Café Sibylle – Fashion and Everyday Life in the GDR

On Berlin's Karl-Marx-Allee, the socialist boulevard, the GDR once built its palaces for the workers in the style of Stalinist sugar-coated architecture. At that time, the coffee house located in the neighbourhood bore the name "Café Sibylle" – a direct allusion to the popular women's magazine of the same name, Sibylle, whose editors and models regularly met there and even held fashion shows. 

Sibylle, the magazine for fashion and culture, first appeared in 1956 and was the leading fashion magazine in the GDR for over three decades. It was published by the Berlin Fashion Institute and was even considered as "East Vogue". Some of the best female photographers in East Germany worked for the magazine, including Ute Mahler, Sibylle Bergemann and Evelyn Richter, while Gundula Schulze Eldowy focused on people in their everyday lives in the Berlin environment. 

The works of these four photographers reflect both the social and economic sensitivities of the GDR and the desires and longings of its citizens. They are pictures full of atmosphere, with extraordinary pictorial ideas and masterful compositions. They sometimes show self-confident, professional, emancipated women – an image of women far removed from old clichés.

The works presented all come from the F.C. Gundlach Collection and are largely on permanent loan to the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen Hamburg.

Curators: Dr. Gerald A. Matt and Sebastian Lux (F.C. Gundlach Foundation/Hamburg)