New centrally located visitor centre opens on the "Museum Island" in Berlin

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New centrally located visitor centre opens on the "Museum Island" in Berlin
Director of the National Museums of Berlin, Michael Eissenhauer holds a picture as he delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the James-Simon-Galerie, a new centrally located visitor centre between the reconstructed 'Neues Museum' and the 'Pergamon Museum', on the "Museum Island" in Berlin on July 12, 2019. The gallery, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, will provide access to all four museums located on the island. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP.

BERLIN.- The time has come: On Saturday, 13 July 2019, the James-Simon-Galerie will open its doors with a big opening celebration. Covering 10,900 m², the central entrance building and reception area, based on plans by David Chipperfeld Architects, will provide visitors with useful information and services, and improve the overall experience of the Museumsinsel Berlin. Along with a space for special exhibitions and an auditorium, a large area for ticket sales and cloakrooms, as well as a shop, a café and a restaurant, the James-Simon-Galerie will provide direct access to the Pergamonmuseum and to the Neues Museum via the Archaeological Promenade. It is named after the great patron of arts James Simon (1851–1932).

Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz: “The James-Simon-Galerie is more than just a gateway to the Museumsinsel, and much more than just an urgently needed service building. David Chipperfield’s building is a contemporary keystone, an architectural counterpoint to the five historical buildings of the Museumsinsel. David Chipperfield is leading the ‘island’ into the twenty-first century. With this building, he challenges us to make the James-Simon-Galerie a place in which the magnificent collections can be reinterpreted, and also confronted with the intellectually and aesthetically pressing questions of our times.”

David Chipperfield: “The James-Simon-Galerie resolves logistical and infrastructural issues for the museum complex, and also fulfills an architectural vision for the Museum Island. This highly symbolic location encouraged us to find a reading of the building that transcends its practical functions, becoming defined instead by its general formal characteristics and a looser idea of purpose.”

Michael Eissenhauer, Director-General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: “We are delighted to welcome our visitors to the Museumsinsel at this central entry and service building, the James-Simon-Galerie. The architecture invites us to linger: the large, outdoor staircase will become the 'Spanish Steps' of Berlin, where locals can meet visitors from all over the world and discuss the internationally renowned cultural artefacts and artworks that can be found in the collections housed in the heart of Berlin.”

180 years after the historic buildings of the Museumsinsel Berlin first began to be built, the James-Simon-Galerie brings the ensemble of buildings to its architectural conclusion. Together with the Archaeological Promenade it represents the centrepiece of the Masterplan Museumsinsel developed in 1999 with the aim of preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as transforming it into a contemporary museum complex. Built on the only available area on the island, this central visitor centre takes on crucial service roles. With a total area of 10,900 m² it welcomes large groups of visitors and guides them to the highlights of the main circuit of the Museumsinsel. The building’s characteristic large outdoor staircase and the colonnades, with their extremely slender pillars, echo elements of the historic architecture surrounding it.

Until the completion of phase A of the restoration and refurbishment of the Pergamonmuseum, the James-Simon-Galerie will be the sole access point to the Pergamonmuseum, and one of two access points to the Neues Museum. It provides direct access to the Architecture of Antiquity tour on the main floor of the Pergamonmuseum, as well as to the lower floor of the Neues Museum via the Archaeological Promenade. According to the Masterplan, the Archaeological Promenade will link four of the five museum buildings, from Altes Museum to Bode-Museum. The Archaeological Promenade will house a permanent exhibition featuring a model of the Museumsinsel and interactive media stations, informing visitors about the history of the site, the different museums and their collections. Furthermore, it will showcase a number of the themes that connect the collections, with artefacts from all the archaeological collections housed on the Museumsinsel Berlin.

With its 650 m² of floor space, flexible modular vitrines and room dividers the temporary exhibition space situated directly next to the entrance to the Archaeological Promenade in the basement of the James-Simon-Galerie will house sepcial exhibitions from all the collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. After the opening, with a special presentation on the Life of James Simon, the Gipsformerei will celebrate its 200th anniversary with the first ever comprehensive display of its collection, titled Near Life, from 20 August 2019 until 1 March 2020. After that, there will be special exhibitions The Germanic Peoples: Fiction – Finds – Facts of the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (2020-2021), a show organised by the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung on the History and Archaeology of the city Achmîm-Panopolis in Upper Egypt (2021) and a special exhibition from the Museum für Islamische Kunst showcasing Masterworks from the Sarikhani Collection (2021-2022).

The foyer on the basement floor of the James-Simon-Galerie provides access to the auditorium which can hold up to 300 people and can be used for internal and external events. Every day from 9.30 am till 11 pm, the café and restaurant run by the BMB Group will accommodate up to 90 people in its interior designed by David Chipperfield Architects, and another 80 people on its sunny terrace overlooking the Spree. During the day, the café will serve foods and drinks to a broad variety of people, while in the evening the restaurant will serve fine cuisine, with thematic references to the collections and exhibitions. The 300m² Walther König museum shop will be the largest store on the Museumsinsel Berlin, and will be the central outlet for books and merchandise relating to all the collections on the island.

The James-Simon-Galerie is named after the great philanthropist, patron of the arts and Jewish cosmopolitan James Simon (1851–1932). Born in Berlin into a well-off textile dynasty, Simon is synonymous with cultural and social engagement, and was a truly unique figure. Not only did he support education across all sectors of society and help the underprivileged, as a passionate art collector, he also donated large collections of important artworks to the then Royal Museums. To this day, his donations remain some of the biggest treasures of Berlin’s collections. As a cofounder of the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft, he funded several excavations. The most prominent find from these excavations was the bust of Nefertiti, which was discovered in 1912 in Tell el-Amarna, and which James Simon donated to the Berlin Museums in 1920.

Special events and presentations around the opening of the James-Simon-Galerie will pay tribute to this great figure. At the temporary exhibition space a film presentation on the life of James Simon is shown, supported by James Simon-Stiftung. On 12 July, an Evening for James Simon will be held, attended by Ann and Timothy M. Simon. A panel discussion will explore the art of artful giving, and what art patronage is like today. In addition, the TV documentary Der Mann, der die Nofretete verschenkte – James Simon, der vergessene Mäzen (The Man Who Gave Away Nefertiti – James Simon, the Forgotten Patron of the Arts) will be screened in the auditorium. On the occasion of the opening of the James-Simon-Galerie, the James-Simon-Kabinett will be reinstalled after 80 years in its original home in the Bode-Museum.

“Without the engagement of countless benefactors, patrons and art lovers, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin would not be what they are today”, says Director-General Michael Eissenhauer. “James Simon is representative of the many Jewish patrons of the arts whose significant legacy was brutally erased by the Nazi regime. In this context, I’d like to mention the publisher Rudolf Mosse, to whom we pay tribute at a central location in the James-Simon-Galerie, but also Eduard Arnhold, Richard von Kaufmann, Gustav Jacoby and Eduard Simon, James Simon’s cousin. It is extremely important to us to celebrate these figures in the manner that they deserve.”

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July 13, 2019

New centrally located visitor centre opens on the "Museum Island" in Berlin

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