Couple Gifts $130 Million Modern Art Collection to Berlin

The gift has been in discussion for years, but the city didn't have room for it.

The art collectors Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch in front of Andre Masson's Massacre (1931) in the New National Gallery in Berlin, in 2009, during the presentation of the exhibition "Picture Dreams. Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection". The masterpieces, owned by the couple, are part of the internationally most significant collections of surrealist art. Photo courtesy Axel Schmidt/AFP /Getty Images

German collectors Heiner and Ulla Pietzsch will gift their 150-piece strong collection to the city of Berlin.

The Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) announced yesterday, November 30, that the artworks, valued at about €120 million ($127 million), will be donated to their holdings.

The Foundation and the collectors have been in discussions about the prized collection for several years, and signed an agreement back in December 2010, which came with specific stipulations: that the donation to the city of Berlin will be presented in the museum on a permanent loan, and that works from the Pietzsch collection will be exhibited alongside the foundation’s modern art holdings. But due to space limitations, these specifications could not be easily met.

However, following the city’s announcement that Berlin’s future Museum of Modern Art, also referred to as the Museum of the 20th Century, will be designed by Herzog & de Meuron—a decision that came after years of controversy—the collector couple decided to do away with these conditions.

The Pietzsch’s collection is considered one of the most outstanding private collections of modern art. Started in 1964, their extraordinary collection is characterized by two core themes: European Surrealism, and its reception in the US by the Abstract Expressionists. Among some of its highlights are works by Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, and Barnett Newmann, as well as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Hermann Parzinger, president of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, thanked Germany’s minister of culture, Monika Grütters, for the initiative to build the planned museum, which thus ensured that the collection can be donated to the foundation.

Grütters added, “We owe Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch great gratitude. Through their generous donation, the collection of the New National Gallery is enriched by many high-profile Modern and Ab-Ex masterpieces. Together with the two collectors Marx and Marzona, it was the Pietzsch couple who, through their gift, paved the way for the new Museum of the 20th Century. With the jury’s decision for the design of Herzog & de Meuron, it is now irrevocable: the Museum of the 20th Century in Berlin will come. Berlin will become richer in its art and architecture offering.”

The Pietzsch collection was presented at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin on two previous occasions, in 2009, and again in 2014.

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