The Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg traces common threads that weave through the evolution of the art of the fantastic, starting with works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Francisco de Goya, and culminating in the museum’s largest suite of works: the Surrealist art of such giants of 20th-century painting as Max Ernst and René Magritte. Like the Museum Berggruen situated across from it, the museum owes its existence to the efforts of private individuals and their passion for collecting art. Situated in Berlin-Charlottenburg in the west of the city, both exhibition venues belong to the Nationalgalerie and are joined by its other entities the Alte Nationalgalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, and Friedrichswerdersche Kirche to form an organizational whole.
The buildings that currently house the Museum Berggruen and Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg were originally commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. They took eight years to build and were completed in 1859. Their architect, Friedrich August Stüler, later went on to design the Alte Nationalgalerie. The twin buildings were designed in the Neoclassical style and were each crowned with a large cupola. They were conceived as a structural counterpoint to Schloß Charlottenburg on the opposite side of the road and flank the entrance to Schloßstraße. In 1855 Friedrich Wilhelm IV ordered the garrison building inspector Wilhelm Drewitz to erect, on the building’s eastern side, a single-storey wing for stables with a square-shaped house attached at the end and a coach house. These former stables now also serve as an exhibition space for the collection.
Both buildings originally served a function that was as practical as it was aesthetic: They housed the officer barracks of the Gardes du Corps while at the same time diverting the view from the stables. In the 1920s, the eastern Stülerbau was used by the police. After suffering structural damage in the Second World War, the building was renovated by the chief state conservator and former Bauhaus student, Hinnerk Scheper, in a process that lasted until 1955. In 1960 it was put to use as a police station.
After being converted by the architect Wils Ebert, the Egyptian Museum moved into the premises in 1967. Ebert joined the separate buildings of the eastern Stülerbau and stables by constructing a connecting corridor between them and it is here that the gate from the Temple of Kalabsha stands today, which was salvaged from its original site in Egypt before the filling of the Aswan Dam. The pillars from the Temple of Sahure are also preserved here, in the room of the same name. After the return of the Egyptian Museum to the Museumsinsel Berlin in 2005, the building was once again converted by the architectural practice Sunder-Plassmann. As well as exposing the original brickwork in the Stülerbau, former stables, and Sahure room, Sunder-Plassmann created a glass entrance hall. The Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg opened its doors to the public in summer 2008, featuring an exhibition consisting in a long-term group loan, lent for an agreed period of ten years.