Visit the Mies van der Rohe designed Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) in Berlin that reopened with special modern 20th-century art exhibitions.
The Neue Nationalgalerie in the Kulturforum area of Berlin reopened in August 2021 after a six-year restoration period. The architectural masterpiece by Mies van der Rohe is an excellent venue for displaying modern art. The first exhibition of the museum’s large collection will be on the theme Art and Society, 1900 to 1945, while two special exhibitions are sculptures and mobiles by Alexander Calder and contemporary works by Berlin-based Rosa Barba. Buy skip-the-line tickets online in advance — time-slot reservations are essential to visit the Neue Nationalgalerie.
Update 2024: Most Berlin state museums are open and currently, time-slot reservations are essential only for the Neues Museum and for major exhibitions. However, it is sensible to book timeslots for the Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, and Das Panorama. (The Pergamon Museum itself is closed until 2027!) Timeslots are currently released only around four weeks in advance but earlier for blockbuster shows. Buy tickets and make reservations online at GetYourGuide or at SMB. Online tickets for museums without timeslot reservations are skip-the-line — go directly to the entrance to scan the ticket. Many multiple-museum tickets and passes are again accepted, including Kulturforum, Museumsinsel, and the excellent value 3-day Berlin Museum Pass.
Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie
The Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin’s Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz and the Berliner Philharmonie was the final stand-alone project of former Bauhaus director and 20th-century star architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969). It was built between 1965 and 1968 and restored by David Chipperfield Architects from 2015 to 2021.
The restoration followed the principle of “as much Mies as possible”. Many original fittings — around 35,000 components in total — were cleaned up, restored, and reused. The building is already a national monument requiring that strict conservation principles be followed but modern out-of-sight systems such as fire prevention, draining, and air conditioning systems were installed to make the building suitable for modern usage.
A small exhibition in the lower level explains the building and restoration process with some original drawings and artworks.
Visit the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
The name Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) refers to the building — it is in addition to the Alte Nationalgalerie, a neoclassical museum building reminding of a Greek temple on Museum Island. The new gallery was erected in the 1960s as the core of the new Kulturforum (Cultural Forum) in West Berlin — Berlin’s traditional museums on Museum Island were in the East, although much of the art collection was physically in the western parts of the city after the war.
The vast collection of the Nationalgalerie and State Museums of Berlin is displayed in several museum buildings. The Neue Nationalgalerie is currently used for special exhibitions of modern twentieth-century art (up to around 1970) — it does not have a permanent display but mostly have annual main exhibitions on specific themes from its vast collection (and of loan objects) with further smaller special exhibitions running for shorter periods. For more modern contemporary art in Berlin, visit the Hamburger Bahnhof, while nineteenth-century art is in the Alte Nationalgalerie, and the fantastic collection of old masters in the nearby Gemäldegalerie, built in Kulturforum after the reunification of Germany.
See What is Seen Where for a short summary of what is on display in the various buildings of the Berlin State Museums,
Special Exhibitions in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
The three large exhibitions on display at the reopening of the Neue Nationalgalerie on 22 August 2021 are:
- Die Kunst der Gesellschaft / The Art of Society, 1900-1945 — a large exhibition of 250 works that runs until 2 July 2023. It will be followed in September 2023 by an exhibition on the art of an ideologically divided nation (and world) in the second half of the twentieth century.
- Alexander Calder. Minimal / Maximal — sculptures and mobiles by the American artist closely associated with the Neue Nationalgalerie — until 13 February 2022.
- Rosa Barba, In a Perpetual Now — graphic, cinematic, and sculptural works by a Berlin artist — until 13 February 2022.
Die Kunst der Gesellschaft / Art of Society, 1900-1945
A special exhibition of the Nationalgalerie Sammlung from August 22, 2021, to July 2, 2023.
The main exhibition at the re-opening of the Neue Nationalgalerie is Art of Society, 1900-1945. It consists of around 250 works (mostly paintings and sculptures) covering a very turbulent period in the history of Germany and particularly Berlin.
Political events and changes in society in Germany happened fast and cut deep in the first half of the twentieth century. The period opens with attempts to reform the autocratic German Empire but the consequences of the First World War were the abrupt end of the monarchy, several failed (often violent) revolution and insurrection attempts in Germany (and especially in Berlin), hyperinflation, and the ultraliberal Weimar Republic. The Roaring Twenties was followed by financial collapse, the rise of National Socialism, and finally the disaster of the Second World War and the immediate consequences such as the holocaust, refugees, displacement, and Germany in ruins. The period covered stop at the end of the war in 1945 — the division of Germany and the rebuilding of the country (or countries) are the themes of the next major exhibition that will follow in 2022.
More than a mere history of aesthetics, the collection impressively demonstrates the connection between art and social history. The exhibition is arranged thematically rather than chronologically with individual sections of the exhibition centering on such themes as the metropolis, the reform movement, politics and propaganda, exile, and war. Mies van der Rohe’s open floor plan in the basement of the museum does not prescribe any fixed circuit, and because of this, it opens up multiple perspectives on the rapid succession of various avant-garde movements and offshoot styles like Expressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Dada, and the New Objectivity.
In addition to the paintings and sculptures, the two film spaces that are part of the exhibition provide contemporary commentary. Whereas Julian Rosefeldt invites reflection on Berlin’s amusement frenzy in the 1920s with his “Deep Gold” (2013/14), Javier Téllez focuses on the role of outsider art and its use by the Nazi regime in “Rotations (Prometheus and Zwitter)” (2011).
Artists on Display in the Neue Nationalgalerie
The Nationalgalerie owns around 1800 works covering the period 1900 to 1945 but admittedly the focus is on German and European artists, especially men, so a few loan works are also on display in the Art of Society exhibition from especially female artists from other parts of the world.
The artists list for Die Kunst der Gesellschaft exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie reads like a who’s who of early 20th century German and European artists and include amongst others Hans Arp, Max Beckmann, Rudolf Belling, Otto Dix, Max Ernst, Lyonel Feininger, Alberto Giacometti, George Grosz, Hannah Höch, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee, Hilma af Klint, Oskar Kokoschka, Käthe Kollwitz, Lotte Laserstein, René Magritte, Franz Marc, Paula Modersohn-Becker, George Muche, Otto Mueller, Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Pablo Picasso, Curt Queren, Hans Richter, Christian Schad, Oskar Schlemmer, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Renée Sintenis, Irma Stern, Heinrich Vogeler, and Jenny Wiegmann.
Alexander Calder. Minimal / Maximal
A special exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin from August 22, 2021, to February 13, 2022.
The American modernist Alexander Calder (1898–1976) is famous for transformative mobiles, stabiles, and standing mobiles ranging from the miniature to the monumental: around a dozen works are included in the “maximal” and double that for the “minimal” sections of this exhibition.
Calder has been closely associated with the Neue Nationalgalerie for decades. His masterpiece “Têtes et Queue” (1965) was installed for the opening of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic work and returned to the museum terrace for its reopening.
The exhibition explores the special relationship between size, scale, and space in Calder’s works while juxtaposing his organic forms with the strict geometry of Mies van der Rohe’s building in poetic dialogue. The Neue Nationalgalerie’s huge glass hall is an excellent venue for the open, experimental approach of the installation. Many of the large mobiles will be set in motion while smaller mobiles will be removed from the display cases by personal to demonstrate them in motion to visitors.
Copies of Calder’s 1944-designed chess set will also be available for visitors keen on a game.
In addition to works from the Nationalgalerie collection, the exhibition includes important loans from the Calder Foundation, New York; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; David and Ezra Nahmad Collection; and Sprengel Museum Hannover. The exhibition’s central work is the monumental sculpture “Five Swords” (1976), which is on view in Europe for the first time.
Rosa Barba, In a Perpetual Now
A special exhibition in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin from August 22, 2021, to February 13, 2022.
For its reopening, the Neue Nationalgalerie presents in its Graphic Cabinet various works by the Berlin-based artist Rosa Barba, including films, sculptures, and objects. Along with noted pieces from her work from the years 2009 to 2021, a new film created for the exhibition is also being shown.
Specially produced for the architecture of the Neue Nationalgalerie, the expansive installation follows the principle of cinematic montage, which plays a key role in the artist’s work. Among the exhibition’s central motifs are questions relating to the dimension of time. With regard to the show’s title, “In a Perpetual Now,” the question arises: would it really be desirable to live perpetually in the present? Without past and future, our entire lives would endlessly rotate in place.
Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin Visitors’ Information
Tickets for the Neue Nationalgalerie
Tickets for the Neue Nationalgalerie are €14 and include all exhibitions — available online with time slot reservations from Tiqets, GetYourGuide, or SMB. The main exhibition (Art and Society) and special exhibition (Calder Minimal / Maximal) are seen on the same ticket — separate tickets are not sold, although a surcharge may be added to some passes to see the special exhibition.
Admission is free for under 18-year-olds.
Currently, admission is free on the first Sunday of the month (as is the case with most Berlin museums) while free admission on the third Thursday of the month (after 16:00 with a free cultural program) is likely to resume in November 2021.
Time-slot reservations are required — currently sold only around 14 days in advance. The reservation is free when buying a ticket online and should also be made for visitors qualifying for free admission or having passes. Immediate entry is also possible if time-slot reservations are not already sold out.
A combination ticket for the Kulturforum is not currently available but may return in future and should offer savings over individual tickets.
The Berlin Museum Pass (excellent value at €29 for three days) and several other discount passes may be used. However, for the museum pass, an upgrade ticket (€4, available on-site) is required for the Calder exhibition.
Opening Hours of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
The opening hours of the Neue Nationalgalerie are Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00, closing at 20:00 on Thursday.
From 22 to 29 August 2021 only, the Neue Nationalgalerie is open daily from 10:00 to 20:00 — time slot reservations necessary.
The sculpture garden, bookshop, and cafe are all worth visiting too. Jorge Pardo’s room-sized, site-specific installation for Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie’s café, comprises a suite of hanging light sculptures and a floor-to-ceiling array of warmly toned wall tiles.
Transportation to Visit the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin
The Neue Nationalgalerie is part of the large Kulturforum neighborhood to the west of Potsdamer Platz. The buses stop very close to the museum while walking from the U and S Bahn train stations is often faster than waiting for the bus.
Convenient buses (closest stop) include Bus M29 (Potsdamer Brücke), M48 and M85 (Kulturforum), 200 (Philharmonie), and M41 (Potsdamer Platz Bhf / Voßstraße). U-Bahn 2 stops at Potsdamer Platz as do various S-trains including S1 and S2.
More on the Berlin State Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin):
Note: Most Berlin museums and similar sights are open in 2024. Timeslot reservations are essential for only the Neues Museum but sensible (and possibly essential in busy periods!) for the Alte Nationalgalerie, Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, and Pergamon – Das Panorama. (The Pergamon Museum itself is closed until 2027!). Timeslots are released only around four weeks in advance. 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 available (Kulturforum / Museums Island). 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 but pick up free audioguides first.
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 (2024).
- 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: Overview of Top Berlin Exhibitions in 2024, Caspar David Friedrich in the Alte Nationalgalerie (tickets are selling out fast!), Frans Hals in the Gemäldegalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie (20th-century art) Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art, Kupferstichkabinett (Prints and Drawings), and Photography Museum.
- Museums closed in 2024: The Pergamon Museum is closed until 2027 (some sculptures are on display in Das Panorama), the Museum Berggruen is closed until 2025 (much of its collection is traveling the world), the permanent collection of the German History Museum (Zeughaus) is closed but temporary exhibitions continue in the Pei Building.
More Museum Reviews and Museum-Specific Information:
- Alte Nationalgalerie with Caspar David Friedrich paintings (2024 special exhibition).
- 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 — 20th-century art.
- Neues Museum with bust of Nefertiti.
- Pergamon Museum with Ishtar Gate — the whole Pergamonmuseum is closed from October 2023 until 2027. Some Greek sculptures are shown in the
- Pergamon Museum Panorama Exhibition with Asisi panoramic painting and Greek statues.
- Photography — Helmut Newton collection and historic photos.
Previous Temporary Exhibitions:
- 2023: Top Special Temporary Exhibitions in 2023 — overview, in the Kulturforum, in the Neue Nationalgalerie, on Museum Island, and the Museum of Photography.
- 2022: 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.
- 2021: 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.
- 2020: Highlights, in Kulturforum, on Museum Island, in the Hamburger Bahnhof, smaller museums, and the opening of the Humboldt Forum.