Photo courtesy Homa Nasab @ Gemäldegalerie Berlin
Jeffrey Hamburger, Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture at Harvard University, has undertaken the critically important task of organizing a Petition that sets out to challenge current plans by the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin (SMB) to empty the Gemäldegalerie in order to make room for a display of twentieth-century art from the Pietzsch collection. As important as the Pietzsch collection is, it’s unconscionable to imagine visiting Berlin and not being able to see Gemäldegalerie’s unquestionably exquisite collections of Old Master paintings. Anyone who has had the utmost pleasure of visiting the Gemäldegalerie can attest to this fact.
One of the major factors that has contributed to the development and expansion of Berlin as the capital of contemporary art in Europe is the availability of expansive spaces throughout the city. Ones that are found in pre-Unification buildings throughout Berlin. Hence, it would be much wiser for SMB to find a permanent place for the Pietzsch collection than to displace the entire gathering of its Old Master paintings. A move that could very possibly cause damage to some of the works in the collection.
So, please take time to sign this Petition and pass it on to anyone whom you believe would be concerned with this consideration :
“We understand that Mies van der Rohe’s Nationalgalerie provides inadequate space for Berlin’s growing collections of modern art, and we welcome the prospect of a permanent home for them.
However, finding that space in the Gemäldegalerie at the expense of one of the world’s premier collections of Old Master paintings, without also making concrete plans to display that collection concurrently in its entirety, would be a tragedy. In the current plan, it appears that once again the past is being asked to make way for the present without sufficient attention to its future. The disappearance into storage of whatever paintings cannot be displayed in the Bode Museum – which we call on you to disclose — is not acceptable, even for only six years. In the current political and economic climate, and with stiff competition for funding from politically more expedient, if culturally more dubious, plans to rebuild the Stadtschloß, we fear that six years could easily become a decade or more.
All too often, it seems, great works of art in Berlin serve as pawns in a seemingly endless chess game, to be moved about and sacrificed at the will and whim of politicians. Germany is fortunate in that culture remains a focus of political and public concern. That concern, however, would best be expressed by finding a reasonable solution, one that respects a legacy that barely survived the centuries and that deserves better than to be rendered invisible for an indeterminate length of time.
We therefore write to ask, not that you shelve your plans for the Pietzsch collection, but rather that you complement them with an adequate strategy that will do justice to the whole of Berlin’s extraordinary collections. We believe that the Old Master collection should be moved to make way for the Pietzsch collection only after space on the Museuminsel has been found to accommodate it – hardly a rash proposal.”