Berlin’s Ever Changing Museum Landscape

A supersticious display at the Berlin Magic Museum. Photo by Achim Kleuker
A superstitious display at the Berlin Magic Museum, the Magicum. Photo by Achim Kleuker

Berlin: Art as Cultural Narratives

By Erica Garnett

From wizards and architecture to fashion and spy gear, Berlin Germany welcomes the grand opening, reopening and renovations of museums and awaits the opening of others.

The Museum for Architectural Drawings
The Museum for Architectural Drawings. photo:

The emphasis on museum reform by the German city is one of many efforts to better unify the formerly split nations of East and West Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Recently Opened Museums

The Museum for Architectural Drawings opened in 2013. The private Tchoban Art Foundation contributes greatly to the collections as well as international cultural institutions.

By comparing the past century’s hand-drawn modeling to modern, digital architectural approach, the foundation hopes to evoke an interest in traditional architectural design while raising awareness of the well-preserved world of hand-drawn representations.

The museum also looks to revitalize the concept of private art foundations providing art for the public. Balancing on many levels of advocacy and integrity, the five-story building appears unstably stacked by the hands of a small child playing with wooden blocks.

However, the museum stands firmly as its own kind with no other architectural building of its kind in Germany. Its construction method resembles a game of Jenga played among friends.

With many games, riddles, and legends, the Magicum has been open since 2014. Berlin’s Magic Museum houses 450 exhibits including anything from witch scales, crystal balls, wizards, magical artifacts, and tokens of ancient wisdom. The former location of a Blacksmith’s shop, the museum has an element of entertainment and relaxation the refreshes the visitor from the exhausting and far too logical structure of a city’s cosmopolitan politics.

Magicum encourages creativity when exploring concepts such as spirituality, the supernatural, origins of magical thought, interpretations of the future, and games of illusion. Ultimately, the arts and exhibits demonstrate the diversity yet inclusivity among all cultures to have these religious and spiritual elements that make them unique and interesting.

Coming Attractions

Dresses from the 1970's and 80's as part of the fashion collection at The Museum of Decorative Arts.
Dresses from the 1970’s and 80’s as part of the fashion collection at The Museum of Decorative Arts.

The Kunsthaus Dahlem is on schedule to open in the summer of 2015. The museum focuses on the sculptural works of Postwar German Modernism between 1945 to 1961. The significant historical events embedded in the time period and expressed in the art include but are not limited to the East-West conflict, the Berlin Blockade, the division of Germany, the founding of two republics and the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Releasing their top secret opening date of spring 2015 is the Berlin Spy Museum. Centuries since World War II and the Cold War have passed, mysteries of espionage and secret intelligence from both the East and West will be revealed. Exhibitions will include infrared briefcases, hidden cameras in coats and the well known German coding machine “Enigma” from World War II.

A Reintroduction

After three years of renovations, The Museum of Decorative Arts reopened in November of 2014. It is known as Germany’s oldest museum of its kind. It transcribes the the history of the Middle Ages to the present through art as language.

The museum houses collections from other famous German museums such those that it originally emerged with after World War II in attempt to defy the Soviet-controlled sector and create a new cultural center for West Berlin.

A new gallery at the museum is dedicated to the history of fashion. Collections of dresses, hats, bags, gloves and other accessories are available from the 18th to 21st century based on a collection acquired in 2009 by the museum.

With its own plans of reopening, The Berlinische Gallery will celebrate its 40th anniversary and its ‘modernization’ in late May of 2015. An opening exhibit with the museum, ‘Radically Modern’ will focus on the 1960 building design and German painter, Bernhard Martin.

A piece of art at the Berlinische Gallery. Photo by Dieter Urbach.
A piece of art at the Berlinische Gallery. Photo by Dieter Urbach.

A couple months later, the museum anticipates a important winter night dedicated to Max Beckman and Berlin. These exhibits are central to the museum’s exclusive focus on art in Berlin from 1880-1890.

The Cultural Capital In the Art

Kirsten Schmidt, visitBerlin’s press representative, described Berlin as “a growing and expanding place with lots of culture. As tourism continues to grow every year, Berlin’s more than 180 museums provide a space for visitors and Germans to reflect on the recent history that has helped shaped the city.”

These massive cultural endeavors range from private initiatives funded through organizations to individuals finding a space and a niche and pursuing their passion. Over the 25-year process of retrospective rebirth, newer museums are emerging with focuses on special interests. “You’ll see anything from motorcycles to lipstick,” says Schmidt, commenting on the diversity of the city’s museums.

The art ultimately personifies different cultural perspectives of history, “Berlin’s museum landscape is still in flux and is definitely not settled,” Schmidt said.

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Check out the VisitBerlin website and all of the musem sites here!
The Museum For Architectural Drawing
Magicum: Berlin’s Magic Museum
Kunsthaus Dahlem Museum
Berlin Spy Museum
Museum of Decorative Arts at Kulturforum
Berlinische Gallery

Erica Garnett


Erica Garnett is a former intern at GoNOMAD Travel. She is a counselor at the Dummerston School in Vermont.

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