TO BE SEEN. queer lives 19OO–195O

Oct. 7, 2022 until May 21, 2023

TO BE SEEN is an exhibition devoted to the stories of LGBTQI+ in Germany in the first half of the twentieth century. Through historical testimony and artistic positions from then and now, it traces queer lives and networks, the areas of freedom enjoyed by LGBTQI+, and the persecution they suffered.

The exhibition takes an intimate look at a variety of genders, bodies, and identities. It shows how queer life became ever more visible during the 1920s, giving rise to a more open treatment of role models and of desire. During this period, homosexual, trans, and non-binary people achieved their first successes in their fight for equal rights and social acceptance. They organized, fought for scientific and legal recognition of their gender identity, and carved out their own spaces.

But as recognition and visibility in art and culture, science, politics, and society increased, so did resistance. After the Nazis came to power, the LGBTQI+ subculture was largely destroyed. After 1945, their stories and fates were scarcely archived or remembered. 

Patron of the exhibition is Claudia Roth, Minister of State for Culture and the Media.

The exhibition is funded by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation) and by the Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media).


Katharina Aigner, Maximiliane Baumgartner, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Claude Cahun, Zackary Drucker & Marval Rex, El Palomar, Nicholas Grafia, Philipp Gufler, Richard Grune, Lena Rosa Händle, Hannah Höch, Paul Hoecker, Nina Jirsíková, Germaine Krull, Elisar von Kupffer, Zoltán Lesi & Ricardo Portilho, Herbert List, Heinz Loew, Jeanne Mammen, Michaela Melián, Henrik Olesen, Emil Orlik, Max Peiffer Watenphul, Jonathan Penca, Lil Picard, Karol Radziszewski, Alexander Sacharoff, Gertrude Sandmann, Christian Schad, Renée Sintenis, Mikołaj Sobczak, Wolfgang Tillmans and others.

Accompanying program and publication

The exhibition will be supplemented by a broad range of accompanying and educational events on such topics as local city history, intersectionality, drag, and queer identity in literature and film.

The accompanying publication is a collection of texts and artworks from the exhibition as well as essays by important contributors on queer lives in the past and present as seen from a scientific and social perspective. The book in German and English will be published in November 2022 by Hirmer Verlag. Contributions by Gürsoy Doğtaş, Michaela Dudley, Sander L. Gilman, Dagmar Herzog, Ulrike Klöppel, Ben Miller, Cara Schweitzer, Sébastien Tremblay.