, away from the powerful grasp of the church. By transforming the Bible into German, and in a language that "the mother at home, the children in the street, and the common

man in the market" would understand, he created a new self-image in people and forced the independent dialogue between man and God.


Just as with Martin Luther, for Ernst Barlach the power of change lies in the idea of "spiritual brotherhood", and like Luther, he does not believe in the revolutionary processes of his time. The art of Ernst Barlach relies on the hope that the world can be changed, not "another world, but this world, differently; no life in heaven, but heaven on earth; no end of time, but an end of suffering in a time without end." (Klaus Koenen)


The Comunità Evangelica Luterana di Venezia is the oldest Lutheran congregation in Italy and one of the oldest outside Germany. Even before the first publications of Martin Luther, reformatory ideas attracted interest in the lagoon city. In the center of the "Serenissima Repubblica", the Venetian educated classes felt a strong need for renewal of church and society. When the Inquisition started in 1542, Luther wrote two letters of encouragement to the Protestant-minded people here. From then onwards, the new thinking could not be extinguished, even when most of its followers had to go underground for almost 300 years.


Ernst Barlach - The Skeptic is an exhibition of Ernst Barlach Gesellschaft Hamburg in cooperation with the Comunità Evangelica Luterana di Venezia. It is  mainly sponsored by the VAH, Verein Ausstellungshaus christliche Kunst e.V. Munich and by Luther 2017. Further on financial support is given by German General Consulate Milan and United Evangelical Church of Germany (VELKD).

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Comunità Evangelica Luterana di Venezia

Campo SS. Apostoli

Cannaregio 4448

30121 Venezia



Fone:+ 39 049 8668929


Bernd S. Prigge

Pastor in Venedig

Pastore a Venezia