Keywords Change this


Project timeline

1995 – 1997



Location Change this

Invalidenstraße 50-51
10557 Berlin

Current state

Altered (extensions to the original)

Also known as Change this

Museum of Contemporary Art Berlin

Architect Change this


Article last edited by Bostjan on
March 01st, 2020

Hamburger Bahnhof (1997) Change this

Berlin, Germany
by Josef Paul Kleihues Change this

Soma exhibition by Carsten Höller

1 of 6

Description Change this

Hamburger Bahnhof is a former train station in Berlin, Germany on Invalidenstraße in the Moabit district opposite the Charité hospital. Today it serves as the Museum für Gegenwart, museum of contemporary art exhibiting artists like Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Long, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly. The station was built according to Friedrich Neuhaus' plans in 1846-47 as the starting point of the Berlin-Hamburg railroad. It is the only surviving terminus building in Berlin from the late classic period and counts as one of the oldest station buildings in Germany.

History and collections

After a lengthy reconstruction by architect Josef Paul Kleihues, the Hamburger Bahnhof reopened on 2 November 1996 as the Museum for Contemporary Art. The building was erected in the mid-19th century as one of the first terminal stations of the rail system. In the early 20th century, the structure was converted into a museum of transport and construction. The station's architecture, its impressive Neoclassical façade, flanked by two towers, the grand industrial hall of the entrance area, and the wings of the cours d'honneur flanking the garden of the inner courtyard: all of these elements constitute special attractions for visitors to Berlin. Only the east wing, the so-called Kleihues Hall, was reconstructed in the style of a high vaulted grand gallery on the occasion of the 1996 reopening.

Impressive from without by virtue of the façade's lucid historicist style, the building is rendered even more striking by an ingenious dichromatic installation, designed by American artist Dan Flavin, which bathes both the main façade loggia and the transitions leading to the wings of the cours d'honneur in blue and green neon light. Particularly at night, Flavin's last work (whose completion he unfortunately did not live to see) is visible from afar, and has come to be seen as the museum's trademark.

The Hamburger Bahnhof is the third location of Berlin's Nationalgalerie. The name, "Museum für Gegenwart" invokes the museum's former Department of Contemporary Art, which opened at the Kronprinzen Palais on Unter den Linden in 1919 and was shut down by the Nazis in 1937. Established by Nationalgalerie director Ludwig Justi in the aftermath of the fall of the German monarchy, the "Museum der Gegenwart" was one of the first state museums devoted to "living art."

In this progressive spirit, it was decided that the new museum's collection would focus on art since 1960. The original impetus for the elaborate redesign and restoration was the acquisition of the Erich Marx collection, whose permanent home would henceforth be the Hamburger Bahnhof. Its premiere presentation in 1996 in a splendid selection of works by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly eloquently pointed up the museum's program.

These pioneering artists, who transgressed the boundaries separating traditional art forms, were the point of departure, soon to be joined by additional pivotal figures, and the museum's exhibitions and programs have consistently focused on the interdisciplinary character of contemporary art. In the context of this expanded conception of art, the Nationalgalerie collection is distinguished in particular by its holdings of artists' rooms, including ones by John Cage, Bill Viola, Peter Campus, Wolf Vostell, Rebecca Horn, Carolee Schneeman, Reinhard Mucha, Marcel Broodthaers, Fritz Rahmann, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Johan Grimonprez and Aernout Mik.

In 2002, the collection was enlarged significantly by the acquisition of Egidio Marzona's study collection of Conceptual Art and Arte Povera. Among recent acquisitions, filmic works represent an additional focus for the Nationalgalerie, a sphere of activity reinforced further by the arrival of the Joseph Beuys Media Archive and by Mike Steiner's donation of a collection of 1970s video art, as well as by purchases of films by artists such as Marcel Broodthaers, David Lamelas and Matthew Buckingham

In 2004, the museum was expanded by an additional 6000 m2, and now has a total exhibition surface of 13,000 m2.


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