Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin first opened its doors to the public in 1996, at a time when Berlin was no longer a divided city. Built in the mid-19th century as a railway terminal, the building underwent its first conversion as early as 1906, when it was transformed into the Royal Building and Transport Museum. Severely damaged in the war, for years it stood empty, only to find itself subsequently cut off from its surroundings by the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. In 1986, the vacant structure was officially handed over to the West Berlin Senate, which decided to put it to use well before the fall of the Wall a few years later. After being reconstructed by the architect Josef Paul Kleihues, the Hamburger Bahnhof now ranks as one of the largest museums for contemporary art in the world. Previously situated directly beside the Wall, it now commands a central position in the city, just a few minutes away from Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
© bpk/SMB, Photo: Reinhard Görner
It is at this site that António Ole has decided to erect a new kind of wall. The artist has built a wall of containers that covers the entire length of the cour d’honneur’s west wing. This container wall not only evokes the earlier partition of the city, but also the centuries-old history of trade between Europe and Africa, as well as the sealing-off of Europe from refugees and immigrants, forced to leave their homes. Migration and social dislocation are also themes taken up inside the Hamburger Bahnhof itself, in a film work by Zarina Bhimji.