Opening hours

Closed due to reinstallation
until September 14, 2023.

Daily 10 am–8 pm
(also on bank holidays)


Each 3rd wednesday of the month
during AfterworkKH the exhibition
remains open until 10 pm: 20.9., 18.10., 15.11.2023 and 17.1.2024

December 24, 2023 (Christmas Eve): closed
December 31, 2023 (New Year’s Eve): 10 am–5 pm

How to find us


Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung
Theatinerstrasse 8
(in the Fünf Höfe)
80333 München
T +49 (0)89 / 22 44 12


Erwin Olaf

Strange Beauty

About the Exhibition

The photographer Erwin Olaf (*1959) is one of the most renowned contemporary artists in the Netherlands. The Kunsthalle München is now staging the first, large-scale retrospective dedicated to his oeuvre in Germany. Without adhering to any strict chronology, selected photographs, videos, sculptures and multimedia installations from a career spanning almost forty years trace Olaf’s artistic development from analogue to digital techniques, from the rebellious photojournalist of the 1980s to the sophisticated storyteller of the 2000s.


Erwin Olaf is a master of the staged photograph. He collaborates with set designers and make-up artists, among others, to construct his series. The separate worlds he creates look confusingly like our own mundane world, but are enigmatic nonetheless. Behind their flawlessly graphic aesthetics, borrowed from the film and advertising industries, they explore themes such as self-determination, equal rights and democracy. Olaf consciously leaves the narratives of his works open to interpretation. It is up to the audience to become more receptive to these allusions and fill the empty spaces with their own associations and conclusions.


Olaf’s deep-seated interest in politics and society is the recurring theme throughout his oeuvre. Never one to shy away from controversy, he stops at nothing in his wholehearted commitment to a more tolerant society. Particularly in his early work, he made a point of using provocation to this end. He also makes reference to polarizing subjects of social debate, climate change, the refugee crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic, in his current work. Since the 2000s, however, the artist has changed down a gear , focussing instead on feelings and moods, such as the moment of acute sorrow after receiving terrible news (Grief, 2007) or the uncertain limbo of marking time (Waiting, 2014).


Even in his early work, Olaf took his inspiration from paintings by Old Masters, like Rembrandt’s self-portraits (Ladies Hats, 1985–2020). His latest series, Im Wald (2020), which he shot in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps especially for the exhibition in the Kunsthalle München, was also modelled on painting. Above all, he took his cue from 19th-century artists such as the romantic Caspar David Friedrich, the symbolist Arnold Böcklin and the Munich star painter Franz von Lenbach. Thanks to these borrowings and his unusually ingenious lighting, Olaf’s photographs take on an almost painterly quality themselves at times.


Exploring the relationship between fact and fiction is still a central feature of Olaf’s artistic oeuvre to this day. Since the early 2000s, he has taken advantage of the possibilities offered by digital image processing. In his series, Royal Blood (2000), he staged his models as famous victims – of accidents and assassinations – through world history, from Sissi to Princess Diana. The pictures reveal the scope of visual manipulation in a striking way. What do we see and how are we deceived into this perception? This is a fundamental issue in Olaf’s oeuvre, in which he invariably challenges the power of images in our society.

Exhibition Leavelet

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Digital Tour

through the exhibition

Experience the unique exhibition “Erwin Olaf. Strange beauty” in a multimedia, 360° virtual tour!

Click on the objects on display and receive background information, detailed photographs and supplementary videos, such as unique catwalk footage. Use the arrows to move around in the exhibition at your own pace. Use the floorplan at the bottom right for a quick overall orientation.

We wish you an exciting digital exhibition experience, and very much hope to welcome you soon in person at the Kunsthalle Munich!

→ Start your tour here

Included in the virtual tour is the AUDIO TOUR, which can also be accessed outside the tour here.

This exhibition contains several images with nudes. Especially in the second gallery, some photos could be disturbing to children.

Digitalized by Michael Naumann

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Start your tour here

Audio Tour

with background information on selected works of the artist


Erwin Olaf. Strange Beauty

Edited by Roger Diederen and Anja Huber.
Published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, 240 pages, 300 colour illustrations, 24 x 30 cm, hardcover.
Price at the Kunsthalle: € 39

Sold out at the Kunsthalle

This catalogue explains key aspects of Olaf’s artistic work. At the same time, it offers an attractive overview of his multifaceted work over the past forty years. Olaf’s most recent works, which were specially created for the exhibition in the Kunsthalle Munich, are also published here.

With contributions by Daniel Hornuff, Anja Huber, Claudia Peppel, Franziska Stöhr and Estelle Vallender.

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