The Museum Scene – Berlin, Brandenburg, Germany

A Major Center of Art and Culture

As the once-divided metropolis of Berlin fuses itself together in a flurry of urban renewal rarely seen before in European history, its inexhaustibly rich art collections have been shuffled, reorganized, and regrouped.

Pursuing its long-held dream of becoming the cultural and art capital not just of Germany but of Europe, investors and government have spent as much on the city’s new museums as they have on new luxury hotels and extrava­gant shopping malls.

The most impressive event was the 1998 reuniting of the Dahlem Museum in the West with the Bode Museum in the East, now under one roof again in the custom-built Gemaldegalerie am Kulturforum (the new Picture Gallery) in the Tiergarten district.

Of Berlin’s array of more than 170 museums, this unrivaled compilation is in a class all its own for the breadth and depth of its collection of paintings by Europe’s masters from the 13th to the 18th century. No fewer than twenty Rembrandts make up one gallery alone.

Lovers of antiquities could spend days on the Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a cache of five museums whose lodestone is the Pergamonmuseum, built exclusively to house the colossal 2nd-century B.C. Pergamon Altar (a 40-foot-high colonnaded Greek temple with twenty-seven steps leading up to it), discov­ered in 1864 and brought here in 1902 from Turkey.

The Agyptisches Museum contains the sublime bust of Nefertiti—meaning “the beautiful one is here”—created well over 3,000 years ago and unearthed in 1912 by German archaeologists. Add to that the exciting new contemporary art museum, the Hamburger Bahnhof, housed in a brilliantly converted 19th-century railway station, and you will have barely scratched the surface of one of the world’s most remarkable surveys of art, from the dawn of human culture to the avant-garde of today, in a city that is prom­ising to be the country’s showcase for the 21st century.

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