Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

by thomasmagnahastings


There are some portals in Berlin that reach out into the city and coordinate historical time. The Soviet Monument in Treptower Park is one of them. Its grounded range outsteps your step, like those Stolpersteine, or commemorative “stumbling blocks”, that persistently interpolate conversation with the image of a damaged subject–a subject who still breathes a geographical map through Neukölln’s swampy trees. This makes living here, in Neukölln, feel strangely drained of futurity. It is a place where time is governed by buildings, not people.

The Gemäldegalerie is situated in the Kulturforum district of Potsdamer Platz, just north of Schöneberg and the Landwehr Canal. A major art institution in Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie handles the majority of the State Museums’ collection of traditional Western Art and can be compared to London’s National Gallery, or to The Met in New York. It is peopled by an empty collocation of gallery spaces that surround a centrally elongated “meditation” hall; and the power of State lies in these rooms.


Upon entering the first exquisitely hung gallery one is addressed by a quantity of medieval iconography that deflects empathy. The first room is wooden and white and presents a screen that transports me to the forbidden upstairs of a synagogue in Westminster.

An invigilator stands directly underneath the lintel of a portal, its right doorpost hidden behind the cream skirting board of an intervening room. A former agent of the state, the invigilator’s hair is fixed in a bouffant whose peroxide is akin to the surrounding sacred spoils of the Moscow Patriarchate. Through the window there is a construction site where a yellow crane lifts a blue crate into the sky.


Through the window, the fixed lens of a Düsseldorf teacher instructs the collection’s old commodity-form. A group of schoolchildren walk past and the host of Maria mit Kind shine through their containment.