Lothar Wolleh was a German photographer.
Berlin, Germany 1930 - 1979 London, England.


The Museum that can Survive the Nuclear War

Lothar Wolleh
  • Author Oliver Wolleh
  • Work Portrait

A craving for security and ‚preparing for survival‘ were the cornerstones of Lothar Wolleh’s mental and emotional map. For him, these impulses led to the strong desire for a museum that could survice the end of time.

In Berlin Mitte, the Boros Collection is housed in a towering World War II bunker. No doubt Lothar Wolleh would have been utterly thrilled by this approach to art.

In his imagination, provision for ‘survival’ was a central constant. This included art, and he wondered what a museum should be like to survive a nuclear war.

Lothar Wolleh’s idea was to turn a Swedish island into a museum that could outlast any war. The museum should be carved into the rocks vertically, like a bunker. Although the Soviet Union lay on the other side of the sea, Wolleh saw neutral Sweden as the ideal location for an art collection meant to survive the end of time. If not Sweden, then Switzerland, as Wolleh was fascinated by the idea of neutrality and the hoped-for security for art and man, man and art. The deeper he could penetrate into the rocks, the more secure he believed he would be.

Lilla Karlsö
A Swedish island turned into a museum

For the rock-enclosed bunker museum, Lothar Wolleh chose Lilla Karlsö , an uninhabited Swedish island that juts out of the Baltic Sea as a massive crag with steep ‘walls’ 60 metres high. From afar, ‘Lilla Karlsö’ looks like a medieval castle in the middle of the sea. It is part of the identity of this coast, and more than that, it is also part of Swedish identity itself. Selma Lagerlöf described it, and every Swedish child knows about Nils Holgersson and his geese, flying over ‘Lilla Karlsö’.

Wolleh was skilled at conveying his ideas and enthusiasm for art, so in the mid-1970s he flew to Sweden with Friedrich Christian Flick in the latter’s private jet, to visit the site. Obviously, the idea of blowing up a Swedish island and placing an art collection on an uninhabited rock did not succeed. In Lothar Wolleh’s world-view, a bunker would have been a worthy alternative. But a bunker in East Berlin—that was beyond his imagination, as well as the opening of the Lothar Wolleh Raum in today’s Berlin Mitte.