1 The Berggruen Museum
This was built especially to house the collection of its namesake . He was of German Jewish family and emigrated to the USA before WW2 . There he had a selling gallery and began to collect , partly through his friendships with contemporary artists like Picasso . He brought himself & his collection back to Berlin after WW2 once he had ‘made his peace with Germany ‘ . The nice thing is that unlike modern collections by millionaires all the pieces are room and house sized – you could imagine the 2D works hung in any normal room and the 3D in an entrance hall . They have thus arranged the works in smallish (for a gallery) rooms so that you can go all the way round and then on to the next room without getting lost . Once finished with a floor you are back at the attractive spiral staircase to decide whether to go up or down , all clearly signposted . I was pleased to see Giacometti’s cat .
Only it was actually displayed near the low ceiling so I was looking up at it – as if on a garden wall ?
The revelation was really the Paul Klees . I had not seen any of them in reproduction but then they were (with 1 exception) not in oils which seems to count for so much . So , ink drawings , lithographs , watercolours – floors of them so here is a randomized sample :
On the highest Paul Klee floor was this Alexander Calder mobile which demonstrated what I hadn’t ever noticed before – the obvious influence of Klee on Calder . At first I thought it was a Klee venture into 3D and wondered why I didn’t know about it !
2 The Pergamon Museum
This was in the throes of renovation like the Altes museum on the same square . As I understand it the Pergamon has archaeological stuff from the ancient Near East and the Altes ‘antiquities’ from Classical Greece & Rome but there was definitely Roman stuff in the Pergamon too . Anyway we were there to see the famous Ishtar Gate and something called the Aleppo Room . Here is the first :
I have seen photos before but they hadn’t prepared me for its size – so maybe this won’t either for anyone reading ! It is huge , beautiful and awe-inspiring . The facing is glazed brickwork in golden yellow , white , green , blue and turquoise – the last 3 giving the dappled effect to the background behind the animals . I was interested that the turquoise bricks were clearly the characteristic copper-alkaline colour first used in Egypt for faïence and later known as mohamedan blue for its ubiquity in Islamic pottery . I’m sure I read that the Babylonians didn’t have it then (~600BCE) , the technical brilliance exhibited by the glazed bricks being put down to control of firing . It would have been simple – they traded with Egypt and must have had copper salts available to get the bright green glaze which would have been high in lead salt based fluxes . To get the turquoise to sky blue you would use a much higher proportion of alkaline salt fluxes to lead . Attempting completely lead-free glazes is a very modern concern . Anyway the Ishtar gate was the southern gate of Babylon leading to a processional way echoing the design of the gate . This has been partly reconstructed as well ;
I can’t remember how long it was originally but it was 30m wide ! I don’t know who if anyone gave permission for all this and other parts of buildings to be moved to Germany but I guess they had as much right as colonial rulers like the British & French . Certainly German archaeology was very important in the Middle East in the late 19C & early 20C .
This is the ‘Aleppo Room’ which turns not to be part of a palace but of the house of a Syrian Christian merchant . I can’t remember the date of it (!) but it is painted wood with Biblical texts in Arabic . From the style I’d hazard 13C – 15C ? It has been reconstructed in a room with temperature and humidity control and then put behind glass walls so that you can walk right in and look at the work fairly closely although photographs are rather difficult as you can see .
3 Galerie im der Körnerpark
This was very near the Airb’n’b flat we were staying in in Neukölln in a tiny little park which nevertheless had a fountain and café which was just closing as we visited . The little contemporary art gallery is open until 8pm – most days I think .
This exhibition entitled ‘And now for something completely different’ – which I can’t remember seeing anywhere – consisted of a series of videos showing on the front of boxes most of which have elastic rather than rigid sides . In each video at some point the action on the screen escapes the box or attempts to . Eg in the above still the pair have unfurled the ‘reality’ banner onscreen and when they lift it up it appears above the screen as it is disappearing from the video space . The pieces here go all the way from fun to disturbing . My son’s rather good idea was that the first one done must have been when the pair try to escape from the box and you see perfectly synchronized stretched points appear in the elastic sides and top as they punch & kick . When she bangs on the front the glass does not move but you hear a ‘ting’ sort of sound . I think that video is the best &/or the most paranoid .
So just 177 museums/galleries to go for the next visits……