Kolbe's 1922 "Fountain of Dancers"
Why spend your precious, sun-drenched time perusing stuffy spots in Mitte? Pack a picnic, hop on your bike and head out to these intimate museums on Berlin’s western outskirts.
The 1923 British country-style mansion was originally home to a Jewish industrialist family, Knobloch & Rosenmann, before being sold several times over during World War II. It became the home of Karl Melzer, Deputy President of the Reichsfilmkammer, the regulating arm of Nazi-era film production, until the Allied Kommandatura’s office for art in Zehlendorf got hold of it in 1946 and mounted their first exhibition, of works by Käthe Kollwitz and Ewald Vetter. This summer is the Haus’ 70th anniversary.
Dedicated to artists who’ve come to Berlin after the fall of the Wall, this little museum in Dahlem is host to in-depth, often must-see exhibitions. In the past year alone, it’s seen Wahlberlinerinnen like Leiko Ikemura, Alicja Kwade and Nezaket Ekici, and in June it brought J. Mayer H’s organic architecture within its walls.
There’s lots to do when you visit. You can spend time by the little lake in the 10,000sqm sculpture park, filled with mostly abstract pieces by Lynn Chadwick, Karl Hurting and others. You can come by on your bike to pick up their audio “Architechtural Guide to Modernism” then ride around the nearby Schlachtensee to check out homes designed by Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. You can also come on Wednesdays for their early morning yoga sessions in the exhibition space! And through August 28, definitely check out Berlin-based artist Ingo Mittelstaedt’s curation of Peter Raue’s private collection, including works by Hockney, Broodthaers, and many more.
Not far south, next door to the Brücke Museum, sits the former studio of Arno Breker, once Hitler’s favourite sculptor, now home to an exhibition space dedicated to post-war German Modernism. Breker’s grand atelier was designed by architect Hans Freese on order of the Nazi government, outfitted with state-of-the-art technology for sculpting, and completed in 1942. But when Berlin was divided in 1945, the building changed hands, first to the US government, then to the city of Berlin, which over the years has rented it out to international artists and DAAD fellows. Breker, meanwhile, moved to Düsseldorf, where he renounced his Nazi past and continued his art career until his death in 1991.
Now, Kunsthaus Dahlem, which celebrated its one-year anniversary in June, boasts the semi-permanent exhibition Portrait Berlin, a survey of 70 artists’ works made in East and West Berlin from 1945-55. Through September 5, you’ll also find Joachim Gutsche’s large, dynamic paintings from the 1950s and 1960s. On top of that, four contemporary installations are up through the end of July in collaboration with Eigen + Art Lab. Most revealing of the site’s history is Daniel Rode’s banner, seen from the large sculpture garden. On it, a quote by Breker reads (in German), “Then he took me into the woods”, referring to a meeting with Hitler. Even out of context, it’ll give you the chills.
At the studio and home that he nicknamed “Sensburg”, famed sculptor Georg Kolbe produced works that now belong to major collections around the world. Now, the early modernist buildings at the cusp of Grunewald – designed by the artist and architect Ernst Rensch, completed in 1929 – house a petit museum dedicated to Kolbe with rotating exhibitions by other sculptors.
Kolbe celebrated the nude form in its natural beauty, and in motion. While his style fit the idealised aesthetics approved by Hitler, Kolbe maintained his artistic independence even during WWII – he never joined the National Socialist party, and even dodged a request to produce a bust of the Führer.
The museum reopened its doors in June after an eight month renovation to Auguste Rodin and Madame Hanako, presenting different renderings of the world-travelling Japanese geisha Hanako and photographs of her and the sculptor by the likes of Edward Steichen. Though the showing is small, wall panels tell multi-layered stories of artist and muse, of formal perfectionism, and even of European Orientalism.
After you compare Rodin and Kolbe’s styles, sip a coffee on the cafe terrace amidst the sculptures in the garden, before heading down the street for a quiet stroll in the Georg Kolbe Grove.