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Culture

Berlin Collection Comes in From the Cold

The dust has barely settled since the last major art opening in Berlin, and it's already time for the next.

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The new gallery showcases 120 years of Berlin art

This weekend marks the opening of the Berlinische Galerie, a collection that's been languishing in storage for the last seven years.

It's been an exciting few months for Berlin's art lovers. The departure of MOMA was soon forgotten amid the fanfare that accompanied the unveiling of the Friedrich Christian Flick exhibition, and the 30,000 visitors to the annual Art Forum in late September proved that the German capital is firmly on the international art map.

The eagerly-awaited re-opening of the Berlinische Galerie is another string to its artistic bow.

Berlinische Galerie vor Eröffnung

Figures by Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz are on exhibit in the gallery

Officially known as the State Museum for Modern Art, Photography and Architecture, it was founded as a private initiative in 1975 and boasts a unique collection of Berlin secessionism, expressionism, dadaism , Neue Sachlichkeit, avantgarde architecture and photography, as well as work by modern movements such as the "Jungen Wilden" and the Fluxus group.

The spill-over effect

But it's only now that the gallery is moving into its very own space. Housed in the Martin Gropius Bau until 1997, director Jörn Merkert's museum has been homeless for the last seven years. Various potential premises were investigated, but obstacles varying from bankrupt landlords to rocketing rents resulted in years of delay.

The new building near Daniel Libeskind's landmark Jewish Museum in the district of Kreuzberg was converted at a relatively low cost of €18.7 million ($23.5 million), most of which came from private sponsorship.

Ausstellung Berlin Moskau Das Ende der Welt

Leonid Sokow's "End of the World" sculpture

The Berlinische Galerie's first task will be to establish a profile in a city recently spoilt by blockbuster shows boasting advertising budgets undreamt of in cash-strapped Berlin -- but at least it might benefit from its neighbor's fame.

"When I tell people in New York and Paris that my new museum is situated two minutes from the Jewish Musuem, then they know things can't be bad," said Jörn Merkert in a recent interview with Der Tagesspiegel.

A welcome return

Merkert also pointed out that although the Berlin public needs to be reminded of this world-class museum on its doorstep, "the one million new residents in the city (since 1997) don't know us at all."

For some, the re-opening marks the welcome return of a valuable local landmark, while others can acquaint themselves for the first time with artists ranging from local hero Georg Grosz to East German enfant terrible Georg Baselitz.

As the show's 700,000 pieces were given a final polish before the opening, the museum director looked forward to contributing to Berlin's cultural profile. In an interview with DW-WORLD, he stressed that the museum had a healthy awareness of its social role.

"We've set up an art school for children, for example, because we want to make sure we maintain a bridge to the community," he said. "We want to be a museum that's firmly anchored in local urban life."

Berlinische Galerie vor Eröffnung

A view inside the gallery

Spokesperson Jutta Berg also emphasized the museum's strong ties to the city.

"We're the only museum that covers art that emerged from Berlin itself. We exhibit, collect and preserve it," she told AP. Many believe that Berlin's extraordinary legacy of 20th century art has been undersold for too long. Once the Berlinische Galerie is settled into its new home, it may well come into its own as a definitive museum that finally does justice to the city's cultural heritage.

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