The construction fence in front of the new museum building of the Nationalgalerie will showcase rotating artistic-graphic designs in the future. The works will always be related to the collection’s focal point in the new building: the 20th century from an artistic perspective. Viewers will see and experience that a new social space, a place of art that wants to tie into Berlin’s urban society, is being created here.

The Nationalgalerie will use a work by the artist Hans Haacke to start “Art on the Construction Fence,” in order to set an example for an open, culturally diverse and tolerant society.

The project is supported by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

„Wir (alle) sind das Volk“

Haacke’s work, Wir (alle) sind das Volk (We (All) Are the People), can be seen along the construction site as art in the public space from May to October 2021. The statement appears in twelve languages and refers to the world-famous slogan of the 1989 Peaceful Revolution in the GDR, although in recent times the statement has been reinterpreted by right-wing extremists.

Haacke expanded the slogan: He added “alle” in parentheses, translated it into many languages and flanked it with rainbow colors. His point is to recognize cultural diversity and diverse forms of life beyond ethnic and national borders.

The Idea Behind the Work

The concept idea for Wir (alle) sind das Volk began in 2003 for the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church) in Leipzig and was part of documenta 14 in Kassel and Athens. As in many of his works, Haacke makes use of familiar signals, elements or colors from both cultural history and the language of advertising. Haacke’s choice of languages for each version comes from the composition of the migrant and refugee segment of the local community. The languages on the most recent construction fence version in Berlin are Arabic, Bulgarian, German, English, Farsi (Dari), French, Croatian, Polish, Russian, Romanian, Tigrinya (a language in Ethiopia/Eritrea) and Turkish. For Berlin, Haacke added an up-to-date New York variation to the documenta version


as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. In it, black and white are inter-connected more completely and the rainbow colors, which only flank the sides of the documenta version, fill up the whole background.

Since 2003, the intervention has been shown in various cities around the world, including Berlin, Bratislava, Brussels, Chemnitz, Copenhagen, Dresden, Ghent, Halle (Saale), Leipzig, Madrid, New York, Munich, Ramallah, and Zurich. Haacke adapts the work to the location, mounting it on the facades of cultural institutions or street furniture such as bus stops and telephone booths

Who Are “Wir”? Who are “Alle”?

Throughout the 20th century, the term “Volk” (people) played an ambivalent and often ominous role in Germany. The parenthesized “(ALLE) (ALL)” rattles viewers and invites them to draw their own conclusions from the statement offered. Without a period, exclamation mark or question mark, the statement is deliberately left open: Who are “wir”? and Who are “alle”? As Hans Haacke explained: “,Wir (alle) sind das Volk‘ reinforces our connection to all migrants and refugees who are exposed to virulent xenophobia, racism and mortally dangerous religious conflicts in many countries of the world.”

Hans Haacke in the Nationalgalerie Collection

Since its founding in the late 19th century, the Nationalgalerie collection has by definition been intensively investigating the changing ideas of a “national” self-image. Due to its history of division, the Nationalgalerie has access to an especially diverse store of works from West and East Germany, which will be a focal point in the new building.

The Nationalgalerie collection includes three early works by Hans

Haacke, “Realzeitsysteme” (real-time systems), which are three small model-like sculptures: Les Couloirs de Marienbad (1962), Beengter Fluß (1965) and Kondensationswürfel (1963/65). They can be seen as the forerunners of an art that is understood to be ecological, as they show people as being equally integrated into biological, socio-cultural, and political systems. Hans Haacke explores this idea again in his current work, Wir (alle) sind das Volk.

Hans Haacke

Hans Haacke, a consistently politically critical artist, was born in Cologne in 1936 and has lived in New York City for more than five decades. Haacke frequently investigates the issue of how national identity can be depicted visually. His work Der Bevölkerung (1999/2000; To the Population), which is displayed in the inner courtyard of the Reichstag Building in Berlin, is famous. Neon letters are surrounded by soil that Members of Parliament brought from their constituencies, showing a

constantly changing update of the inscription “Dem deutschen Volke” (1915; To the German People) above the building’s entrance. 

Together with Nam June Paik, Haacke was awarded the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale for designing the German pavilion in 1993. He was awarded the Kaiserring (Emperor’s Ring) of the city of Goslar, one of the most important art awards in the German-speaking region, in 2021.