In 2010, Heiner and Ulla Pietzsch promised to donate to Berlin their $190 million collection of about 150 Surrealist and Abstract Expressionist works on the condition that it be integrated into the city’s collection of 20th-century art. It has been widely reported that the Pietzsch donation was also made on the condition that the collection be put fully on display, a stipulation that Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees Berlin’s State Museums, denies. Mr. Pietzsch’s intention was to help “the state museums finally get a gallery for the 20th century,” Mr. Parzinger explained in an interview.
Even before any Pietzsch additions, Berlin’s 20th-century art collection had already outgrown Mies van der Rohe’s New National Gallery, built in 1968. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation thought it had a solution to that space crunch: relocating the Old Masters and the Gemäldegalerie to Museum Island, Berlin’s famed consortium of museums and a Unesco World Heritage Site, thus freeing up for modern art their former quarters in the area known as the Kulturforum. “It’s not ust for the Pietzsch collection. It’s for our whole collection,” Mr. Parzinger claimed.
But in the German press, the plan has been represented as a clash between the old and the new, pitting Rembrandt and Leonardo against Jackson Pollock and Joseph Beuys. According to an Aug. 29 interview with the German wire service DPA, Mr. Pietzsch is dismayed with the resulting controversy and has threatened to withdraw his gift if a viable plan is not proposed by early next year.
The March of the Moderns (Wall Street Journal)