David Chipperfield Erects a Forest in Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie

It's the final show before the artchitect renovates the iconic institution.

David Chipperfield Sticks and Stones (2014) Photo: David von Becker via Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Berlin’s museums are undergoing unprecedented renovations (see “String of Berlin Museum Closures Begin“). On Monday, the world famous Pergamon Altar closed until at least 2019. At the end of the year, the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin’s most important showcase for modern and contemporary art, will follow.

Sixty-year-old British architect David Chipperfield has been selected to to spearhead the iconic Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969) structure’s three-year-long renovation.

To inaugurate the project, Chipperfield was invited by the Neue Nationalgalerie to create one final exhibition before the museum’s lengthy closure. The result, titled Sticks and Stones, features a single installation in which 144 eight-meter-tall, branchless tree trunks stretch from floor to ceiling. Each weighs upwards of a ton. The installation paradoxically transforms the building, characterized by its free-floating ceiling, into a hall of columns.

At the installation’s unveiling on Tuesday, Chipperfield told Monopol “When one prepares an exhibition in this space, Mies van der Rohe must remain the star of the project. We have done nothing other than put 144 tree trunks in the most beautiful space in Berlin, just to see what happens.” Nationalgalerie director Udo Kittelmann added, “It is a playful and humorous discourse with the architecture of the building.”

Entrusting Chipperfield

Explaining the decision to entrust Chipperfield with the renovation of the almost 50-year-old building, Kittelmann said that the British architect “Is not the kind of person who needs to erect a monument of himself.”

Chipperfield added: “I feel like a mechanic who has been given a beautiful 1965 Mercedes to restore. We’ll have the museum in the garage for a few years, open the hood and fix it up. When it comes out we’ll start the engine, drive around the block and it will be good as new.”

Visitors will have the chance to view Chipperfield’s installation until the museum’s doors close on December 31. On the last weekend of October the Berlin-based Danish artist Olafur Eliasson has planned a series of performances, readings, and installations.

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