With its many museums, libraries, and philharmonic concert halls, the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz is one of Germany’s leading sites of art, culture, and learning and is exceptional for the enormous diversity of the arts showcased there. After the Second World War and the subsequent partitioning of the city, most of the surviving museum collections found themselves in the Soviet-controlled sector. As a result, a visionary plan emerged to forge a new cultural centre for West Berlin near Potsdamer Platz. The planning and execution of this vision started in the late 1950s. By the time the city was reunified in 1990, two new buildings had been completed to house collections belonging to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: the Neue Nationalgalerie containing modern art, and the Kunstgewerbemuseum for the decorative arts. Due to the upheavals resulting from the remerger of the National Museums in the eastern and western halves of the city, considerable alterations were made to the architectural plans for the Gemäldegalerie, Kupferstichkabinett, Kunstbibliothek and temporary exhibition galleries.
The Kulturforum is a platform for the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s collections of art and cultural artefacts from the European modern era (late Middle Ages to the present). They thus lead on, in timespan and in content, from the exhibitions on the Museumsinsel Berlin. The magnificent, world-famous art collections of the Gemäldegalerie, Kunstbibliothek, Kupferstichkabinett, Kunstgewerbemuseum, and Neue Nationalgalerie vividly bring to life, in pictorial and physical form, the history of ideas of the last seven centuries. Visitors are invited to explore the collections and experience this unique diversity for themselves. A programme of events tailored to different interests as well as rotating temporary exhibitions on key themes in European art and European cultural history are a valuable enrichment to the Kulturforum’s appeal.
As part of the continued development of Berlin’s museum landscape, plans are afoot for the construction of a new building, to be devoted to the art of the 20th century and built very close to Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie. This would bring much-needed additional exhibition space to the Kulturforum. The two buildings combined would allow the Nationalgalerie collection to go on permanent display – in its entirety – and even include additional works from the Pietzsch and Marx Collections. In the long-term, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin plans to relocate the Gemäldegalerie from its current Kulturforum site to its original historical one, the Museumsinsel Berlin, where its display will form an intimate dialogue with the Skulpturensammlung, held under one roof. The relocation of the Gemäldegalerie’s collection would reinforce the traditional idea of a simultaneous display of both old-master sculpture and painting at the Bode-Museum.