Day 13 KULTURFORUM


Each day I have been venturing out into the wider Berlin but I am realizing just how incredible my local area (Prenzenlauer Berg) is. For starters it has EXPAT MEAT! But apart from that it is very cosmopolitan and very Berlin – When I say ‘Very Berlin’ I mean – lots of chic fashionistas, kids and families galore, old men selling home grown flowers in the park, pierced and tattooed punks advertising new bars, lovers kissing everywhere… anything goes.

After my café breakfast (bircher muesli and Chai tea) – I made my way to the Gemaldegaleire. Its entrance is tucked away at the back of a complex called the Kutureforum. It was deserted and I started to think I should have chosen a different way to spend my day. In the foyer, a couple of people milled about but I pretty much had the place to myself.

I was wrong to assume that no crowd means no pleasure. The collection ‘sammlung’ (love that word) in here would rival the best in the world. There are rooms overflowing with Rembrandt, Titian, Raphael, Rubens, Caravaggio, Dürer, Brueghel, Van Eyck… even Reynolds and Gainsborough. I realize that I am starting to sound repetitive – such treasures here in Europe… but this gallery is different. Though I recognize the artists, many of the paintings are not familiar. But again, this does not mean that they are inferior paintings – in fact, many of them are amongst the most beautiful works I have seen. I am aware that I am taking in generalities but I do not know where to begin. Being almost alone in the gallery increases the intensity – there are no distractions, just me and the works.

Perhaps I will just mention one painting as it is in one of the first rooms and it took me by surprise. It is Holbein’s, Maria als Schmerzensmutter (Our Lady of Sorrows), 1495. It depicts Mary crying and there is such intensity of emotion in her pleading glare – I feel reluctant to move on. I have included a brutal crop here – but I wanted to show the eyes and the tears. Holbein is a beautiful painter - he is emotionally invested in his subject here and it carries.



Ok just two… Venus with the Organ Player, now this one I do know – though only through slides. It is thrilling to see Titian’s sensual touch and skilled and varied handling up close.


I wonder if I picked up an art book from the 1930s whether many of the works in the Gemaldegallerie would be detailed there. Whether generally, German galleries, collections and indeed, artists were largely left out of the curriculum when I came to study art.

The war, now 70 years ago, is still deeply felt in Berlin. There are physical scars on the buildings everywhere and the Berliners are not in a hurry to brush them away. For example, there is a church with the steeple blown in half; it has been carefully repaired to stabilize and weatherproof but otherwise it stands in pieces as a reminder of history. There are many memorials to the Jewish people and many empty spaces – empty rooms in galleries – empty concrete squares – a theme that symbolizes the absence of Jews from German society. A friend who lives here mentioned that she has only recently seen people displaying the German flag - there is still such guilt associated with any kind of patriotism.

This remorse does not in any way make good what happened under Hitler’s reign – but there seems to be an understanding of the necessity (if not willingness) to face the past. I cannot help but compare this with my own country’s reaction to the bloody history of Australia. Here, in this regard, a cultivated ignorance is pervasive, for the most part.

I decide to cook at home today and I discover why no one does. One organic chicken breast from the local biomarkt cost 7 and the remainder of my ingredients - another 7. I make a mediocre rice dish with a fork and a saucepan (my host doesn’t cook at home and has few cooking utensils and only one pot). As I scrub the pot I can hear the surrounding restaurants filled to the brim with Berliners as it is every night of the week. I imagine the delicious meal I could have purchased for under 10.

The delightful verdict: It is not economically viable to eat at home.