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Why SAP's Hasso Plattner opened an art museum in Potsdam

Stefan Dege kbm
January 23, 2017

Software giant SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner is one of the wealthiest people in Germany and a patron of the arts and sciences. He told DW why he's giving Potsdam a new museum.

Hasso Plattner at the opening of the Museum Barberini
Image: Museum Barbarini, Potsdam

DW: Mr. Plattner, why did you decide to open a museum in Potsdam to exhibit your own art collection?

Hasso Plattner: I've been collecting art for many years. I bought by first oil painting in 1972. I've never sold a painting, so the collection has continued to grow. With the growth of SAP, my stock, which I had to sell, and the money I got for it, went into my collection. It kept growing until all the walls were full.

I'm not the only one who's had the idea of opening a museum. Bucerius had a museum and Burda had one. [Eds.: Gerd Bucerius founded German newspaper "Die Zeit;" Franz Burda founded Hubert Burda Media.] I don't sell my paintings. Keeping them at home is one possibility. I didn't initially want to go public with them, but I was convinced by others to do so.

The idea of opening a museum was only natural, and the opportunity presented itself in Potsdam with the Barberini. It was one-of-a-kind. There were no conflicts with the residents or the architects. [With the reconstruction of the historic Palais Barberini], everything was prescribed. All that was left was the technical implementation and the details, which turned out very well. And now the works can be shown.

Museum Barberini in Potsdam
The rear of the Museum Barberini in PotsdamImage: Helge Mundt

With SAP, you became a wealthy man. Do you want to give something back to the world with this museum?

I would like others to be able to have a part in it. The art could be taken off the market, only shown in private houses or locked away in a safe. But that would be very bad if no one was able to look at the art - not even me.

We found a wonderful method for making copies so that the paintings look like the originals even when you're standing just two meters away from them. The technology has become fantastic in the past few years. So now it looks like the paintings are still hanging in my house, although they are in the museum for a while so that others can look at them.

The Museum Barberini is featuring Impressionism in its opening exhibition. That's no coincidence, is it?

That's no coincidence. Impressionism has always impressed me. In the first half of the 19th century, a few painters in Paris suddenly broke away from what was a rather rigid style of painting - with the exception of William Turner. They started painting light, air, sun, reflections in the water - motives that had never been motives before that.

They stopped painting allegories. I found that very impressive. Nearly all painters in the first have of the 20th century have their origins in Impressionism and then took other paths with their painting.

Your handprint as a collector is not yet visible in this museum. Are you restraining yourself a bit?

It's not exclusively an exhibition of Hasso Plattner's paintings, but works from other museums and private lenders have also been included. It's typical for museums and not private lenders to be named in an exhibition. I can't note which works are from Hasso Plattner and which are from anonymous donors. We are all anonymous.

Potsdam's new museum