Willi Sitte: The Retrospective


The last comprehensive exhibitions of Willi Sitte's work took place in the 1980s and thus still in GDR times: on the occasion of the artist's 60th birthday in 1981 in the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale), in 1982 in the West Berlin Kunsthalle and in 1986, on the artist's 65th birthday, in the Nationalgalerie in East Berlin. In reunified Germany, there has been no retrospective and only a limited objective exploration of Sitte's artistic œuvre. This desideratum and challenge was addressed by the exhibition Sitte's World on the occasion of the artist's 100th birthday in 2021.

On the one hand, there is the person Willi Sitte as a visual artist; on the other hand, there is the cultural politician Willi Sitte, who was able to and did have a decisive influence, both positive and negative, on the biographies of artists as well as on general cultural policy in the GDR. These two sides of Willi Sitte's personality have made an objective examination of his work since 1989 difficult and to a large extent impossible. Initially, discussions focused on Sitte the politician, which for a long time hindered or prevented an investigation of his work.

While major solo exhibitions of the work of his fellow artists Wolfgang Mattheuer (2017, Rostock, Zwolle/NL), Werner Tübke (2009, Leipzig) and Bernhard Heisig (2005/06, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Berlin) have taken place in recent years, a retrospective of Willi Sitte's work 30 years after the reunification of the two German states and 40 years since the last exhibition of his work in 1981 at the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale) is yet to come. The most recent exhibitions in 2018/19 at the Kunsthalle Rostock (Willi Sitte and Fritz Cremer in Dialogue) and the integration of his works in survey exhibitions (East German Painting and Sculpture 1949–1990, Albertinum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2018/19; Utopia and Downfall, Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, 2019/20) were not capable of changing this.

The reasons for the missing museum examination of Willi Sitte lie, among other things, in the events surrounding the artist's written vorlass, which he handed over to the German Art Archive in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, in the 1990s. Based on this material, an exhibition was to be held there in 2001 on Sitte's 80th birthday. It was initially postponed by the museum and subsequently cancelled by the artist. In addition, Sitte had already banned the exhibition of his works in the new federal states immediately after the peaceful revolution in 1989. Finally, the Willi Sitte Foundation, which was established in 2003, and the part of his artistic vorlass/estate contained therein were not located in Halle (Saale) but in neighbouring Merseburg. In 2021, the foundation was dissolved due to serious financial problems.

It was the artist's wish during his lifetime that his estate find a permanent home in the Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, today's Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale). This could not be realised due to the people acting at the time. In the course of preparing the retrospective in 2021, the artist's heirs and the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale) agreed to take over numerous works on permanent loan to the museum's collections as a first step. Many of them have been part of the retrospective in autumn/winter 2021/22.


Willi Sitte: Unsere Jugend, 1962, 4-teilig, Öl und Collage auf Hartfaser, 204 x 484 cm, Kulturstiftung Sachsen-Anhalt, Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle (Saale), Foto: Punctum/Bertram Kober © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

With the friendly support of

In cooperation with


Willi Sitte: The Retrospective

03.10.2021 — 06.02.2022


Thomas Bauer-Friedrich and Dr. Paul Kaiser, Dresden, with the collaboration Dr. Eckhart Gillen, Berlin, and Dr. Dorit Litt, Bonn

The exhibition will be on view in an adapted version at the Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle, the Netherlands, in 2023.