The Art Collection comprises some 65,000 works on paper, plus paintings, sculptures and artefacts, and over 40,000 posters. It also preserves works of applied, creative art and items of cultural history which come from documentary remains from other artistic disciplines, such as theatrical costumes and stage models.
Its major treasures include the large holdings of drawings by Johann Gottfried Schadow, Daniel Chodowiecki’s series of sketches of his journey from Berlin to Danzig, the Amalfi Sketchbook and landscape oil sketches of Carl Blechen and, from the twentieth century, the entire artistic remains of John Heartfield, extensive parts of the artistic remains of George Grosz, containing drawings, graphic designs and collages (including more than 200 sketchbooks) – plus large work files and documentary remains of Hans and Lea Grundig, Oskar and Alice Lex-Nerlinger, Fritz Cremer, Herbert Sandberg and Klaus Wittkugel.
The Art Collection also includes a so-called Museum Collection, containing personal items from the estates of the archive presenters.
Through its holdings the Art Collection supports not just exhibitions conceived by the Academy itself but also exhibition projects world-wide. Not only because of its extent, but particularly because the Art Collection is, in the main, a graphic collection, involving light-sensitive work on paper, its holdings ? like the Artists’ Archives ? are kept on stack and only lent on a temporary basis. The Art Collection also supports research projects and is glad to allow all persons to inspect its holdings for study purposes in its Artwork Room.
The foundation of the Academy in 1696 also marked the foundation of its art collection ? as a teaching and exhibition collection for the training of artists as well as to furnish the Academy’s public rooms in a fitting manner. From trial works and compulsory submissions by artists, through purchase from the Academy exhibitions, and – not least – through gifts and bequests, the Academy came into possession of numerous sculptures, paintings, drawings and prints in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The inventory of 1804, drawn up on the instructions of the then Director of the Academy, Johann Gottfried Schadow, contains 2,028 works of sculpture alone, including famous plaster casts after antique models and a number of works by Schadow himself.
Despite the loss of the early collection in the fire of 1743, by the start of the nineteenth century the holdings were so extensive and important that the Academy was instructed to transfer parts of them to the new Royal Museum, completed by Schinkel in 1830.
The Art Collection suffered its greatest losses as a result of the Second World War and its consequences. As it was carried off by the Red Army War Reparations Commission in 1945, the fate of the collection seemed to be sealed. The members of the German Academy of Arts of Berlin (East), founded in 1950, nonetheless lent their full support to the task of forming an art collection ? a task which was fulfilled at first mainly through reference copies from the graphic workshops, through donations and purchases of work by members and Academy prize-winners, and through retrospective purchase of mainly German objective art of the twentieth century, though also through acquisition, for instance, of the complete set of Daumier’s famous bronze busts of the parliamentarians.
In 1958 the East Academy received back from the USSR the drawings of Daniel Chodowiecki and Johann Gottfried Schadow, and works of Carl Blechen. Nevertheless, a large part of the collection is regarded today as lost.
The Academy of Arts of West Berlin, founded in 1954, did not return to the idea of an art collection, but preserved what little remained, concentrating on building up its other archives.
Following the merger of the two Academies, not only were the holdings in collections and archives brought together, but conditions of conservation and opportunities for public access were both improved.
The collection’s profile has been considerably impacted by the chances and changes of German history. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify certain constants, reflecting the influence of the Academy’s members. Tasks which the Art Collection is pursuing today include recovering the work of artists exiled and murdered during the Nazi period by collecting examples of their available works and keeping the memory of them alive.
Reflecting the expansion in media and style which has characterised the concept of art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Art Collection too is open to new fields, including mail art and photography, which was formerly collected only for documentary or art-historical purposes. Its more recent holdings include extensive vintage print series by Michael Ruetz and the graphic work of Alfonso Hüppi, as well as large-scale paintings by Thomas Huber and Carl Frederik Reuterswärd.
The list of the Art Collection’s holdings on the Academy website gives no more than a general overview of the artists represented there and indicates only a selection of their works. The intention is to produce a digital record of the overall holdings, to be listed mainly in a conventional inventory.