Letter to the editor: a long-awaited solution finally within reach
The Gemäldegalerie’s move to Museum Island is a necessary step on the road toward an ideal solution for all three collections involved
By The Art Newspaper readers. Web only
Published online: 30 August 2012
At last, the solution hoped for by so many for over 20 years is in sight: The Gemäldegalerie will leave the Kulturforum and return to its historical home on the Museum Island. There, in an expanded Bode Museum, it will, for the first time since 1933, be reunited with its sister collection, the Skulpturensammlung [Sculpture collection], as well as with selections from the Kunstgewerbemuseum [Museum of decorative arts] and the Kupferstichkabinett [Museum of prints and drawings]. All media will thus be combined in a breathtaking display of European art from late Antiquity to Neo-Classicism, forming an indispensable counterpart to the Humboldt-Forum under construction at the other end of the Museum Island for the African, American, Asian, and Oceanic collections. With the inclusion of European painting, as well as examples of the decorative and graphic arts, the panorama of human creativity on the Museum Island, from the earliest cultures to 1900 and from every region of the globe, will finally be complete.
Equally importantly, the relocation of the Gemäldegalerie will provide a home for the 20th-century holdings of the Nationalgalerie. At present, Berlin, a birthplace of Modernism, has no permanent exhibition space for its Modern collections. Mies van der Rohe’s magnificent Neue Nationalgalerie at Kulturforum is far too small, with only a fraction of the holdings on view at any given time—provided there is no temporary exhibition. How many visitors have left the building disappointed at not finding the masterpieces of German Expressionism created in Berlin? The plan to transform the Gemäldegalerie to accommodate the Modern collections is sensible, since that museum is adjacent to the Mies van der Rohe building and was designed as a multifunctional gallery, equally appropriate for Modern art; for example, the huge empty central space is ideal for large-scale installations and Modern sculptures.
So why do I, a Medievalist, advocate a short-term condensed presentation of the paintings and sculptures in the Bode Museum? Because as a part of the Berlin Museums, I recognise that it is a necessary step on the road toward an ideal solution for all three collections involved: The Gemäldegalerie, the Skulpturensammlung, and the Nationalgalerie. Beginning in 2015, when the Mies van der Rohe building will undergo a multi-year renovation, there will be no place at all for the Modern collections, not even in a reduced form, unless the Gemäldegalerie is made available. And without the need to find a home for the Modern collections, the expansion of the Bode Museum would never be realised. There is now unprecedented support across the political spectrum for the return of the Gemäldegalerie to the Museum Island and for the expansion of the Bode Museum, of which the allocation by the Bundestag of €10m for the refurbishment of the Gemäldegalerie is the clearest signal.
All of us in executive positions at the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz [Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation] and at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin [State Museums of Berlin] are in agreement that, under no circumstances, will the Gemäldegalerie be closed until there is a reliable action plan and financing for the expansion of the Bode Museum. The expansion is part of the masterplan for the Museum Island, the plot across from the Bode Museum has long been earmarked for it, and the next step is holding an architectural competition. Given the extraordinary support of the German government for the reorganisation of the Berlin Museums in the 23 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is every reason to believe that this most important project will be carried out as well.
—Julien Chapuis, deputy director, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
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