Semper Building at the Zwinger with the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Skulpturensammlung up to 1800 to reopen on 29 February 202026 February 2020
[Translate to English:] GAM 1
After seven years of extensive refurbishment, the Semperbau am Zwinger (Semper Building at the Zwinger) will be opening its doors again on Saturday, 29 February 2020. For the first time, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) will be presenting works from the world-famous Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) and Skulpturensammlung bis 1800 (Sculpture Collection up to 1800) in direct interaction.
Alongside Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna”, visitors can look forward to a unique tour through European art history. The concept behind the new permanent exhibition follows the principle of hanging paintings by geographical origin and era, picking out certain main topics from each period and impressively showcasing key masterpieces such as Giorgione's “Sleeping Venus”, Rembrandt's “Ganymede” or Bellotto’s Dresden vedute.
The innovative aspect of this fully revamped permanent exhibition is that it integrates the Skulpturensammlung: after ten years in the Albertinum’s viewable storage facility, the famous Dresden antiquities collection will now be put on striking display in the Semperbau (Semper Building). Its new home will be the large Antiquities Hall on the ground floor of the east wing, originally designed for the collection of historical plaster casts by Anton Raphael Mengs. Renaissance and Baroque sculptures have been relocated in the first-floor sculpture gallery, which is flooded with natural light. Small bronzes, busts and marble pieces will interact directly with selected paintings. The Deutscher Pavillon on the ground floor presents a selection of casts by Mengs while, on the floor above, the newly built Café Algarotti captivates lingering guests with its combination of artistic and culinary delights.
Experts from various fields of restoration were involved in planning the building from the outset, to resolve conservation issues and create the best possible conditions for presenting and protecting all the works of art. New triple-glazed windows with a high colour rendering index now enable natural light to enter the rooms. The fully revised lighting concept with precise accent lighting and richly coloured wall coverings gives prominence to the works of art.
In preparation for the reopening, extensive restorations have been carried out since 2013. Some 45 paintings have been thoroughly restored, and another 162 paintings cleaned up on a smaller scale, with a particular focus on conserving paintings on wood. Research was carried out into panels from the workshop of Cima da Conegliano, Lucas Cranach the Elder or Giulio Romano, and they were intensively restored, with significant professional support provided through cooperation with the Getty Institute in Los Angeles. Various generous grants made extensive restoration and research projects possible, such as the restoration of the Cuccina Cycle by Paolo Veronese. Following their restoration, several paintings can now be brought out of storage and exhibited. Another especially important task was restoring the baroque gallery frames: roughly 310 frames were reconditioned and 33 professional replicas of gallery frames made, while another 140 frames were reconstructed, strengthened and reglazed. For the new presentation of the Antiquities Collection, every individual item was cleaned, and many were restored and set on new plinths. The casts by Mengs were also cleaned and stabilised.
New special exhibition areas are now available for temporary presentations of art treasures from the holdings, as well as national and international loans. The Winckelmann Forum provides a large temporary exhibition area spanning the entire ground floor of the west wing. On 3 April 2020, this will open with the special exhibition “Raphael – The Power of Images. Tapestries and their Impact”. On the first floor, the Semper-Kabinett will provide a setting for small, focused presentations. The exhibition “Encounter with a God. The Dresden Mars by Giambologna”, dedicated to the successful recovery of this famous small bronze, will be held there at the same time as the reopening.
Multimedia teaching formats will round off the museum experience. In future, the Semperbau will have full wi-fi coverage, enabling visitors to consult the newly designed multimedia guide. In cooperation with the Faculty of Computer Science at Dresden’s Technical University (TUD), free, fully accessible multimedia guides have also been created to meet visitors’ different sensory and cognitive needs. In the interests of building an inclusive society, the devices will present the exhibits interactively, for example in sign language or featuring auditory descriptions. On the opening weekend, live speakers will be presenting the exhibition; the new multimedia guides will be available from 3 March 2020.
To mark the reopening, new publications offering deeper insights into the works of art at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Skulpturensammlung bis 1800 will be published in German, English and Russian.
Barbara Klepsch, Saxon State Minister for Culture and Tourism:
“It is marvellous that after seven years of renovations, we are today able to reopen the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister along with the Skulpturensammlung. Dresden’s renovated Semperbau am Zwinger is home to outstanding works that are valued by visitors from all over the world. A clear sign that our cultural heritage is also an important economic factor through tourism. The state of Saxony has provided some 50 million euros, almost the full cost of the Semperbau’s construction and renovation – an important investment in Saxony as a location for culture and tourism.”
Marion Ackermann, Director-General of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden:
“The thought-provoking juxtapositions in Dresden's Semperbau encourage visitors’ eyes to move back and forth, discovering hitherto unnoticed similarities of form, interrelationships and mutual influences between the sculptures and paintings. In some ways, this revives the original spirit of the Kunstkammer: the idea of works of art and artefacts co-existing in a dialogue that transcends the boundaries of the genres. Information-packed themed sections celebrating the collections’ strengths and the cleverly choreographed route through the complex building make a stroll through the much-loved collection of Old Masters a real delight, interspersed with newly created exhibition spaces that bring out the different periods celebrated in this living, breathing museum to full effect. The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister is famous throughout the world; many of its works have been deeply anchored in people’s visual memories for centuries.
Stephan Koja, Director of Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister and the Skulpturensammlung bis 1800:
“I am absolutely thrilled by how successfully the gallery has been carefully, but firmly modernised in cooperation with the Public Enterprise for Saxon Property and Construction Management and in close contact with the office of regional building conservation, preserving it for future generations as a home for these paintings and sculptures. It is a particularly lovely challenge to re-furnish and redesign such a historically significant museum. When I walk through the gallery and the storage facilities, I am always impressed by the incredible abundance of truly outstanding paintings. Along with the exceptional Skulpturensammlung – giving Dresden, apart from anything, one of the oldest and largest collections of antiquities north of the Alps – the Semperbau now offers visitors a unique tour of almost five millennia of European artistic and cultural history.”
Helmut Schleweis, President of the German Savings Banks Association, DSGV:
“We would like to congratulate Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden on the reopening of the Semperbau am Zwinger. The newly presented Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister with the Skulpturensammlung bis 1800 is a treasured icon of global art and culture. It is our great pleasure to continue to play a role in the history of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden as the main sponsor in the future, following such major steps as the opening of the Historical Grünes Gewölbe in 2006 and the Albertinum in 2010.”
BACKGROUND OF HISTORY AND REFURBISHMENT
The Semperbau am Zwinger (Semper Building at the Zwinger) has been extensively renovated in several stages since 2013. Factors relating to building physics and signs of wear and tear caused by the building’s age meant that it required a full refurbishment. Its redevelopment was based on the original museum design. In 1855, the gallery was built as an ultra-modern museum for its time according to plans by the architect Gottfried Semper (1803–1879), its architecture chiming with the art treasures in rarely seen unison. This effect is thanks both to the collections carefully chosen by the Saxon rulers Augustus the Strong and Augustus III and to Semper's fine feel for putting on a show at a museum. Gottfried Semper's pioneering building thus had a great influence on later museum architecture across Europe.
After the devastating damage of the Second World War, the Semperbau was successfully rebuilt to house the works of art returning from the Soviet Union in the 1950s, preserving this important architectural relic for posterity.
Now, the Semperbau has been extensively modernised, maintaining the building’s basic historical structure and improving the building services engineering, environmental control equipment, fire protection and visitor guidance system. Making the museum fully accessible was an important aspect of the structural measures. An underground connection between the east and west wings now makes the building more accessible from different sides and makes it easier to guide visitors around. The ticket office and cloakroom area have been given a calmer look. In the exhibition spaces, the more energy-efficient air conditioning system and the well-thought-out lighting concept are particularly impressive. Despite the intensive redevelopment, the SKD gave visitors access to the masterpieces in the collection of paintings during the construction work by opening part of the east wing. This wing was successfully renovated during the first construction stage, which lasted until 2015.
To mark the opening, the artist Peter Baldinger’s installation “Then is now” will feature Raphael’s angel as a neon sculpture on the roof of the renovated Semperbau. The work of art will shine out as a symbol of the link between the paintings and sculptures, and of the museum’s importance as the home of world-famous works of art such as the Sistine Madonna. The installation will be on show in Dresden until the end of July 2020, before moving to the Columbus Museum of Art (USA).
On the evening of 28 February 2020, the band Woods of Birnam will give two concerts in the Schauspielhaus theatre for invited guests. Their new album “How To Hear A Painting” connects their music to paintings from the Old Masters collection. At 8.30 p.m., at a free live broadcast in the Zwinger, “So geht sächsisch.” will be presenting one of the concerts, which have already sold out. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the Semperbau will open its doors to all interested visitors.
FRIDAY 28 February 2020
8.30 p.m. NIGHT OF THE OLD MASTERS “So geht sächsisch." presents the free live broadcast of the Woods of Birnam concert in the Zwinger.
10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Evening opening in the Semperbau am Zwinger, free admission.
SATURDAY 29 February and SUNDAY 1 March 2020
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free admission to the Semperbau am Zwinger. Visitors will only be admitted with tickets for limited time slots. Tickets are available at the SKD museum ticket offices, leftover tickets at the box office.
The weekend will be rounded off by various supporting events for young and old with live speakers in the exhibition, an open workshop with artists, guided family tours, expert discussions and more musical offerings.
The special programme on the opening weekend will be followed by a week of festivities. For further information go to:
The SKD is talking about #gemäldegaleriealtemeister, #semperbau2020, #skdmuseum und #woodsofbirnam on social media.