Oh happy day at the museums: Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg + Berggruen Museum

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Until now, my visits to galleries had been, with the exception of a couple,  rather disappointing. Many were closed for the summer and there was little to draw my attention among the others still open. The magnificent Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg Museum on Schlosstrasse in Charlottenburg, which houses a superb collection of Dadaist and Surrealist art however, was a revelation.

IMG_8120I had only seen these works as reproductions in books. Here I saw  original works by Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters (a couple of the Merz collages), a superb and amusing 12 panel polyptych by Max Klinger (Fantasies about a found glove dedicated to the lady who lost it) and Dubuffet.

The very famous collage by Hannah Höch in 1919, Cut with the kitchen knife Dada through the beer-bellied culture of the late Weimar Republic (Dadaists loved long titles!), was much, much larger than I had expected. A sense of its size can be seen when compared to the caption beside it.

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Equally interesting was the materiality of the image: its wrinkled shapes and surprising textures given that all the picture elements were made from commercial, mass-market publications. The large format works especially well for the depicted chaos, spiced with many humorous touches.

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Below, a ready-made worthy of Duchamp by Arman, Une Cuillière pour papa, une cuillière pour maman (left). On the right, Jean Dubuffet’s 1953 Nez d’Apollo Pap made from butterfly wings (not good).

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Across the street is the Berggruen Museum that specializes in Picasso, Matisse and Giacometti. With a beautiful winding staircase capped by a cuppola that provided beautiful even north light, the museum was yet another of the architectural beauties that are part of the Berlin museum system.

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As with the work I had visited earlier, it was a revelation seeing the original version of art work that I had so admired in books. For example, Picasso’s line drawing of the Neapolitan Woman is quite small.  I had always seen it in enlargement. At its original size, there is an intimacy and a delicacy to the line that is lost in reproduction. Of all of his works, I would say Picasso’s line drawings are the most satisfying to me. There is a directness, a tenderness and the sure touch of a master draftsman in his observations that become, in my view, obscured in many of his other works.

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Matisses’s cutouts in his Jazz series get flattened in reproduction as well as lose colour. I could see the layering, the cut edges and the sheer energy of the original. There is a considerable flattening that happens in photographic reproduction. It is not an issue if one is interested in the image only. As an artist however, I appreciate very much the layering and the corrections  to make the final image. For example, Matisse’s The Dragon shows this issue well. On the left is the image as a whole. On the right is a close-up showing the layering and the handiwork required to make the final image.

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After that I wandered around in the Charlottenburg neighbourhood, allowing myself the joy of getting lost and with it some discoveries. Of course, being a foodie is about experiencing new tastes too! I came across Cafe Wendel in the Richard Wagner Platz where I had a truly memorable meal of in-season Pfifferlinge mit Semmelknödel (Chanterelle mushrooms [my absolute favourite] with bread dumplings in a cream sauce [memories of my mother’s cooking]) and a delicious alcohol-free Erdinger wheat beer (absolutely essential for the 34C day). All in all, a really wonderful day.

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