The Nationalgalerie collection contains around 4,000 works of 20th century art. This partial collection is comprised mainly of the Nationalgalerie’s own collection. It also encompasses the Marx Collection, the Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection and parts of the Marzona Collection, whose home is the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin). The Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) and the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin will get additional exhibition areas in the new museum building.

The Nationalgalerie’s collections of 20th century art document all of Europe’s and North America’s major art movements. But its exhibition options are limited: until now, the extensive collection has been presented in the Neue Nationalgalerie. For this reason, the art of the 20th century could only be presented in part and in rotating exhibitions in the past decades.

View of the "Divided Heaven" exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie
View of the "Divided Heaven" exhibition © Heinrich Ehmsen Estate / SMB / Roman März

The Nationalgalerie’s Collection of 20th Century Art

When compared on an international level, the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin collection is especially notable for its socio-critical relevance, due to its specific history. The collection has historical significance for Germany because the Eastern and Western inventories were unified as a result of German reunification.

Expressionism, Cubism, Arte Povera

The collection focuses on German Expressionism, French Cubism, Surrealism, Color Field Painting, art in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), international Western art after 1960, and video and film art. In 2002, Egidio Marzona’s extensive donation made a valuable supplement to the Nationalgalerie’s collection. Marzona’s collection, which has an encyclopedic structure, consists of 600 works by around 150 artists who worked in the genres of Conceptual Art, Minimalism,

Land Art, Arte Povera and other art trends of the 1960s and 1970s.

From Kirchner to Gursky

The artists with especially large groups of works in the Nationalgalerie collection include Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Max Beckmann, Pablo Picasso, Werner Tübke, Gerhard Richter, Andreas Gursky, Jason Rhoades and Pipilotti Rist.

Trilogy of Exhibitions Shows the Collection’s Broad Spectrum

The trilogy of exhibitions – “Modern Times”, “Divided Heaven” and “Expansion of the Combat Zone” – presented in the Neue Nationalgalerie in 2010–2014 demonstrated the complexity and broad spectrum of the Nationalgalerie’s collection of 20th century art.

History of the Nationalgalerie Collection

The Nationalgalerie collection reflects a century of German political history. The Nationalgalerie was founded on Museumsinsel Berlin (Museum Island Berlin) in 1861. Major modern works were exhibited in the “Galerie der Lebenden” in Kronprinzenpalais (Gallery of the Living in the Crown Prince’s Palace) in 1919–1933. As a result, the Nationalgalerie acquired a key function in the world of art.

Germany’s Division also Divides the Collection

National Socialism and World War II inflicted considerable losses on the Nationalgalerie collection. The collection was divided in the wake of the founding of the two German nations in 1949. The (Old) Nationalgalerie on Museumsinsel in East Berlin

maintained part of the inventory and expanded it with GDR works. In West Berlin the magistrate (the governing body of Berlin in 1945–1950) worked to expand the collection. At that time, the collection was still called the “Gallery of the 20th Century.” The Neue Nationalgalerie, designed by Mies van der Rohe, opened in 1968.

Hamburger Bahnhof as the Museum of Contemporary Art

After the reunification of Germany, the inventories of classical modern art and post-war modern art in East and West Germany were united in the Neue Nationalgalerie, the new national gallery. The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin (Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum for Contemporary Art - Berlin) was added in 1996 as a new exhibition building.

Additional Collections in the Future Neue Nationalgalerie – Museum of the 20th Century

Joseph Beuys: "DAS KAPITAL RAUM 1970–1977", 1980, detail, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Marx Collection
Joseph Beuys: "DAS KAPITAL RAUM 1970–1977", 1980, detail, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Marx Collection © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 / photo: Thomas Bruns

Marx Collection

Five artistic personalities of the late 20th century are the focal point of the Marx Collection: Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol. They became famous internationally for the dissolution of traditional boundaries in art. The collection owns great complexes of their works that fully reflect their respective artistic development.

Works by the American artists Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein and Bruce Nauman complete the spectrum of artistic developments of the 1960s/70s in the Marx Collection.

Foreground: Max Ernst: "Young Man, Intrigued by the Flight of a Non-Euclidean Fly", 1942-1947 (82 x 66 cm), Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, exhibition view Neue Nationalgalerie
Max Ernst: "Young Man, Intrigued by the Flight of a Non-Euclidean Fly", 1942-1947, Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, exhibition view Neue Nationalgalerie © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 / photo: Simon Vogel

Ulla & Heiner Pietzsch Collection

Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch have been building up an extraordinary art collection since 1964. It is distinguished by two related focal points: European Surrealism and its continued development in the USA by the Abstract Expressionists.

The Pietzsch Collection includes works by Max Ernst, René Magritte and Joan Miró, as well as early works by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Mark Tobey. American painters like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko seized on the suggestions of emigrated artists such as André Masson and Max Ernst and developed them further.

Exhibition platform Kunstbibliothek, exhibition view "Avantgarde!", Kunstbibliothek Berlin 2014
Exhibition platform Kunstbibliothek, exhibition view "Avantgarde!", Kunstbibliothek Berlin 2014 © Dietmar Katz

The Kunstbibliothek Exhibition Area

The Kunstbibliothek museum collections on architecture, book and media art, design, fashion and photographic art supplement the Nationalgalerie and Kupferstichkabinett collections. In the Kunstbibliothek’s exhibition area in the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts, these collections of 20th century art will be presented to the public in direct interplay for the first time. The area is to become an experimental lab for unique archive and museum collections on modern art at the Kulturforum. Joining in and co-creating will be its focal point.

Exhibition of graphic works by Pablo Picasso, exhibition view Kupferstichkabinett
Exhibition of graphic works by Pablo Picasso, exhibition view Kupferstichkabinett © Succession Picasso / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016 / photo: H. Schulze Altcappenberg

Kupferstichkabinett

In addition to its world-famous historical inventory, the Kupferstichkabinett has an internationally outstanding collection of 25,000 drawings and more than 35,000 print graphics from the 20th century. It includes portfolios of works on German Expressionism, New Objectivity and international Modernism. The inventory of post-1945 German and Anglo-American graphics focuses on Pop Art, Concept Art and Minimal Art. The Museum of Prints and Drawings will regularly fill two rooms of the new museum building with its own media and thematic accents.