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A Hidden Gem For Picasso Lovers Reopens Better Than Ever In Berlin

Worldcrunch's cubist impression of Berlin's Berggruen Museum
Worldcrunch's cubist impression of Berlin's Berggruen Museum
Hans-Joachim Müller

BERLIN - There are impressive museum collections – indeed entire museums – of works by Pablo Picasso: in Malaga and New York, Paris and Barcelona, Münster, Madrid, Basel and Cologne.

The best one? Berlin – part of the legendary collection of art dealer Heinz Berggruen (1914-2007) housed since 1996 in a palazzo-style building across from Schloss Charlottenburg royal palace.

Berggruen’s collection doesn’t only comprise top-class work by Picasso, but other classical modern artists – Cézanne, Braque, Matisse, Klee and Giacometti – as well. In 2000 when the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, encompassing Berlin’s state-run museums and other cultural entities bought the priceless collection for the “symbolic” sum of 130 million euros, the Berggruen Museum became one of Berlin’s most attractive cultural addresses right up there with the city’s Museum Island.

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Picasso's "Dora Maar With Green Fingernails - Berggruen Museum

Since the summer of 2011, the museum has been closed for expansion and restoration – and although the Berlin architectural firm of Kuehn Malvezzi has added 10 new rooms by joining the existing building to the one next door in a federally funded, 6.5 millio euro project, the sense of intimacy that helped make a visit to the Berggruen collection so memorable in the past has not been lost.

The 20-meter-long steel-and-glass pergola that links the two buildings offers a view of the new sculpture garden, and the additional space inside means that the 250 art works could be re-hung in a way that brings out their full intensity.

The original building is now exclusively devoted to Picasso. Berggruen’s Picassos reflect his collector’s passion and are rounded out by loans from Berggruen family holdings. The collection offers a wide-rangng number of works that include paintings but also works on paper, prints and sculptures. The selection takes us from the young artist’s realism though his Blue and Rose periods, analytic and synthetic Cubism, the surrealism of the 1930s and 1940s, then through to the trials of strength of his old age – the Spanish artist kept producing until he died at the age of 92 in 1973.

A jubilant array

All the artist’s favorite subjects are represented: the circus folks and the poor he painted in his bohemian phase in Paris in the early 1900s; the array of women – bathers, mothers, lovers, reclining models and sleeping nudes – painted over the years; the Cubist still lifes, experiments in taking apart and reassembling; the characters from Greek and Roman mythology; the masks of the artist as an old man.

But if the collection covers all phases of the artist’s production, it does not pay the same amount of attention to each: Berggruen the art dealer, collector and friend of the artist’s was less at home with the aggressive Picasso than he was with the lyrical Picasso.

The result is that some Picasso connoisseurs may find things missing here and there – perhaps some monumental dancers on the beach from the 1920s, bitter emblematic figures from the Guernica period, or wild and defiant late work. But what are a few lapses in the face of such a jubilant array? Just taking in a drawing like ""Dora Maar with Her Hair Loose,"" that Berggruen bought at a Paris auction in 1998 for $994,000, is a huge art experience.

Moving on to the new part of the museum and to the delicately poetic work of Paul Klee (1879-1940) is like changing worlds. The 60 small-format works by the Swiss artist are the second focal point of a collection also renowned for its bronzes by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), including his famous Cat; joyful vibrant color cutouts by French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954); and several portraits and a study of an apple by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906).

Heinz Berggruen was born in Berlin to a Jewish family, and fled the Nazis in 1936. He returned to Berlin in 1996 – bringing his art collection with him in what the New York Times in its obituary of Berggruen called a “powerful gesture of reconciliation.” – and is buried there.

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The Colonial Spirit And "Soft Racism" Of White Savior Syndrome

Tracing back to Christian colonialism, which was supposed to somehow "civilize" and save the souls of native people, White Savior Syndrome lives on in modern times: from Mother Teresa to Princess Diana and the current First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

photo of a child patient holding hand of an adult

Good intentions are part of the formula

Ton Koene / Vwpics/ZUMA
Sher Herrera


CARTAGENA — The White Savior Syndrome is a social practice that exploits or economically, politically, symbolically takes advantage of individuals or communities they've racialized, perceiving them as in need of being saved and thus forever indebted and grateful to the white savior.

Although this racist phenomenon has gained more visibility and sparked public debate with the rise of social media, it is actually as old as European colonization itself. It's important to remember that one of Europe's main justifications for subjugating, pillaging and enslaving African and American territories was to bring "civilization and save their souls" through "missions."

Even today, many white supremacists hold onto these ideas. In other words, they believe that we still owe them something.

This white savior phenomenon is a legacy of Christian colonialism, and among its notable figures, we can highlight Saint Peter Claver, known as "the slave of the slaves," Bartolomé de Las Casas, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Princess Diana herself, and even the First Lady of Colombia, Verónica Alcocer.

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