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August 22nd, 2013 by Leo Plaw Other language versions    

Solution for Berlin’s Old Masters and Pietzsch Collection

Berlin's Old Masters collection will remain in the Gemälde Gallery, and a new museum will be built for the Pietzsch Collection.

Berlin’s Old Masters collection will remain in the Gemälde Gallery, and a new museum will be built for the Pietzsch Collection.

Berlin will build a new museum for the Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, of 150 Surrealist artworks, which includes art by Max Ernst, Andre Breton and Joan Miro. The collection valued at €150 million, was donated by the millionaire collectors to the city of Berlin in 2012 on condition that it be on permanent display in a Berlin museum. The gift presented a problem, where to display it.

When the idea was proposed displace the Old Masters collection in the Gemälde Gallery, with the Pietzsch Collection, cries of protest were heard from many quarters. The scenario sparked international controversy last year, with two petitions against the move collecting tens of thousands of signatures and formal protests by renowned art historians. Many argued that a large portion of the Old Masters would disappear into storage, and that facilities to properly store them, did not exist.

To quell the uproar, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which runs Berlin’s museums, commissioned a study to look at alternatives for exhibiting the city’s Klees and Warhols without depriving visitors of the Botticellis, Rembrandts and Titians. The foundation’s preferred option — to build a new home for the Old Masters on Museum Island — was deemed too costly at more than 400 million euros.

Thus the new proposal from the state museums foundation to create a €130-million home for the collection directly behind the already overflowing New National Gallery at the Cultural Forum in central Berlin, marks the likely end of a bitter spat over the initial plan to move one of Berlin’s best-loved art collections.

The new plan means that the paintings by the likes of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Duerer and Cranach can remain at the Gemälde Gallery rather than relocate to the German capital’s UNESCO-listed Museum Island.

Although the cost of the new museum is high, it is much lower than the €375 million estimated would be needed to cover the original concept. German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann welcomed the compromise.

The realisation of the new proposal would boost the attractiveness of the Cultural Forum and keep the costs in a responsible range,” he said. Berlin, which lacks an industrial base, has come to rely heavily on culture as an economic lifeline and its world-class museums have helped fuel a tourism boom.

The number of visitors to Berlin museums rose by six million or nearly 73 percent between 2002 and 2010, versus just eight percent across Germany, according to a study last year.

The project adds to an ambitious program of museum-building in Berlin stretching far into the next decade. The new modern art museum, with an area of 9,900 square meters (106,563 square feet), may open as soon as 2022 if work starts next year, Parzinger said. The German parliament and government, which would foot the bill, need to approve the funding before construction can start.

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