An exhibition exploring the concept of freedom through post-World War II artworks begins a European tour here Wednesday, a stone's throw from where the Berlin Wall once stood.

With paintings, videos, photos, drawings and art installations, the "Desire for Freedom" exhibition at the German Historical Museum in central Berlin spotlights the work of more than 100 artists from the East and West since 1945.

Featured artists range from German painter Gerhard Richter, Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte and Christo, known for his environmental works of art including the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995.

"It's not in chronological order and national differences are not underlined because basic questions such as 'who am I?', 'to what extent am I free?', 'who are the others?' are always the same," curator Monika Flacke said.

She said that freedom originated from the ideas of the Enlightenment and was much wider than just the division between East and West which resulted from World War II.

Divided into 12 sections, the exhibition, in Berlin until February, seeks to outline the idea of freedom in its different guises, from revolution to utopia via politics and sustainable development.

Visitors are reminded on entering the display of Article One of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".

The idea of freedom is "deeply anchored in Europe and has moved to America where it has also found expression in all these revolutions of recent years, in the Occupy movement, in student revolutions," Flacke said.

Berlin provides a fitting backdrop, having seen two dictatorships in the last century and been the setting of a peaceful revolution which led to the tearing down of the detested Wall in 1989 at the end of more than four decades of the Cold War.

And one photo by British sisters Jane and Louise Wilson questions repression or the deprivation of freedom with their work depicting a Berlin prison of former East Germany's dreaded Stasi secret police.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Thorbjoern Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, were due to officially open the exhibition on Tuesday.

After Berlin, the exhibition moves to Milan, then the Estonian capital Tallinn followed by Krakow in Poland.