Sunday, 9 December 2012

Die Neue Nationalgalerie

Lobby entrance at the Neue Nationalgalerie
The Neue Nationalgalerie stands apart from the rest of the Kulturforum in a plaza of grey concrete paving stones dotted with shards of sculpture. It was designed by Mies van der Rohe, former Director of Architecture at the avant-garde Bauhaus school, and opened in 1968. Mies' skin and bones building is often referred to as a 'lichte Tempel aus Glas', so it is curious that the permanent collection is buried away in the cellar. Indeed, if there isn't an exhibition on the ground floor, a visitor could easily walk in, think the gallery was closed for restoration or something, and walk straight back out. Tip: the gallery entrance and ticket desk are downstairs. I don't know if it is because of this off-putting first impression, or that the Neue Nationalgalerie is cut off from the environs of Potsdamer Platz by a wide and busy dual-carriageway, but every time I have been to the Neue Nationalgalerie the gallery-employed attendants have outnumbered the visitors.

The Neue Nationalgalerie (new national gallery) is named in contrast with the Alte Nationalgalerie (old national gallery) on Museum Island. The Neue Nationalgalerie contains paintings, sculpture, installations and conceptual art from the 20th Century, whereas the Alte Nationalgalerie has work that was also called modern when the gallery was founded in 1861 - Neoclassical, Romantic, Impressionistic and Modernist.

Here then are some photos of what to expect (click for bigger):

Looking at works by Asger Jorn
Yves Klein' IKB 49, 1960 with his patented blue, and a Lucio Fontana slashed canvas in the foreground.
Morris Louis, Beta Zeta, 1960/61
Mark Rothko, No.5 (Reds), 1961
La nuvola rossa (the red cloud) by Renato Guttuso, 1966
Die Geburts Hitlers by Icelandic painter Erró, 1966
Andy Warhols' Double Elvis, 1963
Strangely, 'All You Need Is Love' from The Beatle's 'Yellow Submarine' movie is on loop, the only sound in the gallery except for the periodic alarms going off as people get too close to the exhibits.
Daniel Spoerri, Restaurant de la City-Galerie (Fallenbild), 1965

Inside the Lichtraum, an installation by Otto Piene
An obligatory Picasso: Femme couchee au bouquet, 1958
The themed collection 'O Deutschland, bleiche Mutter'
Henry Moore 'Woman on a bench'
Francis Bacon's 'Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne' 1967

Another Picasso, this time a sculpture of a crane, in front of 'Beweinung' (Lamentation) by Jörgen Böttcher (aka Strawalde) 1958 

Harald Metkes' 'Removal of the Six-armed Goddess' 1956
Hans Uhlmann 'Kleines Karussell' 1958
George Karl Pfahler's 'Double RGB-Tex' (on far wall)
and Ronald Bladen's ''Three Elements' 1965
Les Noces (The Wedding) by Wilfredo Lam, 1947
The rather bizarre 'Concrete Tape Recorder Piece' by conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, 1968  
Lots of other amazing stuff!
That's just a taster! A good international collection well arranged, though the lighting is a bit subdued and the visit is punctuated by the sound of alarms which bring the attendants running to tell you not to get too close.

Note that the price of a ticket includes admission to the rest of the Kulturforum galleries, notably the Gemäldegalerie of old masters. This might not be apparent at first glance. There is a free English audio guide included in the price, but not many of the exhibits have their own sound-track: better to concentrate on just admiring the works, and besides there are adequate explanation boards in German and English.

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