Berlin, like its museums, is incredibly diverse and vibrant. Even though the city’s collections are not as well known as those in London or Paris, they are extraordinarily deep. On a recent trip, Patrons discovered ancient masterpieces, Old Masters, and contemporary treasures in a city once described by the late David Bowie as “the greatest cultural extravaganza.” The excursion was led by Ronni Baer, William and Ann Elfers Senior Curator of Paintings, Art of Europe; and Liz Munsell, Lorraine and Alan Bressler Curator of Contemporary Art and Special Initiatives.
Upon arrival, Patrons were introduced to Berlin’s architectural landmarks, with visits to the Brandenburg Gate, Victory Column, Chancellery, and Checkpoint Charlie. A visit to the East Side Gallery, a series of murals painted on the largest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, served as a poignant reminder of a not too distant past when many of the city’s treasures were not as easily accessible.
Having been properly initiated, Patrons set out to discover the embarrassment of riches that is Berlin’s art collections. Our first stop was the Kupferstichkabinett, where Ronni Baer and Holm Bevers, chief curator of Dutch and Flemish prints and drawings, shared some of the museum’s rare prints and drawings. Next, Stephan Kemperdick, curator of early Netherlandish and early German painting at the Gemäldegalerie, treated us to a viewing of the Melun Diptych, a haunting 15th-century masterpiece recently reunited for the first time in 80 years.
On the next day, Patrons set out to explore Museuminsel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts five extraordinary museums. We will never look at the MFA’s Benin Kingdom Gallery the same way again after seeing a Benin bronze figure perfectly paired with a small bronze Donatello at the Bode Museum. The group next ventured into Berlin’s contemporary art scene with visits to the Hamburger Bahnhof, the Boros Collection, the Hoffman Collection, and the studio of contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson. To complement the visual feast, the group visited Kulturforum to hear the Berlin Philharmonic. The adventure continued with more behind-the-scenes visits, culminating in an evening celebration at the top of Norman Foster’s renovated Reichstag, where we reflected on our time together and enjoyed views of the city.
Special thanks to Ronni and Liz for packing so many memorable activities into a few short days. Patron travel offers a meaningful way to engage with the MFA and get up-close and personal with superlative art. Behind-the-scenes experiences, delicious meals, and good company are hallmarks of MFA Travel. We encourage Patrons to take advantage of these experiences and join future MFA adventures.
Support for curatorial travel at the MFA is provided in part by Sotheby’s.
Image © istockphoto.com/VogelSP