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The Art Collection

Poster for the III "Berliner Secession" art exhibition

Thomas Theodor Heine, poster for the III "Berliner Secession" art exhibition, May-October 1901
Jewish Museum Berlin, donated by Hendrik A. Berinson in memory of Ephraim Berinson © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015

The Jewish Museum Berlin art collection shows German-Jewish history from the perspective of the fine arts.

In the works of Jewish artists and the expectations of Jewish commissioners, the imagery of the Jewish tradition combined with that of the present. The artists’ works show how Jews participate in the cultural life of their time. They shape and interpret their environment, position themselves in German society, and reflect on their attitude to Judaism. Also as commissioners, for example of portraits, Jews play a significant role in the art world. Their aesthetic preferences are important evidence of their cultural identity for us today.

Documenting and researching this visual culture that evolved from many interrelationships is the role of the fine arts collection. The holdings currently comprise approximately 430 paintings, 5,000 art prints, 1,900 drawings, and around 150 sculptures and architectural models.

With its art collection, the Jewish Museum Berlin continues the tradition of the first Jewish Museum that was forced to close in 1938. It was explicitly dedicated to the works of Jewish artists of the time. The works of classical modernism collected at that time are also still a focus today: Max Liebermann, Lesser Ury, Ludwig Meidner, Jakob Steinhardt, Hermann Struck, Jankel Adler, and Otto Freundlich are only the best known names.

Double portrait of two children

Leopold Bendix, double portrait of Albert and Julie Rathenau, 1845, oil on canvas
© Jewish Museum Berlin, donation by Charlotte Herzfeld, photo: Jens Ziehe

Printed graphics are an extensive and important part of the art collection. It also includes posters and advertising art and is closely associated with the works of book art that have been collected in the library.

Among the subjects, biblical themes and Jewish motifs are naturally well represented but our interest is in all pictorial subjects, in particular the aesthetic processing of experiences of persecution and emigration.

As in any historico-cultural collection, portraits also play an important role in the Jewish Museum Berlin collection. Many of them belong to family history collections that also contain documents, photographs, and objects. In addition, the portraits of philosophers of the Jewish Enlightenment in the 18th century are especially noteworthy and are on long-term loan from the Israel Museum. They were originally part of the first Jewish Museum’s collection.

Furthermore, together with our archive and photographic collection, we collect biographical and documentary material such as photographs, correspondence, and publications.

A further focus of the collection is contemporary art. Through its architecture and its self-conception, the Jewish Museum Berlin was concerned from the beginning with questions of the present. Consequently, documenting contemporary developments is part of the collection concept. Installations by Menashe Kadishman, Via Lewandowski, and Arnold Dreyblatt can all be found on a stroll through the exhibition and reflect the fact that a museum can only consider history from the position of the present.


Inka Bertz
Head of collections/Curator of art
Tel: +49 (0)30 259 93 414
Fax: +49 (0)30 259 93 409

The interest of an historico-cultural museum is also always a thematic one. We consider every artwork from the standpoint of the questions that the museum asks – questions of tradition and remembrance, of Jewish present and visions for the future.

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