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.
I 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.