I’VE SEEN THE WALL
LOUIS ARMSTRONG ON TOUR IN THE GDR 1965
16.9.2023 – 4.2.2024
DAS MINSK Kunsthaus in Potsdam will present the exhibition I’ve Seen the Wall in the fall of 2023, focusing on the legendary concert tour that led Louis Armstrong through the GDR in 1965.
In the midst of the Cold War, the African American jazz musician performed in East Berlin, Leipzig, Magdeburg, Erfurt, and Schwerin. The tour was very tightly scheduled with 17 concerts in just nine days. The halls, with a capacity of no less than 2,000 to 3,000 seats, were quickly sold out—around 45,000 people experienced Louis Armstrong and his All Stars live in the GDR.
The exhibition at DAS MINSK takes this historic event as its starting point for an examination of the ambivalence of this official invitation against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the United States and the Iron Curtain in Europe. Central questions in the exhibition are: What does it mean to tour the world, to visit oppressive systems and dictatorships in the name of freedom? What does it mean to repeatedly experience recognition and racism at the same time on the road and to return home to be confronted with racism all over again?
Armstrong’s performance in the GDR is a sign of freedom, even if only for the duration of the show. It is a sobering observation that has been true for centuries in regard to Black music. Experiencing the love and amazement of the public on the stage contradicts the difficulties that the musicians were, and continue to be, confronted with backstage. Can love and hate, worldwide success and oppression, recognition and racism coexist?
I’ve Seen the Wall assembles paintings, photographs, archival materials, and installations by Terry Adkins, Louis Armstrong, Pina Bausch, Romare Bearden, Peter Brötzmann, Darol Olu Kae, Norman Lewis, Glenn Ligon, Jason Moran, Gordon Parks, Dan Perjovschi, Adrian Piper, Evelyn Richter, Lorna Simpson, Willi Sitte, Wadada Leo Smith, Rosemarie Trockel, Andy Warhol, and Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt.
Material will also be exhibited from the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York, as well as from the holdings of the Sammlung Berliner Verlag / Archiv and the Agentur DDR Fotoerbe, including photographs by Kurt Böttger, Manfred Dressel, Christa Hochneder, Volkhard Kühl, Tassilo Leher, Peter Leske, Helmut Raddatz, and Horst E. Schulze. In the fourth installment of the INTERPLAY series, an original trumpet by Louis Armstrong from the holdings of the Louis Armstrong House Museum is juxtaposed with a work by Andy Warhol from the Hasso Plattner Collection. The exhibition is curated by Paola Malavassi and Jason Moran.
The exhibition is created in close collaboration with the Louis Armstrong House Museum (LAHM) in Corona, Queens, New York. With special thanks to the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. The exhibition is co-curated by jazz pianist, composer, and visual artist Jason Moran, who also curated the permanent exhibition in the LAHM’s new Louis Armstrong Center, which opened in summer 2023.
The exhibition at DAS MINSK is accompanied by a catalog published by Hatje Cantz Verlag with essays by Tina M. Campt, Paola Malavassi, and Jason Moran.