“A New World” – The Story behind the Picture

A photograph exhibited at the Berlinische Galerie in 2012, showing a baby in a pram at the heart of the former ‘death strip’ at the Berlin Wall, quickly became a favourite with the public. The artist who took the picture in 1990 is Alfredo Jaar. The native Chilean captures many emotions with this photo, which is actually of his son. Nicolas Jaar, now 24 years old, is a world-renowned worldwide musician and producer, at least as well-known as his father. Alfredo Jaar’s photograph bears the title “A New World”.

Alfredo Jaar, „A New World“
In 1990, artist Alfredo Jaar photographed his six-month-old son on the former death strip on Potsdamer Platz

We asked the artist how he came to take this shot. His response was very personal:

“I was living in New York when the Wall came down and I followed this extraordinary event with a mix of emotions and fascination. I moved to Berlin in 1990 on a DAAD fellowship. It was my second visit, as I had visited Berlin before in 1987, after my participation in ‘documenta 8’ in Kassel. At the time we visited the city extensively, on both sides of the border.
My son had just been born in 1990 and I was anxious about the new life ahead for him, and for my wife and I as a couple. I immediately saw the parallels between our situation and the two sides of Germany being reunited. There were many questions in the air about the reunification as it was a new reality, for both parts of the country, for Europe and the whole world. And our son was also a new reality for us. It truly was a ‘new world’.
As an artist, I wanted to represent this special moment in my life, my son’s life, my family’s life, and that extraordinary new geopolitical reality that the world was about to face after the Wall came down — and that possibly meant the end of the Cold War. This is how ‘A New World’ was born.”

Alfredo Jaar, born in 1956, lives and works in New York. His work has appeared in some of the world’s foremost museums and has been shown in numerous exhibitions. Frequent themes of his installations, film and photography repertoire are political conflict and protest. Under the title “The way it is. An aesthetic of resistance”, no fewer than three Berlin-based museums dedicated a wide-ranging retrospective to his oeuvre: the Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V., the Alte Nationalgalerie as well as the Berlinische Galerie, where the photograph “A New World” was also shown.

Gallery Thomas Schulte, Berlin
www.galeriethomasschulte.de, www.alfredojaar.net

Text: Linda-Luise Bickenbach
Photo: Alfredo Jaar, „A New World“, 1990, 5 pigment prints on ar chival paper, 120 x 180 cm each, Edition of 3 + 2 AP. Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin and the artist
Header Photo: Copyright Landesarchiv Berlin, Foto H. Sailer, Berliner Mauer; Potsdamer Platz (Tiergarten/Mitte), F Rep. 290 (02) Nr. 0115295