Achtung! Ominous news from Berlin

July 1 2012

Image of Achtung! Ominous news from Berlin


The art historian Hope Walker has alerted me to an alarming proposal to re-house the Gemaldegalerie's Old Master display in Berlin, and reduce the amount of works on display:

...the city of Berlin is seriously considering "temporarily" relocating one of it most valuable cultural assets, the collection of Old Master paintings, currently housed in the Gemaeldegalerie on the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz. This building is a mere 15 years old and has been designed with the sole purpose to house this particular collection. [...]

The city has been given two modern/contemporary collections, and, as is usual with these gifts, is obliged to show these collections. Since the Neue Nationalgalerie (Mies van der Rohe building) is nearby, the city thought it could just relocate the Old Masters (partly into the Bode Museum and partly into storage!!! until a new building has been built, for which there's no money), and use the Gemaeldegalerie for the presentation of these contemporary collections.

This is an absurd proposal for a host of reasons, not least because it would destroy the unified presentation of one of the world's best collections of old master paintings and disband the collection for an unknown period of time.

You can find more details here in the Frankfurter Allgemeine (in German), where writer Niklas Maak describes the idea as 'ein dummen Scherz' ['a stupid joke'], and warns that in Berlin's recent cultural history, 'temporary' usually means 'indefinitely'. Personally, I can't quite believe this plan will happen, but it's yet more evidence of the 'allure of the new', and contemporary art collections of dubious quality taking up space previously dedicated to more established art. Just in case, though, I'm going to go to Berlin soon; I've never been to the Gemaldegalerie, and for some reason always end up in Berlin on a Monday, when the museum is shut.  

Update - a reader writes to alert me to this petition, which asks Prof. Dr. Hermann Parzinger to reconsider the plans. 

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