About the collection

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

  • the audacious redefinitions of painting,
  • the continuation of traditional sculpture in object art,
  • the special role of photography and multimedia concepts in video and film.

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 striking spaciousness of its premises, it is not actually possible to show all of the museum’s work at once. Instead, the collection’s wealth of objects is displayed in rotating thematic exhibitions.The name "Museum für Gegenwart" (meaning "Museum of the Present") invokes the Nationalgalerie’s former department of contemporary art, which opened at the Kronprinzen-Palais in 1919 and was shut down by the Nazis in 1937. Established by Nationalgalerie director Ludwig Justi in the aftermath of the fall 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 since 1960. The original impetus for its elaborate redesign was the acquisition of the Erich Marx collection, which has found a permanent home in 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 – gave audiences 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, including ones by John Cage, Bill Viola, Peter Campus, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Wolf Vostell, Rebecca Horn, Marcel Broodthaers, and Aernout Mik.

The museum’s collection of paintings features works by Gerhard Richter, A.R. Penck, Sigmar Polke and Imi Knoebel. These artists do not proceed from reality in their selection of motifs, but rather from a world determined by the media, and have shaped 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.

In 2002, the 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 Rosa Barba, Matthew Buckingham, Omer Fast, David Lamelas and Melvin Moti represent an additional emphasis in the Nationalgalerie’s recent acquisitions, an important component of which is the Joseph Beuys Media Archive, founded in November 1996.

The related department of photography assembles works from the so-called Becher School: works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, and Thomas Ruff, but also examples of staged and conceptual photography, and works challenging the threshold between photography and painting.

Furthermore, 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 Hans-Peter Feldmann, Andrea Fraser, Christopher Williams, and Heimo Zobernig.

In 2004, the Hamburger Bahnhof received the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection as a long-term loan. The collection comprises more than 1500 prize works of contemporary European and North American art, and is on display in rotating thematic and monographic exhibitions in the vast Rieckhallen, located behind the museum’s main building. 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 Flick followed his first donation with a second generous gift of 102 works by outstanding artists such as Dan Graham, Absalon, Cindy Sherman, Stan Douglas, Thomas Schütte or Katharina Fritsch. Through these donations a total of 268 artworks have entered the permanent holdings of the Nationalgalerie. Flick’s gifts represent the largest received from any individual since the Nationalgalerie was founded in 1861 with a bequest made by Joachim Heinrich Wilhelm Wagener, a consul and banker. The collector Friedrich Christian Flick has enduringly strengthened the Nationalgalerie Collection.

The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection on show at the Hamburger Bahnhof encompasses more than 1500 works by approximately 150 artists. The collection is dedicated to art from the last decades of the 20th century. It primarily contains art by Europeans and North Americans, but Asian artists are also represented. Within the collection, certain key figures in contemporary art are strikingly illustrated by larger work ensembles.

In 2004, the sheer volume, diversity, and outstanding quality of the collection led to a partnership between Friedrich Christian Flick and the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. The venture was originally planned for an initial period of seven years, until 2011, and has now been extended by another ten years, until 2021. For this period, Flick made the collection’s approximately 1500 works available to the Nationalgalerie in the form of a long-term loan. Presented to the public under the title "The Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof", the collection has been supplemented periodically with new acquisitions by Friedrich Christian Flick.

Curators from the Nationalgalerie have presented the collection in a variety of configurations, ranging from thematic overviews to monographic exhibitions. For the most part, these exhibitions are found in the Rieckhallen of the Hamburger Bahnhof. Works from the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection are also on view in other branches of the Nationalgalerie, alongside their respective collections.

The historical core of the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof is formed by major works from a trio of modernists: the paintings of Francis Picabia, with their numerous citations; the existentially inflected sculptures of Alberto Giacometti; and the radical conceptual art of Marcel Duchamp. All three of these work complexes suggest the collection’s central focus, namely the upheavals and re-conceptualisations of art after 1960. Especially notable within this context is US artist Bruce Nauman’s large and unique ensemble of works, whose density and multidimensional character strikingly reflect essential aspects of Nauman’s artistic thinking. Another important ensemble of works found in the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at the Hamburger Bahnhof encompasses Conceptual Art, Minimalism, Fluxus, and the Poetic Structuralism of the 1960s. Highlights include works by Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Ryman, Marcel Broodthaers, Nam June Paik, Dieter Roth, Dan Graham, and On Kawara, among others. The medium of painting – whose point of departure in the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection is found in the art of Picabia – is represented for the most part by German artists such as Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, and Blinky Palermo, but also by younger artists such as Neo Rauch, Daniel Richter, and the Belgian painter Luc Tuymans.

This intriguing constellation of artists, who are essentially broadly representative of modern art, is closely linked within the collection to the art of the subsequent generation, to individual works and work ensembles by contemporary artists such as Stan Douglas, Isa Genzken, Rodney Graham, Andreas Hofer, Jason Rhoades, Pippilotti Rist, Anri Sala, Beat Streuli, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Jeff Wall. The Flick Collection encompasses all media, from drawing, prints, paintings, and sculpture, to environmental art, photography, video, and film. In addition, artists such as Paul McCarthy, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, and Stan Douglas are represented in the collection by especially large works, including elaborate installations as well as complex filmic spaces.

In the field of photography, we find wide-ranging ensembles of works by key artists of the high-modern period such as Albert Renger-Patzsch, Walker Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, and the photographers of the Bauhaus. These works function as points of departure not only for contemporary photography on display in the collection – represented by artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher and their students – but also for conceptual photographers such as Vito Acconci, Dan Graham, and Gordon Matta-Clark.

In the spring of 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, Paul McCarthy, Dieter Roth, Richard Artschwager, Raymond Pettibon, Rodney Graham, Pipilotti Rist, Urs Fischer, and Wolfgang Tillmans. In autumn 2014 Flick followed his first donation with a second generous gift of 102 works by outstanding artists such as Dan Graham, Absalon, Cindy Sherman, Stan Douglas, Thomas Schütte or Katharina Fritsch. Through these donations a total of 268 artworks have entered the permanent holdings of the Nationalgalerie. Flick’s gifts represent the largest received from any individual since the Nationalgalerie was founded in 1861. The collector 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.

The Kleihueshalle, in which the Sammlung Marx is normally shown, is closed for several months due to extensive restoration work. Part of the collection is included in a presentation titled Time for Fragments, on view in the west wing from 9 November 2019.

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.