Visit Berlin’s Museums

By Danielle Pruger
Photos courtesy Visit Berlin

Kunsthaus Dahlem

Berlin, Germany’s capital, is the home to numerous impressive museums. With a section of Berlin dedicated to museums, Museum Island, as well as with museums around the rest of the city, it is easy to see the importance museums have on the cultural landscape of Berlin. The list of museums keeps growing as new ones continue to open and others re-open after renovations.

Open since 2013 at the former Pfefferberg Brewery complex, the private Museum for Architectural Drawings houses the renowned Tchoban Foundation’s collection, as well as temporary exhibits from leading international cultural institutions. Conceived by Berlin- and Moscow-based architect Sergei Tchoban, the museum presents three changing exhibitions annually. The architecturally striking building extends from a fire-wall, seemingly latching onto a row of typical Berlin houses. Evoking the image of a set of oversized piled blocks, the four story building’s silhouette is defined by a regression and progression of a colored concrete and glass facade. Open daily, admission is approximately $5.

Witchcraft and magical powers, mythical knowledge, secrets, the supernatural and ancient wisdom can be explored in the cellars of a historic former blacksmith building close to Berlin’s Hackesche Market. Open since summer 2014, Berlin’s Magic Museum features some 450 exhibits displayed over 6,500 square feet. Included are ritualistic objects and magic devices ranging from a Dutch witches scale and torture instruments to African totem masks, crystal balls and a historic Samurai sword. Curated to be more entertaining rather than strictly academic, the spellbinding exhibition encourages intuitive exploration. Open daily, admission is approximately $8.

Magicum Museum

Following extensive renovations, the Kunsthaus Dahlem will open in the summer of 2015 as an exhibition venue for Postwar German Modernism from East and West Germany (1945-61). The opening exhibition will focus primarily on sculptural works, complemented by paintings, graphics and photography. The historic building was constructed between 1939 and 1942 as a studio for infamous sculptor Arno Breker, who, alongside Josef Thorak, was one of the popular sculptors of the Third Reich, producing ornamental sculptures for Albert Speer’s monumental constructions. In addition to a café and a museum shop, there will also be a permanent exhibition on the building’s eventful past. Free admission.

Espionage has been the subject of many movies and books set in Berlin. Now the city is finally getting a museum that focuses on the mysteries of agents, double agents, betrayals, heroes and their stories, as well as the tools they used. The Berlin Spy Museum will feature approximately 21,500 square feet of exhibition space. One of the more well-known pieces on display will be the famous German coding machine “Enigma” from World War II, which was used for enciphering and deciphering secret messages. The exhibition will unveil the mysteries of intelligence services and espionage in the East and the West with a focus on Berlin during WWII and the Cold War. The interactive exhibits cater to all age groups, including children.

After three years of renovations, Germany’s oldest museum of decorative arts, the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin, reopened in November 2014 with a new gallery dedicated to the history of fashion. Located at Berlin’s Kulturforum museum complex, the new permanent exhibition of dresses, hats, bags, gloves and accessories from the 18th to the 21st century is based on an international collection acquired by the museum in 2009. Since its re-opening, the Kunstgewerbemuseum has been providing an overview of the key achievements in European design, from the Middle Ages to the present day. In addition to the Fashion Gallery, the museum features new departments of Design and Jugendstil/Art Deco.

Museum of Decorative Arts

After a year-long modernization, the Berlinische Gallery is scheduled to reopen on May 28, 2015. The gallery’s permanent exhibition focuses exclusively on art in Berlin from 1880-1980, ranging from late 19th century paintings, to Expressionism and the East European avant-garde, to post-war modern architecture and the “wild” works of the 1970s. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the collection, the exhibition will illustrate a diversity of artistic styles and credos, but also tensions, polarization and fresh departures, which remain hallmarks of Berlin as an artistic hub. Two other temporary exhibitions are opening on May 25, 2015: Radically Modern, which focuses on building styles in the 1960s and an exhibition on contemporary German painter Bernhard Martin. A retrospective on Max Beckmann and Berlin will open November 20, 2015 and is poised to be a major highlight of Berlin’s cultural winter for 2015/2016.

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