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Changing Lights: 25th Anniversary Celebration for the Gemäldegalerie on 18 November 2023


The Gemäldegalerie (Old Master Paintings) museum is celebrating! Twenty-five years ago – in 1998 – the Gemäldegalerie building, designed by Hilmer & Sattler, opened at the Kulturforum, where the formerly divided painting collection was reunited for the first time. On Saturday, 18 November 2023, the Gemäldegalerie and the Kaiser Friedrich Museumsverein (KFMV) invite visitors to a big anniversary celebration with free admission. Visitors can expect a versatile anniversary programme for children and adults, with tours, special events, workshops, an evening talk, a film premiere and music. Moreover, the Gemäldegalerie presents its new, sustainable lighting system as part of the anniversary events.

The Second World War split apart the Gemäldegalerie painting collection, which, as a result of the division of Germany, was exhibited in Dahlem (West Berlin) and at the Bode-Museum (East Berlin). In 1998, it became the first Staatliche Museen zu Berlin collection to be reunited in the new building at the Kulturforum. Since the merger, the breadth and structure of the collection can be understood and fully experienced again. The event was a sensation at the time and reflects a moment in German history.

To celebrate the museum’s anniversary of its new building and the collection’s reunification, the Gemäldegalerie and the Kaiser Friedrich Museumsverein (friends’ association) jointly host an anniversary celebration on Saturday, 18 November 2023. In addition to an extensive accompanying programme, alterations and innovations to the museum will also be introduced ‒ featuring an improved lighting system. Following a two-year renovation with partial closings, the work has been completed right on time for the anniversary: All public areas of the Gemäldegalerie are now reopened to visitors.

With the new lighting and signage systems for our exhibits, we have decisively modernised the Gemäldegalerie, thereby sustainably improving the art experience and information conveyed about the works. I am delighted that we can present these changes and offer our visitors a terrific, free anniversary programme for the 25th-anniversary event at the Kulturforum.

Dagmar Hirschfelder, director of the Gemäldegalerie

The Gemäldegalerie’s signage system has also been modernised: 350 selected masterpieces have become even more accessible for visitors through explanatory texts in German and English. Brief descriptions about a work’s artist, background information, function and meaning, as well as (optional) QR codes for in-depth discussions, enhance on-site art education. The museum aims to continually add works to this system until they are all included.

Free Admission: Anniversary Celebration with an Accompanying Programme on 18 November 2023, 10 am ‒ 11 pm

In the permanent exhibition, the director, curators and restorer-conservators introduce the new lighting system and its effects at the Gemäldegalerie. In addition, painting tours are offered on the great masters of light – Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer. The special exhibition “Zoom on van Eyck: Masterpieces in Detail”, featuring interactive light projections, is on view in the central hall. Exhibition curators look forward to giving participants exclusive tours.

Festive Evening and a Round of Talks

The public evening event begins at 7 pm with an opening address by Joe Chialo, Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion in the federal state of Berlin. A discussion panel, moderated by rbb editor Maria Ossowski, follows about the eventful history and future plans for the Gemäldegalerie: Hermann Parzinger, president of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Dagmar Hirschfelder, director of the Gemäldegalerie, Brigit Blass-Simmen, chair of the executive board of the Kaiser Friedrich Museumsverein, and Nathan Eddy, filmmaker and journalist will be on the podium.

Film Premiere: ‘Alte Meister, neues Licht – die Berliner Gemäldegalerie’

After the talk, directors Nathan Eddy and Paul Wiederhold present the ARTE/rbb documentary ‘Alte Meister, neues Licht – die Berliner Gemäldegalerie’. The film (in German), which celebrates its premiere on the evening of the event, spotlights how light is depicted in the masterpieces in the Old Masters’ painting collection and the new lighting system at the museum.

DJ, Activity Stations and Two Film Screenings

Later in the evening, all visitors are warmly invited to join in the celebration with DJ Dickey Doo (House/Disco) and beverages and snacks. Activity stations featuring sleuthing games that track down specific objects in the exhibition spaces await both adults and young visitors. A second film screening for night owls will be shown at 9:30 pm.

The anniversary celebration is supported by ARTE and ERCO. The lighting system was made possible by Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG.