Rudi Weissenstein – Exile and Photography

Photographs by Rudi Weissenstein, Ellen Auerbach and Christian Boltanski

Opening: Thursday, 25 July 2019, 6pm – 9pm
Speech by Prof. Dr. Liliane Weissberg, University of Pennsylvania

26 July – 21 September 2019
Curated by Dr. Sarah Hadda
Fasanenstrasse 27, 10719 Berlin

Opening hours

Monday to Friday 10 am– 6 pm
Saturday 11am – 4pm

Rudi Weissenstein (1910 Iglau, Bohemia - 1992 Tel Aviv) was one of Israel’s greatest photographers.  In documenting daily life in the early days of the emerging Jewish State, his key theme was the dream of a homeland.

His images are optimistic, yet upon closer inspection, they reveal the complex psyches and ambivalent emotions of the men and women in exile. The topics of hope, of developing and building up, and identity are recurring motifs in Weissenstein’s oeuvre. Haunted by the loss of his old homeland and driven by this experience, his images highlight the role that identity has for the creation of a new society. In this process, the experiences of individuals as well as the collective memory are key. His life in Palestine is an example of how diverse the conditions could be for photographers from Germany. Like many other émigrés, Rudi Weissenstein was forced to rebuild his livelihood from nothing with his Pri Or studio (Hebrew for “photo house”), in which he sold portraits of tourists or Israeli soldiers or snapshots taken on the beach.

The photographic artist Ellen Auerbach (1906 Karlsruhe – 2004 New York City), who emigrated three years earlier in 1933, followed a similar path. In Tel Aviv, she opened a small studio specialized on children’s portraits called Ishon (Hebrew for “eyeball” or “pupil”) together with her friend Liselotte Grschebina. Her life’s journey would eventually take her farther afield to London and New York. We are grateful to the Berlin Academy of Arts for lending us the works by Ellen Auerbach included in the exhibition, which allow the topic of exile and photography to be addressed in greater depth. 

The exhibition also presents works by the artist Christian Boltanski (*1944 – currently living in Paris). Boltanski’s photo-wall montage entitled Die Jüdische Schule (The Jewish School), from his “Frozen Leopard II” portfolio, (1992), pays homage to some of the Holocaust’s forgotten victims who, in the words of Siegfried Kracauer, appear to have been “buried under a blanket of snow”.

The exhibition of works by Weissenstein that have never been shown before, in synergy with works by his contemporary Ellen Auerbach, investigates the art-historical aspects of Weissenstein’s photographic art. At the same time, it highlights and palpably drives home the overarching theme of remembrance via the connection formed with the works by Christian Boltanski – remembrance both at the individual as well as at the collective level.

The exhibition will be opened on July 25, 2019, at 6pm at Fasanenstrasse 27 in Berlin. Professor Dr. Liliane Weissberg (University of Pennsylvania) will give the introductory lecture.


Anna Ballestrem

T 030 885 915 4490


Press contact:

Sarah Buschor

T 030 885 915 65


You can download the price list here.

Exhibition view