{Germany} The New Museum Barberini Opens

January 24, 2017


Ever since visiting the ITB tourism trade fair last year, and hearing about the Museum Barberini project in Berlin’s neighbouring city of Potsdam, I’ve been excited about this new museum opening. And last weekend, the wait was finally over! Ahead of assuming it’s regular operation yesterday, Museum Barberini was taking part in Potsdam’s annual festival of lights, and members of the public had a chance to visit the new museum for free. When I saw the massive queue on arrival – an hour before the event was due to start! – I felt lucky to have been invited to an exclusive preview for museum and culture bloggers, with director Ortrud Westheider herself giving us the grand tour.

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It was refreshing to see a museum embrace blogger relations to openly right from the start. Photography was allowed throughout, and there was free WiFi on hand. I’d already actually had the chance to see the ‘Empty Museum’ at the end of November, last year, where visitors could get an impression of the new museum before the exhibitions went in. Sadly I couldn’t go in the end, despite having snagged a free ticket, due to illness, but around 24,500 people went to see it. At the preview event last Saturday, around 1800 people came through the museum. What a tremendous buzz ahead of opening. And having now seen it myself, I can say, deservedly so.

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The privately funded museum was founded by German software billionaire Hasso Plattner, and is housed across three floors in a reconstructed 18th-century palace – Palace Barberini, in case you were wondering where the museum takes its name from – which had been destroyed in the World War Two. It was reconstructed especially for this project in Potsdam’s Old Market Square, at Plattner’s expense. The world’s 113th richest man – according to Forbes – is a passionate art collector, and a member of a group of billionaire philanthropists who pledge to give half their wealth to charity in their lifetime or in their will. He has quietly grown his outstanding collection of over 200 paintings and sculptures – the exact number is apparently unclear –  over a couple of decades.

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The museum has no permanent exhibition as such, though some of Plattner’s art collection – East German art from before 1989 – will stay in Potsdam permanently. The rest of his collection will be displayed in rotating exhibitions, and will presumably travel back to his US home in Palo Alto when not on display. The two major debut exhibitions are ‘Modern Art Classics: Liebermann, Munch, Nolde, Kandinsky’ and ‘Impressionism: The Art of Landscape’, both on display until 28th May 2017. Both exhibitions show many works from Plattner’s own collection, alongside a large number of loans from international collections and museums, including the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Hermitage in St Petersburg, and the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, to name just a few. There are also two smaller exhibitions: one on ‘Artists in the GDR’, also on display until 28th May, and another on the history of the Palace Barberini, which will run until 11 February 2018.

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The Impressionism exhibition was my favourite. Who doesn’t love some good old Impressionism! Alongside key works from famous artists such as Monet and Renoir, there was quite a lot of art by Alfred Sisley, which made me extremely happy, since he is one of my favourite artists (side note: and Alfred Hitchcock is my favourite movie director, so you can see a theme emerging here which may explain #MuseumBaby’s name, lol). And as someone who loves things that are organised by theme, I loved that the rooms in the exhibition were themed too, e.g. there was the reflection room, the poplars and fields room, the winter landscapes room, and of course the inevitable water lilies room. The exhibition includes loans from 32 national and international museums and private collections. When asked which artworks came from Plattner, the response was that they simple say ‘private collection’ like many of the other private lenders. Plattner prefers to stay anonymous, and let the art do the talking.

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Beside the exhibitions, the museum also includes a ‘Smart Wall’ – a huge video screen on which visitors can compare landscape paintings with photographs of the original landscapes that inspired them, as recorded last year by German photographer Christoph Irrgang. I thought it was pretty cool seeing the paintings and photographs side by side. There is also a museum app, which I have yet to fully explore, which includes indoor navigation, information on the artworks, and audio tours for adults and kids, amongst other things. All this is accompanied by a programme of events for almost every audience – children, youths, adults, single visitors, groups…

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So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Potsdam! The Museum Barberini it well worth a visit. And the rest of Potsdam too.

Museum Website: Museum Barberini

Opening Hours: Wednesdays to Mondays, 11am to 7pm (closed on Tuesdays) and until 9pm on the first Thursday of the month

Admission price: 14 Euros full price, 10 Euros concessions, children aged 17 and under go free

Many thanks to Museum Barberini and Artefakt for the invite to the exclusive preview, and congratulations on a successful opening!


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