2023: Berlin State Museums Special Temporary Exhibitions

Top temporary exhibitions in the Berlin State Museums in 2023 include Hugo van der Goes, Klimt, Dürer, and art of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Der Besuch
© Ernst Wilhelm Nay Stiftung, Köln

In 2023, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin will again offer numerous special exhibitions to enhance the wonderful permanent collections of its museums. The various venues of the Nationalgalerie will display art exhibitions ranging from contemporary to the first solo exhibition dedicated to Hugo van der Goes. A particular highlight is the new presentation of art from the second half of the 20th century in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Kulturforum while the Successions exhibition with 50 works by Gustav Klimt is the top attraction at the Alte Nationalgalerie. Other highlights are several photo exhibitions, new archaeological discoveries from Egypt and Uzbekistan, and UFO sightings.

Tickets for museums in Berlin are available online and a surcharge may be added for temporary exhibitions. Tickets are currently released only four weeks in advance. Time-slot reservations are required for the Alte and Neue Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Pergamon, and Neues Museum but during quieter periods, only really essential for the last two. The Berlin Museum Pass remains excellent value for money, as is the WelcomeCard for Museum Island — temporary exhibitions are usually included.

Top Special Exhibitions in Berlin Museums in 2023

Klimt, Pallas Athene 2023 Berlin Museum Island Exhibitions
© Birgit und Peter Kainz, Wien Museum

Although the top special exhibitions of the Berlin State Museums in 2023 are unlikely to be the blockbusters of recent years, several world-class shows will be worth seeing when visiting Berlin.

Art highlights include the new main presentation of the Neue Nationalgalerie — art from 1945 to 1985 will replace the exhibition that featured works of the first half of the 20th century. A large contemporary art display focussing on Berlin artists will open in the Hamburger Bahnhof. Hugo van der Goes, Dürer, Klimt, and Max Lieberman are internationally renowned artists that feature in further temporary exhibitions in museums in Berlin in 2023.

The history museums on Museumsinsel will feature special exhibitions on works from Uzbekistan, India, and Egypt, while the Museum Europäischer Kulturen has an exhibition on menstruation. In the Museum of Photography, a critical account of visual documentation created during the Holocaust will be in sharp contrast to the often glamorous world of Helmut Newton and Alice Springs.

Exhibitions in the Berlin Kulturforum Museums in 2023

Duerer Rhino 2023 Berlin Kulturforum Exhibitions
© bpk / Kupferstichkabinett, SMB / Jörg P. A

The Kulturforum Museums in Berlin include the Gemäldegalerie (Old Masters Paintings), Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery — 20th-century art), Kunstgerwerbemuseum (Decorative Arts), Kupferstichkabinett (Prints and Drawings), and Kunstbibliothek (Art Library).

The highlights of the temporary exhibitions in the Kulturforum in 2023 are the new presentation in the Neue Nationalgalerie (art from 1945 to 1985), Hugo van der Goes in the Gemäldegalerie, and Albrecht Dürer prints and drawings from the Kupferstichkabinett. However, the temporary exhibitions by the smaller museums are also worth seeing and are usually of world-class quality.

See also Top Special Exhibitions in the Kulturforum in Berlin in 2023 and Special Exhibitions in the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin for more details.

Muse or Maestra? Women in the Italian Art World 1400–1800

8 March – 4 June 2023 in the Kupferstichkabinett in the Kulturforum, Berlin.

A special exhibition sheds light on the diverse, active roles played by a whole host of women in Italian art up until 1800, by way of drawings and prints from the rich collection of the Kupferstichkabinett, as well as a number of impressive loans.

Retrotopia. Design for Socialist Space

25 March – 18 July 2023 in the Exhibition Hall of the Kulturforum in Berlin

The special exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum explores historical instances of utopian design and the visions for better futures underlying them, focusing explicitly on countries in the former Eastern bloc during the Cold War era. The show presents key examples of spatial design for both the public and private realms, ranging from kitchens to airport lounges.

Hugo van der Goes. Between Pain and Bliss

31 March – 16 July 2023 in the Gemäldegalerie

This special exhibition of the Gemäldegalerie is the first ever dedicated to Hugo van der Goes (ca. 1440–1482/83) one of the most important European artists of the early modern period. At once emotive and intimate, his monumental compositions are among the highlights of the collections to which they now belong.

A UFO in 1665. Investigating a Historical Sighting

5 May – 27 August 2023 in the Kunstbibliothek

In April 1665, six fishermen witnessed an aerial battle in the skies above the Baltic Sea near Stralsund. As evening broke, a dark-grey disk appeared high above the city center. With reference to contemporaneous visual and textual sources, this exhibition reconstructs the way this event was portrayed in the media over the years. It focuses on this historical sighting and is centered around books, drawings, and printed matter from the Kunstbibliothek and the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

Dürer for Berlin. Looking for Traces in the Kupferstichkabinett

12 May – 27 August 2023 in the Exhibition Hall of the Kulturforum, Berlin

A special exhibition of the Kupferstichkabinett of 120 drawings and printed works by Albrecht Dürer. The masterpieces gathered together here give a striking demonstration of the breadth of his artistic production. With this exhibition, the Kupferstichkabinett is opening one of its greatest treasure chests. Alongside Dürer’s engravings and woodcut series (such as Apocalypse and Life of the Virgin), key drawings will be on display, such as Dürer’s Mother, The Wire-Drawing Mill, along with numerous sheets from the famous Sketchbook of His Journey to the Netherlands.

Anniversary Exhibition. The Schering Stiftung Collection at the Kupferstichkabinett

6 July – 8 October 2023 in the Kupferstichkabinett in the Kulturforum, Berlin

The successful collaboration between the Kupferstichkabinett and the Schering Stiftung is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2023. The collection has grown to encompass more than 130 works ranging from the 1970s to the present day, produced by 28 high-caliber German and international artists, including N. Dash, Nadine Fecht, Dan Graham, Julie Mehretu,  Matt Mullican, Carsten Nicolai, Tomás Saraceno, Jorinde Voigt and many more.

The Furniture of José Canops and the Royal Workshop in Madrid under CharlesIII (WT)

7 July – 5 November 2023 in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin

A special exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum on the work of the royal workshop in Madrid under the direction of the ébéniste of German extraction José Canops (1733–1814). It combines the explosive Rococo ornamentation developed by the court painter Mattia Gasparini – a truly European creation combining Italian tradition with an admiration for Parisian luxury and an exoticizing enthusiasm for Asian art – with the precision of German carpentry and the wealth of the Spanish colonial world.

Blockbuster. Film Posters from 12 Decades

3 November 2023 – 3 March 2024 in the Exhibition Hall of the Kulturforum in Berlin

A special exhibition of the Kunstbibliothek – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in collaboration with the Berlin International Film Festival and the Deutsche Kinemathek. The exhibition Blockbuster presents original film posters spanning from the early 20th century through to the present decade.

Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin Exhibitions in 2023

Katharina Sieverding, Schlachtfeld Deutschland 2023 Berlin Nationalgalerie Exhibitions
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Jens Ziehe, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn, 2022

The Neue Nationalgalerie in the recently restored Mies van der Rohe-designed museum in Berlin’s Kulturforum has several small temporary exhibitions every year. However, the highlight in 2023 is the change of the main exhibition from the art of the first half of the 20th century to the post-1945 period.

Die Kunst der Gesellschaft / Art of Society, 1900-1945

Unitil July 2, 2023 in the Neue Nationalgalerie

The main exhibition at the re-opening of the Neue Nationalgalerie, Art of Society, 1900-1945, consists of around 250 works (mostly paintings and sculptures) covering a very turbulent period in the history of Germany and particularly Berlin. More than a mere history of aesthetics, the collection impressively demonstrates the connection between art and social history.

Zerreißprobe. Art Between Politics and Society The Collection Between 1945 and 1985

September 2023 – July 2024 in the Neue Nationalgalerie

Hardly any other era was so marked by division, rupture, and transformation as the time after the Second World War. In light of this, the Neue Nationalgalerie is very deliberately showing its new collection display of post-1945 art under the title Zerreißprobe (stress test). The Neue Nationalgalerie shows how dramatically post-war art was shaped by the tensions that existed between politics and society. The presentation features key works from West and East Germany, Western Europe, and the USA.

Lucy Raven

Spring 2023 in the Neue Nationalgalerie

Lucy Raven’s 2021 video installation ReadyMix, through the glass façade of the upper hall, of the Neue National Galerie, enters into a dialogue with the construction site of the Museum der Moderne, which is situated directly beside Mies van der Rohe’s famous building.

Judit Reigl. Centers of Dominance

29 June – 8 October 2023 in the Neue Nationalgalerie

To mark the donation of three major paintings by Judit Reigl, the Neue Nationalgalerie is showing the first solo exhibition in a German museum of this French-Hungarian artist. The exhibition revolves around the paintings Center of Dominance(1959), Mass Writing(1960), and the large-format triptych Man (1967–69).

Tehching Hsieh

Autumn 2023 in the Neue Nationalgalerie

The Neue Nationalgalerie will present Tehching Hsieh’s work One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece). The film and photo installation shows the performance, in which the artist photographed himself punching in on a time clock every hour for a  year.

See also Special Exhibitions in the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin in 2023 for more details.

Exhibitions on Museums Island Berlin in 2023

2023 Berlin Museum Island Exhibitions
© QHN-mission / Sandra Steiß

The museums on Berlin’s Museumsinsel will have special exhibitions in 2023 in addition to their fantastic permanent collections. Time-slot reservation tickets are essential for the Pergamonmuseum, Pergamon Panorama, Neues Museum, and Alte Nationalgalerie. Online tickets for the Altes Museum and Bode-Museum allow for skip-the-line access, as do the Berlin Welcome Card Museum Island. (The museums in the Humboldtforum are generally treated separately for tickets, opening hours, and special exhibitions.)

From Alexander the Great to the Kushan Empire Archaeological Treasures from Uzbekistan

April – October 2023 in the Neues Museum + James-Simon-Galerie

A special exhibition of the Museum für Vor und Frühgeschichte in collaboration with the Art and Culture Development Foundation in Uzbekistan on 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.

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.

Secessions. Klimt, Stuck, Liebermann

23 June – 22 October 2023 in the Alte Nationalgalerie

A special exhibition of the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The exhibition comprises some 200 paintings, sculptures, and graphic works by a range of artists including Gustav Klimt, Franz von Stuck, and Max Lieberman. 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.

Klimt will also feature prominently at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam late 2022, early 2023 and is of course permanently the top attraction at Schloss Belvedere in Vienna.

Stroke of Luck or Emergency Rescue? The Newly Discovered Tombs at Qubbet el-Hawa North

Mid-September 2023 – March 2024 in the Neues Museum on Museumsinsel, Berlin

A special exhibition of the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung on a number of previously undiscovered rock-cut tombs in Aswan discovered during the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 by archaeological looters. The special exhibition offers insight into the most recent research findings.

Transmundane Economies Virtual Reconstruction of an Iconostasis from Cyprus

November 2023 – January 2024 in the Bode-Museum on Museumsinsel

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.

See also Special Exhibitions on Museum Island Berlin in 2023 for more details.

Special Exhibitions in the Berlin Museum of Photography in 2023

Michael Wesely exhibition in the Museum of Photography in Berlin in 2023
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

The Museum für Fotografie (Museum of Photography) is located next to the Berlin Zoologischer Garten train station and has several special exhibitions each year.

Flashes of Memory. Photography During the Holocaust

24 March – 20 August 2023

The international Holocaust remembrance center Yad Vashem is showing its acclaimed exhibition Flashes of Memory, which was first displayed in January 2018 in Jerusalem. It presents a critical account of visual documentation – both photographs and films – created during the Holocaust by German and Jewish photographers, as well as by members of the Allied forces during liberation.

Alice Springs. Retrospective

3 June – 19 November 2023

To mark 100 years since the birth of June Newtown (also known as Alice Springs), the Helmut Newton Foundation is dedicating a large-scale retrospective to this photographer, with more than 200 photographs spread across the entire exhibition space of the first floor of the Museum für Fotografie.

Michael Wesely

29 September 2023 – 11 February 2024

This exhibition presents works by the internationally renowned photographer Michael Wesely (born 1964) in dialogue with works from the Photography Collection of the Kunstbibliothek that focus on the phenomenon of how the medium of photography captures time. This includes snapshots and time-lapse exposures, multiple exposures, and serial photographs.

Polaroids

2 December 2023 – 19 May 2024

The technology of the Polaroid camera revolutionized photography. This exhibition does not just feature the Polaroids of Helmut Newton but also works by numerous colleagues, such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark, David Hockney, Ulay, Carlo Mollino, Luigi Ghirri, Maurizio Galimberti, Hannah Villiger and Cathleen Naundorf.

See Special Exhibitions in the Museum of Photography in Berlin in 2023 for more details.

Other Temporary Exhibitions in Berlin Art Museums in 2023

Further special art exhibitions in the State Museums Berlin in 2023 include:

Nationalgalerie. The Collection of the 21st Century

Olaf Nicolai, Naturstück 2023 berlin museums exhibitions
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie / Roman März, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

from April 2023 in the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin

In keeping with its mission as a museum for contemporary art, the Hamburger Bahnhof is launching a new presentation of its collection, providing a panorama of the diverse art scene of Berlin from the early 1990s  through to the present day. With this focus on Berlin, one of the most internationally renowned art capitals in the world, the museum is reasserting its commitment to the historical and cultural significance of its location.

This exhibition in the recently renovated western wing of the historical museum building encompasses painting and sculpture, as well as video art and works in new media. With this new collection display, the Hamburger Bahnhof invites the public to collectively contemplate the function of art and cultural institutions as catalyzers for inclusion and critical transformation that inspire progressive forms of living together in our society.

See also Special Exhibitions in the Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin in 2022 for contemporary art exhibitions that continue from 2022 into 2023.

Myth and Massacre. Ernst Wilhelm Nay and André Masson

Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Der Besuch 2023 berlin museums exhibitions
© Ernst Wilhelm Nay Stiftung, Köln

December 2023 – Spring 2024 in the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg (near Schloss Charlottenburg)

André Masson’s large-format painting Massacre (today part of the Pietzsch Collection) was produced in 1931. Formally, it exhibits remarkable similarities with works from Ernst Wilhelm Nay’s so-called “France and Hecate” period in the 1940s. Thematically, the two artists assume contradicting stances. While in Masson’s works (in addition to the painting from the Pietzsch Collection, he also produced a string of paintings on the theme of the massacre, including one in the Sammlung Scharf Gerstenberg) the memory of the brutality of the First World War is foregrounded, the young soldier sketches a mythologically enchanted world that is juxtaposed to the horrific events of the Second World War that surrounded him. This exhibition focuses on the artistic relationship between the Surrealist Masson, born in 1896 in France, and Nay, born in Berlin in 1902, whose art would soon move away from figurative representation, becoming an icon of Modernist abstraction in post-war West Germany. 

Some of the works from the Museum Berggruen that is closed for renovation until 2025 are also on show in the Scharf-Gerstenberg, while the rest of the collection is traveling – Japan, China, and Paris.

Electrifying! Electroformed Copies of Artistic Goldwork

Münzpokal aus dem Lüneburger Ratssilber 2023 berlin museums exhibitions
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Fotostudio Bartsch, Karen Bartsch, Berlin

28 April – 1 October 2023 in Schloss Köpenick, Kunstgewerbemuseum

At Schloss Köpenick, the Kunstgewerbemuseum is showing a selection of some 150 electroformed sculptures from its own holdings. Over the past few years, they have undergone technical analysis and careful restoration. The objects in question are 19th-century replicas of important pieces in the history of goldwork. At that time, electroforming was as innovative as 3D printing is today. By way of an electrochemical procedure, complex, three-dimensional gold objects were able to be reproduced, creating largely identical metal copies in an electrolytic bath, and in large production runs to boot. The direct comparison between the original and copy brings to light both the commonalities and the differences between them.

This exhibition looks at technical aspects, but also at aspects related to cultural history: the electroformed sculptures are a prime example of the enthusiasm for technology and the historical consciousness of the Industrial Age, and also played a central role in the educational models of Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum at its founding in 1867.

European Cultural Days: Buzzing Slovenia

Einen Bienenschwarm fangen 2023 berlin museums exhibitions
© Marko Habič, SEM Documentation, Slovenski Etnografski Muzej

June 2023 – February 2024 in the Museum Europäischer Kulturen in Dalheim

The verdant country of Slovenia is one of the most heavily forested countries in Europe, with a rich diversity of flora from the Adrian Sea to the Alps – making it a true paradise for bees. Did you know that Slovenia has the highest density of beekeepers in the world? Slovenian beekeeping and honey products are part of the national culture, are synonymous with living traditions, unique artisanry, and sustainable resource use, and are an example of human beings living in harmony with nature. But long droughts and the use of insecticides in agriculture are threatening the health of the ecosystem, and with it, the well-being of bees.

The exhibition, held as part of the 2024 European Cultural Days at the MEK, showcases both the traditions of Slovenian beekeeping and innovations in the fields of urban beekeeping and sustainable design. The exhibition will be accompanied by a jam-packed, four-week events program. The Slovenian Cultural Days are taking place in collaboration with the Slovenian Cultural Information Centre Berlin (SKICA), the Slovenski Etnografski Muzej, and the Čebelarski muzej Radovljica.

Flow. The Exhibition about Menstruation

2023 berlin museums exhibitions
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Christian Krug

6 October 2023 – 6 October 2024 in the Museum Europäischer Kulturen

Some 3.5 billion people around the world either currently menstruate, have in the past, or will in the future. Nevertheless, it is rarely openly discussed, whether in private conversations or scientific research. Individual doctors, activists, and entrepreneurs have been attempting to rectify this situation for decades. And over the past 10 years or so, menstruation has become more present in public debate. Women have published menstrual manifestos, launched campaigns against period poverty and inadequate care and information, developed new menstrual products, and have written about their experiences under hashtags such as #periodpositivity and #menstruationmatters. This exhibition showcases these voices, telling a story of pragmatism and utopian visions, of inventiveness, and activism. It traces the development of menstrual products from the 19th century to the present day, unpacking the discourse and debates over recent decades through objects, interviews, music, film, and art.

More on the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin):

Note new opening times for many Berlin museums from mid-April 2024. Timeslot reservations are essential only for the Caspar David Friedrich exhibition (until 4 August 2024) but sensible (and sometimes needed in busy periods!) for the Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, and Pergamon – Das Panorama. (The Pergamon Museum itself is closed until 2027!). Timeslots are released only a few weeks in advance. Online tickets are available from GetYourGuide, which seems to have timeslots available when SMB has already sold out. Many passes and multi-museum tickets are again sold (Kulturforum / Museums Island). Individual museum ticket prices range from €8 to €14 (€20 for special exhibitions). Online tickets are skip-the-line — go directly to the gallery entrance to scan the code but pick up free audioguides first.

For more general information on the Berlin State Museums:

News & Temporary Exhibitions:

More Museum Reviews and Museum-Specific Information:

Previous Temporary Exhibitions:

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About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance travel writer with over 20 years of experience writing online. He is particularly interested in history, art, and culture. He has lived most of his adult life in Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. In addition to European-Traveler.com, he also owns a travel website on the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland and maintains statistical websites on car sales and classic car auction prices. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Development Finance from the University of London.

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