The nGbK association celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, making this a good moment to look back to its origins in 1969. Let us recall the political climate at that time: Both the Federal Republic of Germany (BRD) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) are turning twenty years old. The Nazi era is not yet in the distant past. Those born and raised in its wake are now coming of age and facing their first ever election. It is their votes that will help bring about a change of government in West Germany that year, a turning point that will go down in history as »epochal«. In his inaugural address, the newly elected Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt will use the term »society« twenty times.
»Dare More Democracy« is the rallying cry for the electoral campaign of summer 1969. Democracy is at stake likewise in the auditorium of the University of Fine Arts Berlin. More specifically, the question is how individual citizens can shape society—a new society—in this particular case, in the sphere of the visual arts.
And looking back brings another thing to light: Memories of the days when art was declared degenerate and the cultural sector coopted to propagandistic ends are still vivid back then. This explains the crucial need to not leave decisions on artistic and cultural matters, exhibition themes, and art education to organs of the state but to reach them transparently and through public participation.
Many founding members of the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst (NGBK; now nGbK; New Society of Visual Art) are not yet twenty-five. But this is no youthful folly. For those whose parents have been molded by fascism and war, democracy is an imperative and a personal responsibility.
It is well worth looking back, now democracy is again being put to the test. For us, the matter is clear: in the year 2019 we at the nGbK intend to visibly resist the swing to the right happening here and all over Europe. People in the arts and cultural sector must make a stand, must use the arts as a channel of free expression, must resolutely champion an open and diverse society. The nGbK since its foundation has been a place driven by critiques—always in connection with the never-ending quest for new horizons. Its members set themes that are questioning and provocative, challenging the public to keep on thinking things through.
In fifty years we will look back again.