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Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Conservators also oppose plan to sideline
Berlin's Old Masters
One of World's Greatest Collections to be Replaced by Modern Art

by Julia Michalska

August 2012--Conservators in Germany have joined the protest over plans to relocate the world-famous collection of Old Masters in Berlin's Gemäldegalerie. Under the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz's (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) plan, the estimated 3,000 works will move into the much smaller Bode Museum to make way for modern art including the collection of Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch. Any Old Master that cannot be displayed in the smaller space will go into storage for an estimated six years until a new space is found for the collection on the capital's Museum Island.

The move, which was announced at the beginning of July, poses a “significant conservation risk”, said a statement released by the Bonn-based Verband der Restauratoren (Association of Restorers) on 19 July. The association, which has around 2,500 members, argues that the Pietzsch collection should move into the Gemäldegalerie only when a suitable location has been found to accommodate the Old Masters. “Only then can transport be reduced and the possibility that large parts of the collection will disappear into stores for years be avoided,” the statement said. “Any handling, packaging and transportation—even within the building—means mechanical stress and climatic changes to the works, which weakens their substance.”

Around 12,000 people, including Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia, have signed a petition against emptying the Gemäldegalerie of its Old Masters. The petition was set up by Jeffrey Hamburger, an art historian at Harvard University. Earlier, the Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker (Association of German Art Historians) wrote an open letter to Germany's minister of culture, Bernd Neumann, protesting “vehemently” against the plans. But the Bundestag has already made €10m available for the renovation of the Gemäldegalerie, setting the wheels in motion for the move.

The Berlin-based collectors Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch have donated 150 works of art, valued at €120m. But their gift was made on the condition that the works by artists including Magritte, Pollock and Ernst will eventually be on permanent display.

Heiner Pietzsch, an industrialist, has hinted to the German media that should the deal collapse, their heirs would have a lot of art to sell.

SOURCE: The Art Newspaper
Published on August 2, 2012