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"A Torpedo Moving Through Time":
The Museum of Modern Art in Berlin



With over 200 works, the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York will be on tour in Berlin for seven months. Supported by Deutsche Bank, the exhibition's exclusive sponsor, Mies van der Rohe's New National Gallery will be transformed into the "MoMA in Berlin" from 2/20 through 9/19/2004. On the sole European station of this transatlantic art show, the history of twentieth-century art can be experienced close hand - and with it, the legend of the world's most well-known museum.


René Magritte: The False Mirror , 1928,
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004


The Starry Night is one of Vincent van Gogh's most famous paintings, but probably also one of his most enigmatic; its meaning has to be reinterpreted again and again. The swirls of the turbulent night sky that van Gogh painted in 1889 in the sanatorium at Saint-Rémy not only reflect the visions of a tortured spirit, but also the premonition of an emerging European avant-garde whose artistic upheavals would help shape the dawning 20th century.

Now, The Starry Night will be coming to the German capital along with over 200 additional masterpieces from the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art. The occasion marks a spectacular exhibition event for Berlin. From February 20 through September 19 2004, the MoMA will be showing icons from the art of the past century in the New National Gallery on the exhibition's sole European station. Among the works shown will be Cézanne's The Bather, Dance by Matisse, and Lichtenstein's Drowning Girl.



Roy Liechtenstein: Drowning Girl, 1963,
©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2004,

Philip Johnson Fund (by exchange) und
Schenkung Mr. und Mrs. Bagley Wright © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003

It's the first time the MoMA collection can be seen outside America in such comprehensive form. The commitment on the part of the Friends of the National Gallery as well as the generous support of Deutsche Bank AG have contributed towards making a unique pioneer achievement possible: for seven months, the National Gallery will be using all of its exhibition space to show outstanding proponents of European Modernism together with great American artists such as Pollock, Hopper , Cornell , and O'Keefe - transforming itself into The MoMA in Berlin.

"This museum is a torpedo moving through time, its head the ever-advancing present, its tail the ever-receding past of 50 to 100 years ago," the founding director of MoMA, Alfred H. Barr Jr., remarked in reference to the museum's concept, which had been heavily influenced by Bauhaus ideas. This remark appears programmatic for the transatlantic art exhibition, which also provides a look back over the social developments of an era deeply scarred by world wars and National Socialist terror.

The path through the exhibition traces the artistic canon of the 20th century. Beginning with van Gogh, Cézanne, and Rousseau as the heroic painters of the late 19th century, the two protagonists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, follow with large work complexes. United throughout an entire lifetime in a friendship scored by rivalry, Picasso viewed Matisse, who was ten years his elder, as his only equal among living artists. Matisse's Dance (1909) leads on to Picasso's Three Musicians (1921) and Léger's large-scale painting Three Women/Le Grand Déjeuner (1921). The century's metaphysicians are also present: Malevich with his Suprematist Composition: White on White from 1918; and Mondrian, with Composition No. 1 from 1926.



Salvador Dali: The Persistance of Memory
(Persistance de la mémoire), 1931,
©Demart pro Arte B. V. / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2003


Surrealism provides another highpoint of the exhibition. Along with paintings by Miró, Tanguy , and Dalí's The Persistence of Memory (1931), Marcel Duchamp's "Readymades" and Meret Oppenheim's fantastic fur-covered Object from 1936 describe an absurd world in which everything is possible. The encounter between European artists who had fled the National Socialists and the young American painters ultimately gave rise to the path-breaking New York School. Jackson Pollock's Number 1 (1948) and Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk (1963-69), both of which will be greeting the visitor in front of the National Gallery, have written history, as did Robert Motherwell's Elegy to the Spanish Republic. With Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg etc., Pop Art has carried on the triumph of American art to this day. Yet the exhibition ends with the work of a German artist, Gerhard Richter's group of works on the Red Army Faction, October 18, 1977 from 1988.

In the reunified capital city, the reference points to Berlin as a laboratory of Modernism at the beginning of the 20th century and to the reciprocal relationship between European and American art of the post-war era come full circle. In a certain sense, the exhibition site Berlin also fulfils a long-ago desire - it was none other than Mies van der Rohe himself, the architect of the New National Gallery, that Alfred Barr wanted to build his New York museum.

The exhibition MoMA in Berlin will be shown from 2/20 through 9/19/2004 in the New National Gallery in Berlin. Open Tues., Weds., Sun. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Thurs., Fri., Sat. 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Tickets can also be obtained at Deutsche Guggenheim.


K.v.G.