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About the collection

The Nationalgalerie’s permanent collection at Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart features major figures and movements in art since 1960, taking up where the Neue Nationalgalerie leaves off. The museum traces these artistic trends in all their diversity, including

  • the audacious redefinitions of painting,
  • the continuation of traditional sculpture in object art,
  • the development of conceptual art,
  • multimedia concepts in video and film
  • and the dissolution of art’s boundaries in environments and installations.

A historically defined exhibition style was consciously avoided in favour of an open presentation concept embracing all the media used by the various artists. Despite the museum’s spacious premises, it is not possible to show all of its works at once. Instead, the collection’s wealth of objects is displayed in rotating thematic or monographic exhibitions.

The Nationalgalerie’s former department of contemporary art, which opened at the Kronprinzen-Palais as “Museum für Gegenwart” (Museum of the Present) in 1919, was shut down by the National Socialists in 1937. Established by Nationalgalerie director Ludwig Justi after the demise of the German monarchy, the Museum der Gegenwart was one of the first state museums devoted to the “art of the living”.

In this progressive spirit, it was decided that this new museum’s collection would focus on art created as of 1960. The original impetus for its elaborate redesign was the contractual agreement concerning the Erich Marx collection, which thus also found a permanent home at the Hamburger Bahnhof. The museum’s premiere presentation in 1996 – an outstanding selection of works by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly – served as an impressive illustration of the museum’s ambitious mission. These pioneering artists, who transgressed the boundaries separating traditional art forms, provided the point of departure for the museum’s exhibitions and programmes, which have consistently focused on the interdisciplinary character of contemporary art.

In the context of this expanded notion of art, the Nationalgalerie collection is distinguished in particular by its holdings of immersive artists’ rooms, environments and installations, including ones by John Cage, Bill Viola, Peter Campus, Via Lewandowsky, Andrea Pichi, Wolf Vostell, Rebecca Horn, Qin Yufen, Marcel Broodthaers and Aernout Mik.

Key among the museum’s collection of paintings are works by Sturtevant, Gerhard Richter, A. R. Penck, Sigmar Polke and Imi Knoebel. These artists do not proceed from reality in their selection of subject, but rather from a world determined by the media, with their art continuing to shape the development of painting to this day. Works by younger artists such as Michel Majerus, Corinne Wasmuth and SUSI POP illustrate the mutable nature of the visual in the age of the computer. Works by Dierk Schmidt and Jutta Koether exemplify the expansion of painting into space.

In 2002 Hamburger Bahnhof’s holdings were significantly expanded with the acquisition of Egidio Marzona’s study collection of Conceptual Art and Arte Povera.

Filmic works by artists such as Rosa Barba, Candice Breitz, Keren Cytter, Matthew Buckingham, Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, David Lamelas and Melvin Moti represent an additional emphasis in the Nationalgalerie’s recent acquisitions.

The Stiftung für zeitgenössische Kunst (Foundation for Contemporary Art), founded by the Verein der Freunde der Nationalgalerie in 2005, has allowed for increased acquisitions relating to conceptual currents in art after 1980. This includes works by Nevin Aladağ, Andrea Fraser, Alfredo Jaar, John Knight, Susan Philpsz, Marjetica Potrĉ, Christopher Williams and Heimo Zobernig.

In 2004 the Hamburger Bahnhof received the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection as a long-term loan. The collection comprising more than 1500 prize works of contemporary European and North American art was displayed in rotating thematic and monographic exhibitions in the Rieckhallen, located behind the museum’s main building, which were refurnished for their presentation.

In February 2008 Friedrich Christian Flick made a gift to the Nationalgalerie of 166 works from his collection, among them pieces by Isa Genzken, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce Nauman, Raymond Pettibon, and Wolfgang Tillmans. In autumn 2014 this was followed by a second generous gift of 102 works by outstanding artists including Dan Graham, Absalon, Cindy Sherman, Stan Douglas, Thomas Schütte and Katharina Fritsch. Through these gestures a total of 268 artworks entered the permanent holdings of the Nationalgalerie. These gifts represent the largest received from any individual since a bequest made by Joachim Heinrich Wilhelm Wagener, a consul and banker, whose legacy formed the artistic foundations of the Nationalgalerie in 1861. Through his generosity the collector Friedrich Christian Flick has enduringly strengthened the Nationalgalerie’s collection.

The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection came to the Hamburger Bahnhof as a long-term loan in 2004. At that time the collection comprised over 1500 excellent works of contemporary European and North American art. The Rieckhallen, located behind the museum’s main building were converted to house the collection.

The collection’s density, diversity, and outstanding quality led at the time to a partnership between Friedrich Christian Flick and the Staatliche Museen in Berlin that was agreed for an initial period of seven years, until 2011, and subsequently extended for ten years. In addition to the works in the long-term loan The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof, the collector also made newly acquired works available to the Nationalgalerie. The cooperation with the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection ended with the expiration of the loan agreement on 30 September 2021.

Curators from the Nationalgalerie have presented the collection with various focuses, ranging from thematic overviews to monographic exhibitions. These exhibitions were primarily held in Hamburger Bahnhof’s Rieckhallen, although works from the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection were also shown at other Nationalgalerie venues in conjunction with its own collection.

In February 2008 Friedrich Christian Flick made a gift to the Nationalgalerie of 166 works from his collection, among them key pieces by Isa Genzken, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce Nauman, Raymond Pettibon and Wolfgang Tillmans. This was followed in fall of 2014 by a second generous gift of 102 pieces, including work collections by Dan Graham, Absalon, Cindy Sherman, Stan Douglas, Thomas Schütte and Katharina Fritsch. A total of 268 artworks have entered the permanent holdings of the Nationalgalerie through these gestures. They represent the largest gift by any individual since the bequest of consul and banker Joachim Heinrich Wagener, with which he furnished the artistic foundations of the Nationalgalerie in 1861. Friedrich Christian Flick has enduringly strengthened the Nationalgalerie collection.

The Hamburger Bahnhof opened in 1996 with the collection of the Berlin leader of commerce Dr. Erich Marx. Since then, the Sammlung Marx (Marx Collection) has formed a central component of the museum’s holdings. Outstanding works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol – many of them on permanent display – have earned the collection international renown. Works such as Anselm Kiefer’s lead pieces and especially Andy Warhol’s large portrait, "Mao" (1973), have become iconic hallmarks of the museum. The Sammlung Marx is on permanent loan to the Nationalgalerie, and is presented by the curators in changing configurations.

The core of the Sammlung Marx revolves around five major personalities of late 20th century art: Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. The collection contains wide-ranging ensembles of works by all five artists, making it possible for the museum to chart their artistic development from the early stages of production all the way to late or recent works. Several of these pieces forged new artistic pathways, and hence enjoy the status of key works in the history of art. Among these is Robert Rauschenberg’s early collage piece "Pink Door" of 1954, Andy Warhol’s "Double Elvis" of 1963, and Joseph Beuys’ "Straßenbahnhaltestelle" (Streetcar Stop) of 1976.

The Sammlung Marx is further distinguished by numerous works by North American artists. Important pieces by Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, and Roy Lichtenstein provide a survey of artistic trends during the 1960s and 1970s. Also present in the collection are works by later successors to Pop Art, including Keith Haring and Jeff Koons, along with the subtle, staged photographs of Cindy Sherman and pieces by Matthew Barney, whose work is shaped by a marked fascination with the human body.

Painting is represented in the collection in various forms: Large-format works by artists as diverse as Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, Rainer Fetting, and Georg Baselitz document the renaissance in expressive painting in Europe during the 1980s. Also on display are formalist and abstract responses to these developments by American artists such as Fiona Rae, Peter Halley, and German painter Günther Förg. In the realm of contemporary painting, the collection contains pieces by such notable figures as Daniel Richter, Eberhard Havekost and Frank Nitsche. Remarkable individual works round out the contemporary section of the Sammlung Marx: In addition to large-format photographs by Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, there are sculptures by Rachel Whiteread, paintings by Zbigniew Rogalski, and large-scale works by Ugo Rondinone.

Containing Conceptual, Land, and Minimal Art, as well as works of Arte Povera, the Sammlung Marzona (Marzona Collection) is one of the most significant ensembles of Conceptual Art created between 1965 and 1978. The collection encompasses more than 600 outstanding works by Ronald Bladen, Daniel Buren, Sol Lewitt, Mario Merz und Charlotte Posenenske which are divided today between the Hamburger Bahnhof and the Kupferstichkabinett. Also found in the Kunstbibliothek is the Sammlung Marzona’s archive, which includes many thousands of books and periodicals, posters and invitations, recordings, films, photographs, and letters. This archive is accessible in the Kunstbibliothek to interested members of the public for research purposes.

The Sammlung Marzona was assembled by Egidio Marzona, a passionate collector who followed developments in the art world of the 1960s and 1970s with intense interest. At the encouragement of art dealer Konrad Fischer and within the intellectual orbit of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, Marzona established his own art gallery as well as a publishing house – Edition Marzona – in the mid-1960s. During this period Marzona began building up his collection, conceptualised along the lines of an immense and encyclopaedic archive. The collection features objects by approximately 150 different artists and includes an array of three-dimensional works made from a variety of materials that reflect the intermedial approach to art production in the last decades, as well as hundreds of drawings, sketches, collages, works in mixed techniques on paper, and photographs. Alongside these objects, Marzona collected many thousands of invitations, exhibition catalogues, and posters, the unusual designs of which require that they be regarded as artistic realisations. In its sheer diversity and complexity, the Sammlung Marzona dialectically links the polar opposites of order and disorder in an open, flexible structure of artistic positions whose material and medial strategies and modes of realisation are subject to perpetual variations, transformations, expansions, and corrections.