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Berlin State Museums

New chief Klaus-Dieter Lehmann wants more autonomy for Berlin’s State Museums

The incoming chair of the Preussischer Kulturbesitz thinks change is needed, but collector Heinz Berggruen defends outgoing museum director’s record

London

The new government in Germany has appointed its candidate, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, to chair the Preussischer Kulturbesitz, the administrative body responsible for funnelling DM400 million a year to Berlin’s seventeen State museums and libraries.

Under Chancellor Kohl, the favoured candidate had been Christoph Stölzl, director of the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, but the Socialists preferred the fifty-eight year-old general director of the Deutsche Bibliothek in Frankfurt and Leipzig, a physicist and mathematician. His tasks include reconciling the separate German States with their role (a legal obligation only until 2005) as funders of the Kulturbesitz, which they have become more reluctant to do since unification changed the status of Berlin and put more demands on their budgets.

Dr Lehmann will also have to decide what to do when the present general director of the Berlin museum, the strong-willed and controversial Wolf-Dieter Dube, retires in May. He has let it be known that he would prefer to abolish the post and give greater autonomy to the individual institutions, but with joint planning, and new scholarly cooperation with Berlin’s Humboldt University. The Museum Island, he says, should be the equal of the Louvre or the London museums.

In the meanwhile, the collector Heinz Berggruen sprang to the defence of Professor Dube in the pages of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung last month. Noone seems to be regretting Dube’s imminent departure, he said, yet “to develop a network of seventeen museums vigorously and and constructively is no small task: I believe that [Dube] has been highly successful in this”. He went on to describe how Professor Dube secured the Berggruen collection of classic Modern works of art for Berlin. “In spring 1990 my collection was being inaugurated in the National Gallery, London. Wolf-Dieter Dube came to the opening, looked around and shortly afterwards said to me, ‘It would be good, if after London, we could show your collection in the town where you were born, in Berlin’...If the visitors’ book and countless letters are now expressing the public’s gratitude and recognition, then much of this gratitude and recognition is due also to Wolf-Dieter Dube.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'New chief wants more autonomy for Berlin’s State Museums'