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An interview with Director General Michael Eissenhauer

Gipsformerei - Kunstmanufaktur seit 1819

Mr. Eissenhauer, what relevance does Kulturforum have as a location, both for Berlin and for you personally?

Kulturforum is a place which resonates with history: in the 19th century suburban villas, many with Jewish inhabitants, were built on this site. In the Nazi era, the area was subjected to radical urban redevelopment. And after the destruction of the second World War, the division of Germany was acutely felt here - until the reconstruction effort and later the fall of the Wall cleared the way for a cultural revival on the site that allowed Berlin to reconnect with historical modernism. In this way I feel confronted by history here, something which can be quite an emotional experience when you dwell on it.

What significance does Kulturforum have for the National Museums as a whole?

That's clear: this complex of buildings embodying European modernism is just as pivotal to the National Museums as the Museum Island. And it is our goal to attach the same importance to expanding and renovating the site as we do to the Museum Island. Thanks to their diversity, the collections held here represent the history of ideas from the early modern era up to the present day. Our aim is to allow our visitors to discover this for themselves in the best way possible.

Wherein lies the potential of this site as it stands today?

The physical proximity of the collections that are housed here allows for an intense interchange and dialogue of ideas. Institutions such as the Art Library and the Kupferstichkabinett, for example, that have launched a joint exhibition project this year on the theme of 'World as Words' and 'Text as Image', can compliment each other with their various collections, giving rise to exciting joint projects as a result.

How do you see Kulturforum in future?

This site and its future are dear to my heart and we have many plans for it that we would like to see implemented. These include first of all renovation work on the New National Gallery, as well as the creation of new spaces for the collections in the central building of the Kulturforum itself. We very much hope to be able to establish a gallery of 20th century art and culture on the site, which would mean the Gemäldegalerie being moved to the Museum Island. In addition, there are also plans for extensions to the Art Library and the Kupferstichkabinett. And lastly, we are also considering moving the Museum of European Cultures from Dahlem and partnering it with the Museum of Decorative Art so that these two collections can work more closely together. Our main aim is to make this important place a thriving cultural centre for Berlin, one that not only attracts tourists but which, as a centre for learning, exchange and enjoyment, is also vitally perceived by Berliners themselves as a space that has something of interest for anyone.

This interview appeared in the National Museums in Berlin's museum magazine (issue 4/2010).