Barberini, the refined art museum created by a German millionaire

J.M. Towers

Works of art of Impressionism and the avant-garde of the 20th century find in the Barberini Museum a space dedicated to art in the heart of the old capital of the Prussian Empire. This new museum is possible thanks to the generosity of the founder of the SAP software company and renowned collector Hasso Plattner.

The Barberini Museum in Potsdam, the capital of the state of Brandenburg in Germany, celebrates its first year anniversary later this month on January 28, 2019. About 30 minutes away from Berlin, it is currently owned by billionaire, patron of the arts and businessman Hasso Plattner, founder of the German multinational, SAP software.

The important cultural institution is located in a historic baroque palace built in 1771 by Frederick II the Great, third king of Prussia, and is inspired by Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The palace of Potsdam was destroyed by British bombers during World War II, more than 70 years later, Hasso Plattner, has invested more than 60 million euros (approximately US $68 million) in the reconstruction of the baroque palace, its facade and its roof, returning it to its original splendor.

stadtkern potsdam mit museum barberini 2 foto helge mundt presse
Photo: Helge Mundt. © Museum Barberini

Now converted into the Barberini Museum, the building, which has a large patio, is located in the Alte Markt square, the historic center of the city, very close to the Stadtschloss (City Palace), where the Brandenburg Parliament meets. On its left stands the old Town Hall and, very close by, is the church of San Nicolás.

Rear view of the Museum Barberini. Photo by Helge Mundt. © Museum Barberini.
Photo: Helge Mundt. © Museum Barberini

The restoration work began in 2013 and ended in 2016. The museum, which has more than four thousand square meters of exhibition space, was formally opened on January 28, 2017 at a grand opening attended by, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and businessman and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates.

Bill Gates and Bill McDermott Opening Museum Barberini. Photo Franziska Krug.
Bill Gates and Bill McDermott at the opening of the Barberini Museum. Photo: Franziska Krug.

In the last 20 years, Plattner, a great collector of art ranked 116th in December 2018 as part of Forbes list of billionaires with a fortune of US $12.6 billion (that is, US $ 12,600,000,000), which has allowed him to grow his very important collection of landscapes of French impressionists. A passionate sailor, he says that no one knows how to capture the unfathomable beauty of the sea like the French impressionists do.

Prof. Hasso Plattner benefactor and patron of the Museum Barberini.
Hasso Plattner, owner of the Museum Barberini.

In addition, he has also acquired important paintings from the former East Germany, pieces created after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and masterpieces of modern and contemporary art. His collection has, for example, fundamental pieces signed by impressionists such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, along with works by Max Liebermann, Edvard Munch, Joan Mitchell, Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, among others. One of his latest acquisitions was “Girls on the Bridge,” signed by Edvard Munch, which he won at an auction at Sotheby’s house for US $54.5 million.

Hasso Plattner and Angela Merkel in front of Edvard Munchs Girls on the Bridge at Museum Barberini Photo Franziska Krug.
Hasso Plattner and Angela Merkel before Girls of the Edvard Munch Bridge. Photo: Franziska Krug

The Barberini Museum in Potsdam exhibits part of the Plattner collection, with works from the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) and after 1989, and also presents three special exhibitions each year that are scheduled at academic congresses with international curators, researchers and temporary samples.

In addition, Plattner recently joined his friend Guy Wildenstein, another billionaire and art patron, to launch the Wildenstein Platter Institute, dedicated, as he explains, to support the research of art through accessibility, cataloging and digitization of primary sources.

Below are the next three exhibitions of the Museum.

Color and Light: The Neo-Impressionist Henri-Edmond Cross

From November 17, 2018 to February 17, 2019

In collaboration with the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, the Museum Barberini presents the first retrospective in Germany of one of the most important figures of neo-impressionism: Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910). His works highlight the beauty of the French Riviera.

Henri Edmond Cross Joyful Bathing 1899 1902 Private Collection. Courtesy Artveras Gallery.
Henri Edmond Cross, Joyful Bathing, 1899-1902. Private collection. Courtesy of Artveras Gallery

Olympian Gods: From the Dresden Sculpture Collection

From November 17, 2018 to February 17, 2019

For the ancient Greeks the ornate and imposing statues meant the presence of the gods and symbolized the power and canon of ideal beauty. To this day, these works continue to express greatness and charm. The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Museum in Dresden has one of the most important collections of ancient sculptures in Germany that can be seen in the Barberini Museum.

Picasso: The Late Work. From the collection of Jacqueline Picasso

From March 9, 2019 to June 16, 2019

Pablo Picasso painted in the final two decades of his life many portraits of his wife Jacqueline and other models. Through the exhibition “Picasso: The Late Work,” you can see part of the collection of Jacqueline Picasso (1927-1986). His daughter Catherine Hutin has made available this rare collection for the Barberini Museum exhibition. Bernardo Laniado-Romero has been selected as guest curator. The exhibition includes many pieces that have never been exhibited in Germany.

Interior del Museo. Foto de Helge Mundt.
Photo: Helge Mundt

Baroque roads: The Barberini and Corsini National Galleries in Rome

From July 13 to October 6, 2019.

The Barberini Museum will exhibit 54 masterpieces from the Barberini Palace and Corsini Rome collections, including one of Caravaggio’s most important works, his Narcissus painting of 1589/99. It will be the first exposition of the Barberini Museum focused on the Ancient Masters of Baroque art in Rome. A great celebration of Italian art and culture.

Van Gogh: Dead Natures

From October 26, 2019 to February 2, 2020.

From its origins to colorful images of flowers, Vincent Van Gogh repeatedly painted still life paintings, in which he experimented with light, shadows and colors. More than 20 paintings will be featured in this exhibition, which will analyze the key stages of his life and work. The works belong to the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. With pieces on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Monet: Places

From February 29 to June 1, 2020.

In his landscape paintings, Claude Monet continuously visited the same spaces until he created a vast series of works from the same place. His series of paintings from the Normandy coast, from Zaandam, in the Netherlands, from London or from Venice are famous. His concern was not the picturesque places, but rather the change of light, climate and the different images he could produce in a painting. The exhibition will be organized in collaboration with the Denver Art Museum.

The Barberini, as is usually known, is a must-see in Berlin, offering guests a one-of-a-kind experience, highlighting works by some of the best artists in the world. 

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