The Nationalgalerie first presented the Berggruen Collection to the public in 1996, housed in the western Stülerbau opposite Schloss Charlottenburg, in what is now known as the Museum Berggruen. With its impressive collection of works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Alberto Giacometti the Museum Berggruen is one of the most important museums of modern art in Berlin.
The Museum Berggruen owes its name and genesis to the art dealer and collector Heinz Berggruen (1914–2007). Born in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1914, Berggruen left Nazi Germany in 1936 and emigrated to the USA, where he initially worked as a freelance arts journalist, before taking up a post in 1939 at the San Francisco Museum of Art. After the war, Berggruen founded a gallery in Paris that represented many of the artists with whom he was personally acquainted and whose works he also began to collect privately. He worked in this profession for more than four decades, during which time he emerged as one of Paris’s leading gallerists, in particular of prints and drawings by Pablo Picasso. In 1980 Berggruen retired from his gallery business and concentrated on expanding his own collection. From this point on his principle interest lay in the artists who form the core of the museum’s collection today.
With more than 120 works by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), the Berggruen Collection contains a broad survey of Picasso’s development as an artist: beginning with a study from 1897, when Picasso was just sixteen, to works from his Blue and Rose periods: his 'Au café-concert' from 1902 and the 'Seated Harlequin' from 1905, as well as a series of works from his Cubist period, including 'Houses on the Hill (Horta de Ebro)' from 1909, and later works such as ‘Matador with Nude’ from 1970.
Another key area in the collection is dedicated to the artist Paul Klee (1879–1940) with 70 of his works on display, among them such mysterious, lyrical drawings as 'Galgenhumor' and 'Den Fischen läuten', both from 1919, which evoke Klee’s early affinity to Symbolism, as well as studies of colour and form such as 'transparent - perspectivisch gefügt (I)' from 1921 and 'Nekropolis' from 1929, which stem from his time as a teacher at the Bauhaus in Weimar. Works such as ‘Ein Kinderspiel’ (1939) and 'Der Teppich' from 1940, a watercolour painted shortly before he died, exemplify Klee’s later body of work.
Henri Matisse and Alberto Giacometti are represented in the Museum Berggruen mostly with examples of works from their late periods, including Matisse’s iconic paper cut-out ‘Nude Skipping Rope’ from 1952, and Giacometti’s 'Large Standing Woman III' from 1960. In addition, the museum also boasts works by Georges Braque, Henri Laurens, Paul Cézanne, and a selection of African sculptures.