Patrons and Collectors

Gifts and generous support from its patrons raised the profile of the SPK's institutions in their early years. Long-standing relationships with collectors are still contributing to superb exhibitions, research work, and new museum buildings today.

Patrons: the origins of the collections 

The founding of the Nationalgalerie, the bust of Nefertiti as a global attraction on Museumsinsel (Museum Island), the comprehensive holdings of the Manuscript Department of the Staatsbibliothek: the SPK owes all of these milestones to the dedication of outstanding patrons.

Joachim Heinrich Wagener (1782–1861) amassed what was then Berlin's largest private collection of paintings by German and foreign artists. The 262 paintings that the banker bequeathed to the Prussian state subsequently formed the basis of the Nationalgalerie collection. 

In the course of his term as the Director-General of the state collections, Wilhelm von Bode (1845–1929) earned the nickname "Bismarck of the museums." He worked ceaselessly to establish an international network of collectors, donors, and patrons. He also founded the renowned Kaiser Friedrich Museum Association. This served as a means of raising funds for the construction or enlargement of numerous collections and departments.

James Simon (1851–1932) was one of the most important patrons of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. A successful Berlin businessman, he financed archaeological excavations and donated many different valuable objects to the Bode Museum, the then German Ethnographic Museum, the Berlin Coin Cabinet and the Egyptian and Near Eastern Department of what were then the Prussian national museums. The most famous of them is the bust of Nefertiti, which is now on display in the Neues Museum on Museumsinsel. 

Well-known internationally as the founder of the Villa Massimo, Eduard Arnhold (1849–1925) also made substantial gifts to several institutions of the Staatliche Museen and funded various excavation projects. Paintings by Titian, Liebermann, Manet, and Cézanne are as much a mark of Eduard Arnhold's generosity as the 100,000 marks that he donated to enable the Enthroned Goddess from Taranto to be purchased for the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities) in Berlin. 

The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin owes the core of its Manuscript Department – one of the most important legacies in its history – to the chemist Ludwig Darmstaedter (1846–1927). His collection contained over 250,000 autograph manuscripts, estates, photos, drawings, facsimiles, and reproductions. Moreover, Darmstaedter also founded the Friends of the Royal Library in 1914. 

Cooperation with collectors 

Thanks to cooperation with collectors, the SPK is able to give members of the public a chance to see the best of 20th century art on the market. In comparison to public cultural institutions, private collectors are better placed to follow a specific profile when making acquisitions. New spaces are often needed for the proper presentation of such works. This is why the gift or indefinite loan of a large collection by a major collector such as Erich Marx, Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch, or Egidio Marzona, often goes hand-in-hand with the founding of a museum. This was the case with the Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart (Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art). A current example is the new building for the Nationalgalerie at the Kulturforum. 

The Museum Berggruen owes more than just its name to collector Heinz Berggruen. Since 1996, the greater part of Heinz Berggruen's unique collection has been on display in the western Stüler building (named after its designer, Friedrich August Stüler) opposite Berlin's Charlottenburg Palace. It includes masterpieces of classical modernism by Picasso, Paul Klee, and Henri Matisse. In 2000, Berggruen sold most of his collection to the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz for a generously low price, having lent it to the Foundation for a few years prior to that. 

In addition to long-term loans of approximately 2000 works, which have been exhibited to great acclaim at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart since 2004, the collector Friedrich Christian Flick has donated a total of 270 works of contemporary art to the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. These works are by major international artists such as Stan Douglas, Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Candida Höfer, Paul McCarthy, and Pipilotti Rist. The Foundation's cooperation with the collector began with an exhibition of the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection at Hamburger Bahnhof in 2004. In 2008, Flick gave the first 166 works to the museums, followed by 104 more works on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 2015. 

Works donated by Egidio Marzona have helped to fill significant gaps in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin's collections of art from the 1960s and 1970s. In 2014, the collector gave the Nationalgalerie and the Kupferstichkabinett 372 major works of conceptual art, minimal art, and arte povera. In 2002, Marzona enriched the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) archives with unique collections of art from the 1960s and 1970s. 

The outstanding collection assembled by Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch will occupy a prime place in the new museum building of the Nationalgalerie on the Kulturforum. In 2009, the couple donated 120 works of surrealism and abstract expressionism to the state of Berlin, with the proviso that they be placed on indefinite loan to the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Another condition was that suitable and sufficient presentation space be provided for work by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Max Ernst, and René Magritte, among others. This will be fulfilled in the near future with the construction of the Nationalgalerie's new museum building on the Kulturforum.

The indefinite loan of the Erich Marx collection was the crucial factor in the subsequent founding of the Hamburger Bahnhof – Nationalgalerie der Gegenwart in 1996. Containing many outstanding works by Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Anselm Kiefer, Donald Judd, Julian Schnabel, and Eberhard Havekost, the collection represents significant developments in art after 1960. In 2015, Marx additionally presented the world-famous installation Das Kapital Raum 1970–1977 by Joseph Beuys to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin as an indefinite loan. In due course, it will be given a permanent place alongside the greater part of the Marx collection in the new building of the Nationalgalerie on the Kulturforum. 

The outstanding collection of Japanese lacquer art owned by Klaus F. Naumann was purchased by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in 2008 with financial support from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin, the Cultural Foundation of the German States, and the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation. In the following year, the Museum für Asiatische Kunst received 100 major works of traditional Japanese art as a gift from the collector. These precious objects will be exhibited in the Humboldt Forum from 2019 onward.

In 1991, gallery owner and collector Otto van de Loo donated 55 works of European post-war art to the Nationalgalerie of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. This generous gift made the museum a prime destination for those interested in work by the CoBrA group of artists, their associates, and their successors.