Udo Kittelmann to Leave the Nationalgalerie in October 2020

21.08.2019

The Director of the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Udo Kittelmann, has decided not to renew his contract when it ends on 31 October 2020. By that time, the 61-year-old will have served at the helm of this collection for 12 years. The cosmos of the Nationalgalerie is made up of five institutions – in addition to the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Neue Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen and the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, it is also home to the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin.

The Nationalgalerie as a Place for All Sectors of Society

The former director of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main began his tenure in Berlin on 1 November 2008, taking over from Peter-Klaus Schuster. From the very beginning, he sparked a spectacular array of exhibitions, events and new and unusual activities. Along the way, he was supported by a network of outstanding curators, whose services he managed to secure to realise his projects.

Contemporary Art, Social Relevance and Critical Interventions

Udo Kittelmann strengthened the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s engagement with new trends and perspectives in contemporary art. With his programme – most notably at the Hamburger Bahnhof – he never pandered to the mainstream, instead zeroing in on idiosyncratic and strong individual perspectives, alongside large-scale solo or thematic exhibitions. And more often than not, this involved shedding light on new discoveries. Social relevance and critical interventions were always more important to him than quick successes with easy, audience-pulling concepts.

Kittelmann’s Diverse Achievements

Another of Udo Kittelmann’s major achievements is evinced by the fact that Berlin’s Nationalgalerie is today mentioned in the same breath as the world’s most important art museums. His extensive exhibition and events programme was primarily achieved through remarkably successful acquisitions financed by external funding, which was a central passion for Udo Kittelmann, and this passion bore fruit time and again. In 2013, he was named “European Cultural Manager of the Year”.

Exhibitions: Prospects and Confrontations

His central objective was and still is to develop long-term and sustainable prospects for the Nationalgalerie, and above all, to continually confront this incredible collection with new questions. With his very first exhibition, Die Kunst ist super! (Art is super! 2009/2010), Udo Kittelmann interrogated the supposedly stable systems of value operating behind the collection of the Nationalgalerie, presenting art as a seismograph of social change. This was followed by a number of major historical surveys:

The list of exhibitions curated by Udo Kittelmann and his team is very long indeed, and cannot be completely reproduced here.

Alongside solo exhibitions of more well-known names such as Thomas Demand (2009/2010), Rudolf Stingel (2010), Carsten Höller (2010/2011), Tomás Saraceno (2011/2012), Gerhard Richter (2012), Martin Kippenberger (2013) and Otto Piene (2014), lesser-known historical and contemporary figures were always represented as well, many of which first received national and even international attention through Kittelmann’s engagement – such as Taryn Simon (2011/2012), Hilma af Klint (2013), Gottfried Lindauer’s Māori Portraits (2014/2015), Adrian Piper (2017), or, currently, Jack Whitten, to name just a few.

Currently, with more than 120,000 visitors to date, the extremely successful show at the Hamburger Bahnhof Emil Nolde: A German Legend – The Artist During the Nazi Regime is receiving international attention. From October 2019, the exhibition Fighting for Visibility at the Alte Nationalgalerie will present work from the collection of the Nationalgalerie produced before 1919 exclusively by female artists.

Works for the Collections of the Nationalgalerie

In what will soon be 12 years of his directorship, more than 500 high-quality works spanning all epochs from the 19th century through to works of contemporary art have been added to the collections of the Nationalgalerie, often through generous donations – to name just a few key works, for example, this includes Leo von Klenze’s The Temple of Concordia at Agrigento (1857), Lotte Laserstein’s Evening Over Potsdam (1930), Pierre Huyghe’s Zoodram 6 (2013) and Adrian Piper’s The Probable Trust Registry (2013-2015), along with Max Beckmann’s Self-Portrait in Bar (1942). As well as this, though, in recent years, the collections of Erich Marx, Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch, Friedrich Christian Flick, and Egidio Marzona have also received a great deal of attention thanks to the tireless work of Udo Kittelmann.

Numerous Strategic Decisions

During Udo Kittelmann’s tenure, numerous decisions had to be made that were of enormous strategic importance for the history of the Nationalgalerie. After the temporary closure of the Neue Nationalgalerie in early 2015 for refurbishments, the “Neue Galerie” in the Hamburger Bahnhof provided a new, temporary home for Modernist art. Large portions of the Nationalgalerie’s collection have also been shown internationally and in other cities across Germany. Currently, planning for the new building of the Nationalgalerie in the Kulturforum falls within Udo Kittelmann’s purview, for which ground is set to be broken in October/November 2019.

Acting Directorship of the Nationalgalerie from 1 November 2020

Udo Kittelmann has decided not to renew his contract when it ends on 31 October 2020. After his departure and until the position is permanently filled, the acting directorship of the Nationalgalerie will be assumed by the current Deputy Director, Joachim Jäger.