Hamburger Bahnhof Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The Hamburger Bahnhof

The Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart was opened in 1996 as the new "museum for the present" of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, following a lengthy phase of reconstruction and conversion orchestrated by the architect Josef Paul Kleihues.

Built in 1847 as the terminal of the Hamburg-Berlin railroad line, and converted into a transport and building museum in 1906, the Hamburger Bahnhof – following more than four decades of dereliction in the aftermath of World War II – had now found a new calling within the association of state museums. As a museum for the present, the Hamburger Bahnhof's profile extends beyond the presentation of fine arts to encompass a range of aspects which have come to be associated with art in contemporary society: media, everyday culture, discussions, music, performances, and readings. Here it is appropriate to remember that the transformation of the Hamburger Bahnhof into a modern museum was largely due to a move by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – as owner of the building – to provide private collectors, in particular Erich Marx, with an interesting location in the new capital in which to show their collections. In return, Erich Marx placed his quality collection at the disposal of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the form of a long-term loan.

Outstanding ensembles by internationally acclaimed artists such as Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Anselm Kiefer and Joseph Beuys provide the foundation of this collection, and, together with key works belonging to the Nationalgalerie and other museums, have played an integral part in exhibitions at the Hamburger Bahnhof. It did not take long for the "Museum für Gegenwart Berlin" to achieve renown as both a centre for international contemporary art and an attractive venue for all manner of discussions, readings, music performances and film screenings.

Beyond maintaining the Marx Collection's links to Berlin, both the City and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin have shown an ongoing interest in bringing to light relatively unexposed works in the state collections of 20th and 21st-century art, and making them accessible to a wide audience. The Joseph Beuys Media Archive, which is incorporated into the Hamburger Bahnhof, plays a central role in the realisation of this objective. The archive’s main task is to collect and archive existing film and sound material by and about Beuys, and to make this material available to the public. In 1999, the gift of a large collection of video works by Mike Steiner substantially expanded the profile of the archive. The acquisition of the Marzona Collection in 2002, with its focus on Minimal Art, Concept Art, Land Art and Arte Povera, paved the way for a new, comprehensive overview of key positions in contemporary, process-oriented art after 1960. The patterns of development, the relationships and contrasts between the various movements and works could now be analysed, researched and presented in exhibitions. In addition to his art collection, Egidio Marzona placed his sizable collection of photos, flyers, films, videos, posters, manuscripts and artists’ books at the museum's disposal, opening up a whole new field of research particularly attractive to young art historians.

In 2004, through the presence of the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection, on loan to the museum for an initial period of seven years, the Hamburger Bahnhof has changed its image again. Having been abandoned due to a financial shortfall in 1996, the Hamburger Bahnhof’s original plans to construct a pendant to the Kleihueshalle on the western side of the museum have now – in the form of the Rieckhallen (a 300-metre-long former warehouse) – come to fruition on an even grander scale than envisaged. For the meantime, the new exhibition space is home to the largest private collection of contemporary art in the world including over 2,000 works of art by around 150 different artists. Comprising groups of works by esteemed European and North American artists such as Marcel Broodthaers, Marcel Duchamp, Duane Hanson, Candida Höfer, Mike Kelly, Martin Kippenberger, Bruce Nauman, Jason Rhoades, Pipilotti Rist, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Luc Tuymans, Jeff Wall and Franz West, the collection is to be shown in a series of exhibitions spanning the seven-year loan period. The new addition thus promises to be a substantial expansion of the collection and exhibition structure of the Hamburger Bahnhof.