Leipzig Annual Exhibition: The debate about AfD-close painter Axel Krause continues

Debate about AfD-related painters in Leipzig
:“We should have endured it”

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    Ingeborg Ruthe

In hall 12 of the Leipzig cotton mill.

In hall 12 of the Leipzig cotton mill. The annual exhibition started Wednesday afternoon, in front of the box “Bad society” by Felix Leffrank.


Dirk Knofe / Picturework.eu

The painter Axel Krause describes himself these days as a “degenerate artist”. His proximity to the AfD and its refugee policy had led to fierce discussions and finally to the exclusion of the artist in the run-up to the Leipzig annual exhibition. The annual exhibition will take place without his works, but the debate continues.


Inforadio MDR announced three days ago, in the southwestern part of Saxony, the earth had quaked. A seismic shock – luckily without damage. Still more shook and rumbled in the art scene of the Saxon metropolis Leipzig. With damage.

From the opened on Wednesday, the 26th Annual Exhibition in the art area of the former cotton mill, which had been canceled a week ago, an AfD-close painter was excluded. That was the reason for the scandal. Fellow artists thought his participation unbearable. He was “undemocratically marginalized”, complained the affected Axel Krause, born in 1959, as a result. He posted on Facebook, now he was a “degenerate artist”, his case would “in its consequence, perhaps the AfD half a percentage point in the state elections” bring.

Painter Axel Krause refers to “freedom of dissenters” – and has a striking argument

Since then, the comments outnumbered in the social media, collect hate mail against the exhibition organizers, report the media almost continuously.

The painter Axel Krause has an AfD-close position on refugee policy, which he posts on Facebook and represents in right-wing media. He refers to the “freedom of dissenters” as once demanded by Rosa Luxemburg. And thus has a striking argument that even Saxony’s SPD Art Minister can not do much to counter. Eva Stange told the Leipziger Volkszeitung that the AfD was a democratically elected party and that exclusion was the wrong way to go.

The annual exhibition in Leipzig shows strong female positions

Wednesday noon, workshop 12. Spinnereistrasse. The gate is wide open, the traces of the nightly rain are eliminated. The 26th Annual Art Exhibition begins. The war of nerves because of the shortly before announced rejection should be forgotten. At the entrance on the left an empty white wall, on it the letters: “Freedom of Art – Art of Freedom”. There are papers and pens. The audience should write down their opinion, which is then pinned to the wall. It should be a conceptual art installation of grassroots freedom of expression. The opposite of what was just so wrong. On the walls in the room you can see a lot of painting: landscapes, plants, couples, family, friend scenes, mostly figurative, figurative, even experimental abstract. Everything artisanly sovereign, the motives directed to problems of the present: living together, existentials such as wars, crises, climate catastrophe.

Excluded: Axel Krause's "The Butcher's Dream".

Excluded: Axel Krause’s “The Butcher’s Dream”.


G. Franz / Vg Picture Art Bonn 2019

Strong female positions catch your eye. Laura Eckert has placed a body made of oak parquet slats with leg stumps on the floor of the hall, calls the torso-shaped figure “somnambulist”, but it also makes one think of Marsyas being skinned by the gods. Metaphors have always been typical of Leipzig’s art. This is also what Nelly Schmcking’s existential animal sculptures of mounted parts, natural and plastic material say.

Exclusion of AfD-close painter met with criticism

You can see what was created last year in Leipzig’s studio. A performance show, which has already made 700 Leipzig artists known for 26 years, also a very important economic show in the scene of the city, now threatened by gentrification and studio rent-driving. This is emphasized by Katrin Haucke from Verein Jahresausstellung eV She is his long-time exhibition assistant and one of those who would have tolerated it if Krause had exhibited. After all, art should stimulate debate – in other words positioning.

Now many say that it was wrong to exclude Krause. As much as his political opinion polarizes and contradicts hers. But the group dynamics were enormous. Katrin Hauke explains: “Our association works grassroots. This is exhausting, tough, time-consuming. We underestimated the force of the polemic. “The Sddeutsche Zeitung judges almost haughtily about the” naivety of the curators “.

Axel Krause is said to have used the dispute over his participation in the annual exhibition

A public debate scheduled for Tuesday evening in the Kunstmuseum – where “Stadtgesellschaft” wanted to debate the incident – caused Axel Krause to burst at short notice. His cancellation came via Facebook. He had counted on the Brgerpodium a representative of the AfD-related Desiderius Erasmus Foundation next to know. He refused, he had been invited “not officially”.

Thereupon Krause left for foreign countries. The dispute benefited him, because it brought good sales, although his Leipzig gallery owner Kleinschmidt had already deleted him from the list of artists months ago. The AfD, which sits in the art advisory committee of the Bundestag, provided for a purchase in the state collection.

Artist Felix Leffrank refers in a new work to Axel Krause’s painting

The Honorary Annual Exhibition Chairman Rainer Schade, emeritus graphic professor, was in the workshop before the vernissage and said that the dispute had all rolled over like a wave. The discussion about the exhibition, especially in the social media, the partly aggressive style of the language is a frightening “reflection of society”. That was “generally surprised”. Also overwhelmed.

“We should have endured Krause in our exhibition,” says the young artist Felix Leffrank. He has therefore created a completely new work, which refers explicitly to Krause – now because of the wrong decision not issued paintings – Leffrank built a box on paper table legs, illuminated in laurel plantlets and front of a monitor. A video is playing. Title “Bad Society”. You see a painter and his “evil twin”. Both join in and paint, layer by layer, all motifs from the subconscious. They keep in contact with the outside world via the Internet. “Like a plant in a dark box stretches out towards the light, works of art are also created in the solitude of the studio …”, says Leffrank to his equanimous installation, which is based on Krause’s AfD thought.