April 22, 2023 to January 7, 2024

(Not) A Doll’s House
Traditional Roles and Brand-New Images

    As part of the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s Farewell Program "Until we meet again", admission to all exhibitions is free until January 7, 2024.

    (Not) A Doll’s House. Traditional Roles and Brand-New Images

    Contemporary Art from the Sammlung Goetz in the Puppet Theater / Fairground Attraction Collection

    Puppets and dolls ("Puppe" in German) figure in our lives in a myriad of ways be it in children’s bedrooms, fairgrounds or on the stage and indeed enjoy an enduring appeal. They intrigue us both as figurative replicas of human beings and as embodiments of our innermost wishes, fears, and desires. They hold up a mirror to society and all its role models past and present. The Münchner Stadtmuseum Puppet Theater/Fairground Attraction Collection, with its abundance of puppets, is one of the largest such collections worldwide. Alongside hand and rod puppets, marionettes, and shadow puppets, it includes curiosities such as the Theatrum Mundi, as well as bequests of entire puppet show booths with all their decor. In the 1980s, the collection widened its scope to include variety entertainment, circuses, and curiosity shows, focusing specifically on fairground attractions.

    The Puppet Theater / Fairground Attraction Collection was a Münchner Stadtmuseum permanent exhibition on puppeteering history for over 30 years during which time it penned its own chapter for the annals of history. "(Not) A Doll’s House. Traditional Roles and Brand-New Images" is the result of interdisciplinary cooperation with the Sammlung Goetz and the Münchner Stadtmuseum Photography Collection. With the impending refurbishment and temporary close-down of the museum, it has seized the opportunity to stimulate a dialog between the museum’s collections and contemporary artworks and to explore new approaches to implementing sustainable exhibition design.

    The exhibition title clearly refers to "A Doll’s House" by Henrik Ibsen, a play in which the heroine steps free from her "doll-like existence" within marriage; it also deconstructs the homely, seemingly placid world of the doll’s house. Children are not alone in delighting in dolls and puppets; adults too appreciate them as collectors’ items, cult objects, substitutes for a child, fetishes, and sex objects.

    This ambivalence also emerges in works by visual artists from both the Sammlung Goetz and the Photography Collection that examine dolls and puppets from multiple angles. The exhibition presents around 500 pieces by over 50 artists and artisans, grouped thematically. It focuses specifically on historical and current roles and aspects of human interaction.

    Visitors enter the exhibition through the projection of a theater curtain from "Floating Food", a film installation by Ulrike Ottinger. They then discover a display case filled with over 400 historical doll’s heads, in frequently exaggerated and occasionally racist caricature representing almost every human physiognomy. These are contrasted with sculptures by Thomas Schütte that touch on deeper psychological issues. In addition, an emblematic selection of photographs will summon up a diverse range of images of man within society.

    Puppets’ objecthood makes them a screen on which human fantasies can be projected, a kind of plaything. They take on forms that can be repulsive, grotesque, or stereotypical, and often make them a target for acts of violence. This is particularly evident in Nathalie Djurberg’s childlike claymation films, which are projected onto an original Punch and Judy puppet show booth.

    Figures from "Woyzeck on the Highveld," a 1992 production staged by William Kentridge with the Handspring Puppet Company, setting Büchner’s "Woyzeck" in a 1950s Johannesburg migrant worker milieu, are shown in close proximity to "Zeno Writing" (2002), a video by Kentridge which draws on Italo Svevo’s novel "Zeno’s Conscience" to explore the precise ways in which identities evolved in the run-up to the First World War.

    "Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale" (2011), a shadow-puppet video by Kara Walker addressing racism, sexism and violence using cutout paper silhouettes, is juxtaposed with Ernst-Moritz Engert’s shadow figures for "Kasperl bei den Wilden" (1952) and a cutout silhouette for Lotte Reiniger’s animated film "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" (1923).

    Harry Kramer’s "Mechanical Theater" (1957) and Paweł Althamer’s "Bródno People" (2002) are set midway between a futuristic spirit of new beginnings and an existential dystopia.

    A life-size female wax figure from the 1930s, formerly displayed in a curiosity show, served to engage the visitors’ interest in anatomy and titillate their erotic imaginations. Herbert List’s surrealistic photographs of similar wax figures from the Prater fairground in Vienna seek comparable effects. This fascination with curiosities and monstrosities persists even to this day. Indeed, it can be seen in Ulrike Ottinger’s film "Prater," which transports its audience to one of the oldest amusement parks in the world.

    Our interdisciplinary cooperation "(Not) A Doll’s House. Traditional Roles and Brand-New Images" takes a critical eye to the Münchner Stadtmuseum Puppet Theater / Fairground Attraction permanent exhibition as displayed from 1984 to 2022. For this purpose, we deconstructed the spatial design of the rooms and added new presentations to certain segments, thereby allowing for fresh interpretative possibilities and affording a glimpse behind the scenes into the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s past and future.

    Our exhibition includes artworks by Joseph Albert, Diane Arbus, Nobuyoshi Araki, Roger Ballen, Ellen Gallagher, André Gelpke, Maria Luiko, Stefan Moses, Lotte Pritzel, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, August Sander, Thomas Schütte and many more.

    (Not) A Doll’s House. Traditional Roles and Brand-New Images: Curators in conversation

    Web App (Not) A Doll’s House

    The Sammlung Goetz has developed a web-based application with self-guided audio tour for the “(Not) A Doll’s House. Traditional Roles and Brand-New Images” exhibition.

    Bring your cell phone and earphones along, and enjoy your interactive visit to the show!

    Scan the QR exhibition code and listen at your leisure to the Wi-Fi audio guide and explore this brand-new App.

    Plan Your Visit

    Opening hours

    Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
    Closed on Mondays

    Every 2nd Wednesday of the month selected exhibitions at the Münchner Stadtmuseum are open until 8 pm.

    Every 2nd Friday of the month the exhibition "Here Comes the Night. Club Culture in Munich" is open until 10 pm.

    Filmmuseum München – Screenings
    Tuesday / Wednesday / Friday / Saturday 6 pm and 9 pm
    Thursday 7 pm
    Sunday 5 pm

    As part of the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s Farewell Program “Until we meet again!”, admission to all exhibitions is free until January 7, 2024.


    Getting here

    S/U-Bahn station: Marienplatz
    U-Bahn station: Sendlinger Tor
    Bus 52/62 stop: St.-Jakobs-Platz


    St.-Jakobs-Platz 1
    80331 München
    Phone +49-(0)89-233-22370
    Fax +49-(0)89-233-25033
    E-Mail stadtmuseum(at)muenchen.de
    E-Mail filmmuseum(at)muenchen.de

    Ticket reservation Phone +49-(0)89-233-24150