Jointly developed by M HKA and the KU Leuven, this long-term, interdisciplinary research project focuses on a specific, yet complex body of work; multifaceted and variably installable, unfinished and open-ended: Ship of Fools / The Dockers' Museum (2010-2013) by artist and theorist Allan Sekula (1951-2013). Informed by the research of the team members, the project continues to evolve in a succession of research outputs, such as this digital platform.


Cartoon Portrait of John Heartfield by an Irish Artist [Elizabeth Shaw] who Emigrated to the DDR (The Dockers' Museum, object nr. 59), 1959
Print , 43,5 x 31 cm
ink, paper

The German Dada artist John Heartfield (1891-1968) is portrayed on this lithograph. Heartfield is seen as the father of photomontage. He reused prints from magazines and translated them into a new idea, using glue and scissors. Hence Elizabeth Shaw portrayed him with scissors and a tube of glue in his pocket. Heartfield is living in England between 1940 and 1950 but returns to Berlin – and the former GDR – in 1950. Just like Elizabeth Shaw, he’s a member of GDR’s German Academy of the Arts.

Elizabeth Shaw (1920-1992) was born in Ireland and studied in London. She is best known as an illustrator and author of children’s books. In 1947, she moved to East Berlin with her husband Rene Graetz, a German sculptor. Many of her illustrations were published in magazines and newspapers, such as Our Time, Liliput and Das Magazin. Her work has been exhibited in Paris, London and Munich.

John Heartfield’s portrait is part of a series Shaw made in 1959 of the members of GDR’s German Academy of the Arts. Each member of the academy would have received a folder with the different portraits. According to her daughter, Anne Schneider, this lithograph has never been published.

– Oona Van Cauwelaert

Translation by Steven Tallon

Cartoon Portrait of John Heartfield by an Irish Artist [Elizabeth Shaw] who Emigrated to the DDR [title given by Allan Sekula], signed by the amateur painter, aquarelle on paper, December 21, 1945, 34.5 x 31 cm. Purchased by Allan Sekula through eBay on June 14, 2010. © Elizabeth Shaw Erben. [The Dockers' Museum, item nr. 59]