Special temporary exhibitions in 2023 on Museum Island Berlin include treasures from Uzbekistan and Egypt, Indian court music, and art of the Succession (Klimt, Liebermann).
The museums on Berlin’s Museumsinsel will have special exhibitions in 2023 in addition to their fantastic permanent collections. The art highlight of 2023 is a large, 200-painting Successions exhibition in the Alte Nationalgalerie — it will have works by amongst others Max Lieberman, Franz von Stuck, and 50 works by Gustav Klimt. Two archaeological exhibitions will show relatively new finds from Uzbekistan and Egypt. The Indian court music exhibition and Transmundane Economies are more specialized but worth seeing as they are included in regular admissions. Time-slot reservation tickets are essential for the Alte Nationalgalerie, Pergamonmuseum, Pergamon Panorama, and Neues Museum. Online tickets for the Altes Museum and Bode-Museum also allow for skip-the-line access — go directly to the gallery entrance with printout or mobile tickets. The Berlin Welcome Card with Museum Island entry and the Berlin Museum Pass are also great value.
Exhibitions on Museum Island Berlin 2023
The galleries and exhibition halls of the State Museums Berlin (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) are grouped for tickets and opening hours into the following main buildings:
- Pergamon Museum with the separate Panorama exhibition venue
- Neues Museum — often combined with the James-Simon-Galerie exhibition space, which has a separate entrance.
- Altes Museum
- Alte Nationalgalerie
Although some state museums are in the Humbold Forum, this venue is managed separately and not included in Museuminsel combination tickets.
Best Art Exhibition on Museum Island Berlin in 2023
The top art exhibition on Museum Island, and arguably one of the best in Berlin in 2023, is the Successions display in the Alte Nationalgalerie — it will have 200 paintings, sculptures, and graphic works including 50 by Gustav Klimt. Several further temporary art exhibitions are arranged by the State Museum in various venues in Berlin in 2023 with many in the museums at Kulturforum and the Neue Nationalgalerie.
Secessions. Klimt, Stuck, Liebermann
23 June – 22 October 2023 in the Alte Nationalgalerie
The emergence of the Secession movements in the late 19th century triggered no less than a revolution in the art world. This proto-Modernist moment was inextricably linked with Gustav Klimt in Vienna, while in Munich and Berlin, the protagonists were Franz von Stuck and Max Liebermann respectively. The Secession movements emerged in the German-speaking world in close succession with one another – in 1892 in Munich, 1897 in Vienna, and finally in Berlin in 1898 – and all featured a significant overlap in terms of the key protagonists.
Rejecting the outmoded structures of government support and exhibition systems in which selection panels applied the criteria of the royal art academies, these artists strove for freedom. Though their individual artistic approaches were by no means unified, this artistic vanguard sought to foster the vibrancy and diversity of artistic forms of expression, with a decidedly international outlook.
The exhibition comprises some 200 paintings, sculptures, and graphic works by a range of artists. Through a collaboration with the Wien Museum, Klimt’s oeuvre will form the focus of the exhibition, with more than 50 works on display. The show will also shine a spotlight on some of the women artists of the Secession movements, from Dora Hitz to Käthe Kollwitz.
Secessionen. Klimt, Stuck, Liebermann is a special exhibition of the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Buy skip-the-line tickets online for the Alte Nationalgalerie — time-slot reservations are usually not essential but might be needed for this exhibition.
Top Museum Island Berlin Exhibitions in 2023
From Alexander the Great to the Kushan Empire Archaeological Treasures from Uzbekistan
April – October 2023 in the Neues Museum + James-Simon-Galerie
Long before the territory of Uzbekistan gained a profile as a station along the Silk Road, during antiquity, important centers of culture and regional power formed there. This exhibition features objects dating from the time of Alexander the Great through to the period of the Kushan Empire, many of which are being displayed outside of Uzbekistan for the very first time.
In addition to archaeological evidence documenting the presence of the Macedonians from fortresses that were only analyzed and investigated in the last few years, the most fascinating objects are the unique examples of Kushan art. In addition to portraits of the aristocratic rulers in the south of Uzbekistan, it is primarily the early Buddhist art that offers audiences a surprising and entrancing experience.
The display is capped off by objects that illustrate Alexander’s path from Macedonia through the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Video material and computer animations also help to convey a vibrant image of the cultural landscape of Uzbekistan between the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD.
Von Alexander dem Großen bis zum Reich der Kuschan Archäologische Schätze aus Usbekistan is a special exhibition of the Museum für Vorund Frühgeschichte – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in collaboration with the Art and Culture Development Foundation in Uzbekistan.
Music and Indian Courtly Life
28 April – 2 July 2023 in the Pergamonmuseum
The book art collection of the Museum für Islamische Kunst is internationally renowned for its collection of Indian albums, comprising more than 450 individual sheets. Courtly and garden scenes featuring rulers and courtly ladies in splendid garb constitute an extremely popular motif in these works.
Many of these scenes include depictions of musicians and their instruments, underscoring the fact that music was an indispensable accompaniment to courtly life.
The exhibition explores the question of which occasions music was played on, and who played it. Not content with mere visual depictions of music, there will also be audio examples of classical Indian music for audiences to listen to.
Musik am indischen Hof is a special exhibition of the Museum für Islamische Kunst – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Stroke of Luck or Emergency Rescue? The Newly Discovered Tombs at Qubbet el-Hawa North
Mid-September 2023 – March 2024 in the Neues Museum
During the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, archaeological looters stumbled upon a number of previously undiscovered rock-cut tombs in Aswan, not far from the world-famous necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa. Since 2015, a team from the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung has been working in close collaboration with Egyptian colleagues from the Aswan Inspectorate, carrying out research on the site of Qubbet el-Hawa North. The undertaking is being funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and by generous support from the Förderverein des Ägyptischen Museums e.V. and its board of trustees.
Over the course of five field trips, 10 graves have so far been excavated and documented, which have been dated as belonging to the Old and New Kingdoms. They formed part of the previously unknown elite cemetery of the settlement(s) in greater Aswan. The special exhibition at the Ägyptisches Museum offers an insight into the most recent research findings and shows the efforts of all involved in investigating this unique piece of cultural history and in helping to preserve it for coming generations.
Glücks- oder Notfall? Die neuentdeckten Gräber auf der Qubbet el-Hawa Nord is a special exhibition of the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Transmundane Economies Virtual Reconstruction of an Iconostasis from Cyprus
November 2023 – January 2024 in the Bode-Museum
As part of his project Transmundane Economies, the Cypriot contemporary artist Thedoulos Polyviou is developing a virtual re-creation of an iconostasis from the 18th century held in the collection of the Bode-Museum, parts of which are on display in the Berlin Museum, with others in the Ikonenmuseum in Frankfurt. In doing so, he enters into a dialogue with this once-sacred object. To do so, he uses immersive media as ceremonial tools for activating the iconostasis. Around it, an ephemeral “holy space” is created, to which the iconostasis once gave access in its role as an architectural portal.
Transmundane Economies is an ongoing project of the artist, in which virtual reality and associated technologies are used to investigate and reconstruct gaps in Cyprus’s cultural heritage. His aim in doing so is not nationalist in nature, but rather to investigate the relationships between queerness, repair, and reinvention within the historical entanglements of the island.
Transmundane Economies. Virtuelle Rekonstruktion einer Ikonostase aus Zypern is a special exhibition of the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst.
More on the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin):
Note: Most Berlin museums and similar sights are open in 2023. Timeslot reservations are essential for only the Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, Pergamon Museum (closed from 23 Oct 2023 until 2027!), and Das Panorama. Timeslots are released only around four weeks in advance. Tickets are available from GetYourGuide that seem to have timeslots available when SMB has already sold out — many passes or multi-museum tickets are again available. Individual museum ticket prices range from €6 to €14 (€20 for special exhibitions). Online tickets are skip-the-line — go directly to the gallery entrance to scan the code.
For more general information on the Berlin State Museums:
- Top National Museums and Galleries in Berlin (brief overview)
- Berlin State Museums: What Is Seen Where? (a short description of the collections in the different museums)
- Opening Hours of Berlin State Museums (2023).
- Ticket Prices for Berlin State Museums (prices for museums, temporary exhibitions, combination tickets, online time-slot reservations). Buying online from GetYourGuide is a lot simpler and costs the same as the official museum website. Timeslot reservations are essential for the most popular museums!
- Save with the Berlin Museum Pass – 30 museums (including all the SMB museums) in three days for €32 – a fantastic savings deal.
- Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (official website in German & English).
News & Temporary Exhibitions:
- 2024: Frans Hals in the Gemäldegalerie
- Top Special Temporary Exhibitions in 2023 — overview, in the Kulturforum, in the Neue Nationalgalerie, on Museum Island, and the Museum of Photography.
- Both the Ethnological and Asian Art museums in the Humboldt Forum (Berlin Schloss) are now fully open — admission to both is still free and currently without the need to book a timeslot.
- The Gemäldegallerie is partly closed until September 2023 but at least 75% is open at any given time.
- The Pergamon Museum will be closed completely from 23 October 2023 and partly reopen only in spring 2027 (with the rest to follow by the mid to late 2030s).
More Museum Reviews and Museum-Specific Information:
- Alte Nationalgalerie with Caspar David Friedrich paintings.
- Altes Museum with Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art.
- Ethnological and Asian Art Museums in the Humboldtforum.
- Friedrichswerdersche Kirche (free admission) with a collection of 19th-century German sculptures.
- Gemäldegalerie with its collection of German and Dutch Old Masters and Italian paintings.
- Kunstgewerbemuseum (Decorative Arts).
- Musical Instruments Museum near the Berliner Philharmonie.
- Neue Nationalgalerie with early 20th-century art and Alexander Calder exhibitions.
- Neues Museum with bust of Nefertiti.
- Pergamon Museum with Ishtar Gate — the whole Pergamonmuseum will be closed from 23 October 2023 until 2027.
- Pergamon Museum Panorama Exhibition with Asisi panoramic painting and Greek statues.
- Photography — Helmut Newton collection and historic photos.
Previous Temporary Exhibitions:
- Top Special Temporary Exhibitions in 2022 — overview, in the Kulturforum (David Hockney), in the Neue Nationalgalerie, on Museumsinsel, Hamburger Bahnhof contemporary art, and the Museum of Photography.
- Top Special Temporary Exhibitions in 2021 — including the reopening of the Neue Nationalgalerie, as well as the Ethnological and Asian Art Museums in the Humboldt Forum.
- Top Special Exhibitions in 2020: Highlights, in Kulturforum, on Museum Island, in the Hamburger Bahnhof, smaller museums, and the opening of the Humboldt Forum in December.