Portraits and Fashion from Sibylle. My view of the current exhibition.

The magazine Sibylle

The magazine for fashion and culture "Sibylle" was a women's magazine founded in 1956 in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). The founder was the German costume designer, painter and fashion journalist Sibylle Boden-Gerstner. After her fashion conceptions in the GDR were criticized as "too French", she left the editorship in 1961. She died in 2016.

Cover SIBYLLE, 1964/2, © Foto: Günter Rössler, © Reproduktionsfoto: Werner Mahler

Cover SIBYLLE, 1964/2, © Foto: Günter Rössler, © Reproduktionsfoto: Werner Mahler

The magazine appeared six times a year from 1956 and was considered as "East Vogue". The typical suggestions of the women's magazines was deliberately omitted. In this respect, Sibylle in East Germany is not quite comparable with the magazine Brigitte in West Germany The heartpiece of the magazine were the fashion photographs with their own style, as the exhibition in Rüsselsheim shows.

After the political changes in the former GDR which ushered to the German reunification the magazine was not economically successful any longer. It was finally discontinued in 1995 for financial reasons. The well-known photographer André Rival was the last art director of the magazine.

The exhibition

The exhibition presents the Sibylle photographers with about 200 photographs by Sibylle Bergemann, Arno Fischer, Ute Mahler, Werner Mahler, Sven Marquardt, Elisabeth Meinke, Roger Melis, Hans Praefke, Günter Rössler, Rudolf Schäfer, Wolfgang Wandelt, Michael Weidt and Ulrich Wüst.

Ute Mahler, Martina und Maren, Lehnitz, 1984, © Ute Mahler

Ute Mahler, Martina und Maren, Lehnitz, 1984, © Ute Mahler

The photographs are mostly black and white and were taken in public places. It is noticeable, especially in the older pictures from the early days of the magazine, that many fashion photos are embedded in everyday scenes and locations of the working world. The women look self-confident, elegant and at the same time natural. This happened far beyond today's popular lifestyle backgrounds like coffee bars and lofts. Fashion photographs in front of factories and chimneys or Trabant cars belonged to it. In addition, many photos also have the character of portraits.

"The woman should be wise and natural, no longer sophisticated and ladylike." (Quote of the curator of the exhibition, Dr. Beate Kemfert)

Even if the locations show the "real" environment in everyday life or at least do not conceal it, the clothes and models, especially in the later decades, have a certain contrast and are increasingly in contrast to the locations.

"When the discrepancy between the socialist ideal and social reality became more and more open, the younger photographers found the most uncompromising pictures." (Dr. Beate Kemfert)

In the magazine Sibylle the photographers found a high degree of artistic freedom. Perhaps because fashion in the GDR was politically unsuspecting?

Sibylle photographers today are important representatives of the GDR photography. Some are still active today. The couple Horst and Ute Mahler are, for example, Co-founder of the renowned photo agency Ostkreuz - Agentur der Fotografen GmbH.

The Opelvillen

Fritz Opel, the son of the founder of the German automobile manufacturer Opel, bought a villa on the River Main in Rüsselsheim in 1920 and built a second villa next door. Until his death in 1938, Fritz Opel lived in the mansion, which he described as "Palace on the River Main". Various uses subsequently ensued. Today, the villas are used by the "Kunst- und Kulturstiftung Opelvillen Rüsselsheim".

The very interesting exhibition in the Opelvillen in Rüsselsheim can be seen until 26.11.2017. Rüsselsheim is a German small town near Frankfurt am Main. Further information about the exhibition is available at www.opelvillen.de .



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