The exhibition was shown at Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
In the autumn of 2019 Nationalmuseum featured an exhibition on one of the most dramatic moments in history – the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The exhibition took a broad look at what happened within the visual culture during the upheavals of 1989. Global outlooks, Swedish perspectives and high politics met mundane everyday life in an array of documentary photography, portraits, posters, videos and designs. A kaleidoscopic blend of popular and high culture.
The exhibition included works by artists, photographers and designers such as Richard Avedon, Ron Arad, Cecilia Edefalk, Nan Goldin, Willliam Kentridge, Barbara Kruger, Boris Mikhailov, Tracey Moffatt, Ingrid Orfali, Ingegerd Råman, Philippe Starck, Lars Tunbjörk, Pia Wallén and Andres Serrano.
The Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989. The Cold War came to an end and the struggle between liberal capitalism and communism seemed to be over. Eastern Europe was not, however, the only place on earth shaken by political drama. The South African apartheid regime collapsed and on the Tiananmen Square in China, student demonstrations ended with a massacre.
The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe is often seen as the start of global capitalism. Globalisation did not, however, occur only in the field of economics. In 1989, the concept of a World Wide Web was coined at the same time as the first pocket sized mobile telephone was launched. The third edition of the Havana Biennial in 1989 is often described as a milestone in the development towards a globalisation of contemporary art. The late 1980s was also marked by a global tragedy. AIDS, spreading like an epidemic across the world, became a much feared disease.
At the turn of the decades of the 80s and 90s, conflicts about freedom of speech, religious and ethical values flared up in many places. The Iranian leader Khomeini issued a death sentence against Salman Rushdie whilst images by Robert Mapplethorpe caused outrage and protests in the USA. In Sweden, charges were brought against Horst Schröder, publisher of the adult comics magazine ‘POX’, for illegal depictions of violence.
Against this backdrop of social development and political drama, the 1989 exhibition dived into the scene of visual culture at the turn of the 80s and 90s. Global outlooks and Swedish perspectives alternated. High politics met mundane everyday life – illustrated in the form of political resistance posters from Hungary and former Czechoslovakia, pictures of Mexican immigrants on the border to the United States, modernist furniture designs, abortion rights activism, kitsch aesthetics, music videos and restaurant interiors. Conceptually, the exhibition revolved around notions such as freedom versus lack of freedom, borders versus borderless.
The exhibition included documentary photography, portraits, posters, videos and designs by artists, photographers and designers such as Richard Avedon, Ron Arad, Cecilia Edefalk, Nan Goldin, Willliam Kentridge, Barbara Kruger, Boris Mikhailov, Tracey Moffatt, Ingrid Orfali, Ingegerd Råman, Philippe Starck, Lars Tunbjörk, Pia Wallén and Andres Serrano.
Some of the events that took place in 1989 and made it such a special year.
20 January George Bush takes office as President of the United States. He replaces Ronald Reagan.
14 February Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issues a death sentence in the form of a fatwa against Salman Rushdie on publication of the novel The Satanic Verses.
19 February Globe arena opens in Stockholm.
12 March British engineer and researcher Tim Berners-Lee presents an idea that soon becomes known as the World Wide Web.
24 March Environmental disaster in Alaska when 42,000 cubic meters of crude oil leaks from the Exxon Valdez oil tanker.
30 March Roxette's song The Look becomes number one on the Billboard list in the USA.
April Nintendo launches the Game Boy handheld game console.
2 May Hungary begins to tear down the barbed wire fence on the Austria border. This marks the start for dismantling the physical “iron curtain” between Eastern and Western Europe.
4 June Partially free parliamentary elections in Poland where the previously banned Solidarity trade union achieves great success. Student demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in Beijing are beaten back by army units.
27 June Foreign ministers from Hungary and Austria cut a symbolic hole in the barbed wire fence which is part of the border between the two countries.
5 July First pilot episode of the TV series Seinfeld is broadcast in the USA.
July GDR citizens go to the West German embassies in Budapest and Prague demanding to gain access to West Germany. They stay there for a couple of months.
Francis Fukuyama’s article “The end of history?” is published in the summer issue of the American journal The National Interest.
19 August The so-called Pan-European Picnic is held in Sopron, Hungary. In connection with the picnic, 600 citizens from the GDR flee across the border to Austria and then enter West Germany.
23 August In the Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania some two million people form a human chain in a manifestation for independence.
24 August In Poland Tadeusz Mazowiecki is elected as the first non-communist leader of a Warsaw Pact country.
11 September Hungary announces that the c. 13 000 GDR refugees will not be deported to their homeland but will be permitted to travel to Austria.
20 September Apple launches its first portable computer, the Macintosh Portable.
30 September The West German Foreign Minister announces that some 4 000 GDR citizens, who have occupied the country's embassy in Prague, will be allowed to travel to West Germany.
1 October As the first country in the world, Denmark passes a law that makes it possible to register same-sex partnerships.
7 October The Hungarian Communist Party abolishes itself by transforming into the Hungarian Socialist Party.
9 October 70 000 East Germans demonstrate in Leipzig. The demonstrations are repeated each week with increasing numbers of participants.
18 October GDR leader Erich Honecker resigns and is replaced by Egon Krenz.
November The first rave party in Sweden is held in Gothenburg.
4 November More than a million people demonstrate in Berlin.
9 November The border crossings in the Berlin Wall are opened.
10 November As a result of widespread popular protests and dissatisfaction within Bulgaria's communist party, leader Todor Zhivkov is dismissed and replaced by the more reform-friendly Petar Mladenov.
15 November In an article in Dagens Nyheter Karl Erik Lagerlöf warns of a catastrophic future climate change caused by fossil fuels.
16 December The revolution in Romania begins with a demonstration in Timișoara, in protest against the regime’s attempt to silence the outspoken cleric László Tőkés. More than a hundred demonstrators were killed but the security forces Securitate.
17 December First episode of the TV series Simpsons broadcast in the USA.
25 December The Ceaușescu couple are charged with genocide and high-level corruption and, following a summary trial, were sentenced to death and executed by firing squad.
The political upheavals in Eastern Europe continued in the ensuing years. Free elections were held in a number of countries, the two German states were reunited on October 3, 1990, and the Soviet Union was dissolved at the end of 1991. In Yugoslavia, events following the collapse of communism led to a protracted war.