Opening of the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg "Surreal Worlds"

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Opening of the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg "Surreal Worlds"
Paul Klee (1879 - 1940) Freundliches Spiel 1933, 310 (A10) 1933. Aquarell auf Gipsplatte, auf Rahmen genagelt, 27,5 x 30 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, bpk, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2008. Foto: Jörg P. Anders, Berlin.

BERLIN.- The Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg is exhibiting excellent works by the Surrealists and their forerunners. Paintings, sculptures and works on paper are being exhibited on three floors under the title "Surreal Worlds". The spectrum of artists ranges from Piranesi, Goya, Klinger and Redon to Dalí, Magritte, Max Ernst and Dubuffet. The opening of the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg opposite the Museum Berggruen will see the creation of a new cluster of museums in Charlottenburg dedicated to classical modernism.

The collection
The history of fantastical art is traced in more than 250 works. Surrealism, a movement seeking to renew art whose principles were proclaimed in a manifesto by André Breton in the Paris of 1924, is at the centre of the collection.
Nearly all members of the group of Surrealists are represented by selected works in the collection. There are larger groups of works, in particular, by René Magritte, Max Ernst and Hans Bellmer, but also by Wols and Paul Klee. The central pictorial strategies of Surrealism, such as combinatorics, metamorphosis and pure psychic automatism are illustrated by numerous virtuoso examples.

Surrealism has its place in a significant line of tradition in occidental art. The earliest works in the collection include Piranesi's illustrations of fantastical dungeon architecture as well as the nightmarish ghostly figures in Goya's etchings. French Symbolism of the late 19th century is represented by paintings of Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau, as is its German counterpart in the form of graphic cycles of Max Klinger.

The spectrum of art on exhibit is augmented by a film programme which includes both the classic surrealist films of Luis Buńuel and Salvador Dalí as well as films by contemporary artists who draw upon Surrealism or use its formal instruments in their work.

History of the collection
The Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg presents the holdings of the "Stiftung Sammlung Dieter Scharf zur Erinnerung an Otto Gerstenberg", the foundation of the Dieter Scharf collection in remembrance of Otto Gerstenberg. The starting point lies in the collection gathered together by Otto Gerstenberg (1848-1935) in Berlin around 1910. He compiled one of the largest collections of painting and graphic art of his time, covering a broad range of periods from the Old Masters to Impressionism.

Otto Gerstenberg's passion for collecting art was continued by his grandsons Walter Scharf (1923-1996) and Dieter Scharf (1926-2001). The latter took over the graphic cycles by Piranesi, Goya and Klinger as a founding stock for his own collection which focuses on the fantastic and the surreal. With great determination and consistency, he assembled an outstanding collection which, shortly before his death, he converted into a foundation which was to present its holdings on a permanent basis in Berlin.

In 2000, the collection was exhibited with great success under the title "Surreale Welten (Surreal Worlds) in the New National Gallery. A ten-year loan contract thereafter secured the collection for the National Museums in Berlin. With its thematic focus, the collection represents an ideal supplement to "Picasso and his time”, the exhibition on show in the Museum Berggruen located opposite. With this additional highlight, the museums in Charlottenburg become a centre for the art of the early 20th century.

Museum ensemble Charlottenburg - the architecture
The Scharf-Gerstenberg collection will be housed in the building erected in the 1850s by the architect Friedrich August Stüler and located opposite Charlottenburg Palace. Between 1967 and 2005, the buildings, originally designed in 1851 for the horses, coaches and life guards of King Wilhelm IV, were used by the Egyptian Museum until it moved back to the Museum Island. The conversion of the buildings for the presentation of the Scharf-Gerstenberg collection was carried out according to plans by the architectural offices of Sunder-Plassmann. As a new addition to the building, the architectural office of Sunder-Plassmann have designed a generously glazed entrance area with a café. In this way, the courtyard wedged between the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg, the Museum of Local History (Heimatmuseum Charlottenburg), the Plaster Cast Collection (Abguss-Sammlung Antiker Plastik), and the Natural Science Collections can be experienced as a new kind of urban architectural ensemble.

The future concept for exhibitions
The entire ‘Surreal Worlds' collection will be put on display to mark the occasion of the opening of the new house in July 2008. And visitors will be able to enter the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg through the new entrance in the gap between the two parts of the historical building.

As well as the individual exhibits, a looped sequence of films will also be shown on repeat in the Sahure Hall. Such classics of Surrealist cinema as ‘Un Chien Andalou' by Luis Buńuel and Salvador Dalí will be shown alongside selected films by contemporary artists.

The Kalabsha Gate and the ancient columns from Sahure's temple will remain where they are in the east wing of the building, designed by Friedrich August Stüler, until the completion of the renovations still taking place in the Pergamon Museum on the Museum Island. Upon entering, visitors to the collection will be greeted by the gate to the Kalabsha Temple as they cross over to what used to be the royal stables.

In 1963 German archaeologists saved the Nubian Kalabsha Temple from flooding during the Aswan dam project. Eight years later Germany in return received the monumental gate as a token of the Egyptians' gratitude. The sandstone blocks from the gate, which stem from the time of around 20 BC were originally found in the temple's foundations, after having already been used in another construction. Once in Berlin the gate was reconstructed in its original form. Its monumentality creates the perfect frame for the long walk to the stables and the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg itself.

The architectural components of the Temple of Sahure themselves have an equally eventful tale to tell. Excavations by a contingent of Germans took place in Abusir from as early as 1902 to 1908. Although the Pyramid of King Sahure, dating from around 2400 BC, was found to be in a bad state of repair, the temple complex on the other hand was largely in tact. When the finds were divided up between Germany and Egypt, a large part of the temple columns and architrave found their way to Berlin. And since the 1980s these have then been housed in the Sahure Hall, designed especially to accommodate them. Now when combined with the objects on display from the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg, the Egyptian architectural exhibits have become a surreal element in their own right.

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