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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca Ramsay, MA

A Brief History of the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin

What is the Berlinische Galerie?

The Berlinische Galerie is a gallery of modern art, photography and architecture with a unique collection that showcases Berlin’s vibrant creativity.

Berlinische Galerie

Berlinische Galerie Collection

Berlin is a city of artists. And what better way to see this than here, at a gallery devoted to exhibiting modern and contemporary art originating in the city itself? Housed in one of the newest exhibition venues in the capital, the Berlinische Galerie’s thought-provoking and innovative collection reflects a youthful excitement with modern and contemporary culture. This ever-growing collection ranges from 1870 until the present day, and encompasses all media: painting, sculpture, photography, video and architecture. The gallery is also home to an enormous prints and drawings department, numbering over 15,000 works on paper.

Despite its impressive collection, you’ll discover more than Berlin’s avant-garde art history when you visit this gallery. The Berlinische Galerie brings the city’s own turbulent past to life. From the grand and excessive days of the kaisers, to brutal Nazi dictatorship and life in a divided city during the long years of the Cold War, pivotal historical moments are documented here through the lens of human creativity.

Berlinische Galerie History

The Berlinische Galerie was founded in the district of Charlottenburg in 1975 with the aim of presenting Berlin’s art in new and surprising ways, stimulating conversation and fresh ways of looking. It has retained this ethos to the present day. A busy and inclusive events programme runs alongside a multitude of temporary exhibitions, with lectures, readings and film screenings. And it’s not just the exhibitions that keep changing – hardly any of the venue’s interior walls are fixed, allowing the space to be reconfigured to suit each new show.

The gallery didn’t find a permanent home for almost 30 years. Just three years after opening, the whole collection was moved to form part of the Neue Nationalgalerie, later moving into the museum of applied arts, the Martin-Gropius-Bau. Since 2004, it has been based here in a converted glass warehouse in Berlin’s trendy Kreuzberg district.

Directly outside the gallery entrance, you’ll find a large yellow grid of letters on the ground. These make up the names of 160 artists who are represented in the permanent collection. Before you head inside, make sure you enjoy the kinetic curvature of Dreheit, a large steel sculpture designed by husband and wife team Martin Matschinsky and Brigitte Matschinsky-Denninghoff, and a favourite meeting spot for the whole neighbourhood!

Once inside, you’ll discover ground-breaking works by some of Berlin’s most renowned (and often most controversial) modern and contemporary artists, such as Lovis Corinth, Hannah Höch, Otto Dix and Heidi Specker. From the disturbingly intense portraiture of the Expressionists to the irreverent humour of German Dada, the austere abstraction of the Constructivists to the expressive paintings of the Neue Wilden (or ‘New Fauves’), the Berlinische Galerie celebrates the creatives who have made this city what it is today.

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