Historical Archive

Holdings comprise the archives of the Prussian Academy of Arts (1696-1945), the Academy of Arts of the GDR (1950-1993), the West Berlin Academy of Arts (1954-1993), and the archive of the united Academy of Arts since 1993. The inherited documentation as a whole records not only the history of this major institution, but also more than 300 years of German art and cultural history. Along with correspondence with other institutions, the holdings contain many autographs and documents of the more than 2,200 Academy members, of whom Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Johann Gottfried Schadow, Max Liebermann, Heinrich Mann, Arnold Zweig, Hans Scharoun, Günter Grass, Heiner Müller and Walter Jens, among others, played a governing role in the institution. Related collections comprise press articles, programmes and photographs relating to the Academy, its members, exhibitions and other events.

The Prussian Academy of Arts, the third-oldest academy of arts in Europe, was, since its foundation in 1696, at one and the same time both a members’ society and a training institution for the visual arts and architecture–and, from 1833, for music, too. Poetic Arts were given their own section in 1926. Moreover, through its work in providing expert reports, the Senate of the Academy functioned as a government authority for the arts in Prussia.

The tuition system comprised various teaching institutes, which were later hived off from the Academy, such as the School of Music in 1869, and the Polytechnic of the Fine Arts in 1875. Beginning in 1875/1882, particularly talented artists received an individual qualification in the master studios and master schools. Competitions and prizes, particularly the Major State Prize, encouraged younger artists and made it possible for them to spend time abroad, particularly in Rome. Beginning in 1786, the regular Academy exhibitions provided a general view of contemporary art. In the twentieth century these were supplemented by concerts, thematic exhibitions, readings and lectures. Members and patrons established funds, from which many artists received support. The eventful history of the art collection is also well documented.

The Academy of Arts of the GDR was the foremost institution in the field of art. Founded in 1950 as successor institution to the Prussian Academy of Arts, it was directly subordinate to the Council of Ministers and had a central function for the GDR. In particular, the files of the Presidium and Director’s Office provide insights into the social “image” of this society of artists, into the mechanisms through which the state functioned when it came to questions of art, and the complex interdependence which existed with the Party and government apparatus, and into relations with artists’ associations and cultural institutions. Documents from the four sections of visual arts, music, literature and performing arts, and from the other divisions of the Academy, record the course of debates on art and cultural history, membership elections, the training of master pupils, the awarding of prizes, the wide range of exhibitions, event and publicity work (including editorship of the journal Sinn und Form), the development of the archive of literary and artistic estates, and the acquisitions for the art collection.

The principal aim of the Academy of Arts (West), sponsored by the State of Berlin, was to represent freedom and the claims of art in the face of the state and of society and to inform the general public about the artistic trends of the time. Through its events and exhibitions the Academy was a formative influence upon the arts in post-war Berlin. The files also record collaboration on cultural bodies, the awarding of the Berlin State Prize for Art, and of other prizes and scholarships. The files of the President’s Office and of the six Departments of the Arts–visual arts, architecture, music, literature, performing arts, and film and media (founded 1984)–document debates on art and current affairs, membership elections, relations with cultural institutions and associations, work on events, exhibitions and publicity, and the development of the archive of documentary and literary estates.

The archive of the present Academy of Arts preserves the documents, inherited since 1993, of the Academy of Arts created following the merger of the two Berlin Academies (East and West), whose patron since 2005 has no longer been the States of Berlin and Brandenburg, but the Federal German Government. As an international community of artists, its task is to encourage the arts, to maintain their cultural heritage, and to advise the Federal Republic of Germany on matters of art and culture. Inherited holdings comprise documents recording communication with more than 350 members, work in the governing bodies (Sections, Plenary Assembly and Senate), and programme activities, including prizes (such as the Berlin Prize for Art, Käthe-Kollwitz Prize, Heinrich Mann Prize), encouragement of new artists at the start of their career, and the work of its extraordinarily extensive archive, which contains more than 1,000 individual holdings relating to individual persons. 

Historical Archive: press documentation
Press documentation
About 2,700 folders
27 German-language daily and weekly papers are subject to analyses. The press documentation records and makes available articles on

the history of the Academy of Arts, Berlin
the members of the Prussian Academy of Arts
the members of the Academy of Arts, Berlin, past and present
press reports on day-to-day politics as they relate to the Academy
events and publications by the Academy of Arts
the master pupils and prize-winners of the Academy of Arts of the GDR
the people of whom the archive is the written record (documentary and literary estates, collections, etc.)
Press reports about the Academies

Further documentation covers:

the creative arts in the GDR outside the Academy of Arts (contains, among other items, documents relating to individuals, exhibitions, art colleges, universities, museums, galleries, and aspects of the visual arts)
arts events in Germany and abroad, in museums and galleries
reports on festivals
prizes for art and culture
reviews of current theatrical productions in Berlin and Brandenburg

Historical Archive: photographic collection
Photographic Collection
25,000 photographs, 11,000 negatives
The Photographic Collection comprises photographs of normal and corresponding members of the Academy of Arts of the GDR (portrait photographs, group photographs)
Events organised by the Academy of Arts of the GDR (plenary meetings, exhibitions, guests of the Academy, etc.)

(Stand 22.09.2011)