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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Surreal Worlds – Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg | Permanent Exhibition

Editors’ Choice

Under the title “Surreal Worlds”, the permanent collection is shown in changing presentations. The focus is on surrealism in the broadest sense: in addition to the main representatives, important precursors and successors of the movement that emerged in Paris in the early 1920s are on display. The visitor has the unique opportunity to explore the development of fantastic art not only on the well-known roads but also on its winding byways.

Image above: View of the collection presentation “Surreal Worlds” © Jean Dubuffet / Kurt Schwitters / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg / Thomas Bruns.

Important surrealists in the exhibition

Almost all members of the Surrealist movement, which was formed around the French writer André Breton, are represented in the collection with selected works. First and foremost Max Ernst and Hans Bellmer, but also René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy and André Masson. In their works, they use the most important techniques to explore those “surreal worlds” that open up behind the bars of logic (André Breton) and promise a life in freedom. They produce automatic drawings, collages and so-called decalcomania (a process similar to the tube well test), frottage (rubbing through) or fumage (pictures painted with candle smoke).

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View of the collection presentation “Surreal Worlds” © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg / Thomas Bruns

In addition, works created in the 18th and 19th centuries show that many elements of surrealism already existed before its emergence. Although they were not represented with the revolutionary impetus of the surrealist avant-gardists, they testify to a similar doubt about reality: Piranesi’s dungeon architectures lead the viewer into Kafkaesque labyrinths, Francisco de Goya etchings design a dark world of the absurd and paintings or drawings by symbolists such as Odilon Redon or Alfred Kubin create a sometimes disturbingly mysterious atmosphere of silence.

“Raw” art and sensitivity

After the Second World War, Jean Dubuffet’s so-called Art brut – his works form another focal point of the collection – took up the art of Surrealism. With his interest in a crude, “raw” art, be it due to madness or dilettantism, Dubuffet shares similar hopes as André Breton and his friends once did. Like them, he believes in a renewal of art beyond all academic teachings and trusts in the sensitivity and power of the naïve.

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View of the collection presentation “Surreal Worlds” © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg / Thomas Bruns

Selected film works

Last but not least, the exhibition is enriched by a small selection of films – from classics like Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí to contemporary artists who refer to surrealism in their visual language. They can be seen in the so-called Sahurê Hall, which features the columns of the ancient Egyptian temple of the same name. Together with the famous Kalabsha Gate at the entrance to the collection, they are legacies of the Egyptian Museum, which formerly resided in this building and moved to the Museum Island in 2006. Until the fourth wing of the Pergamon Museum is completed, they enjoy a most welcome hospitality in the exhibition rooms of the “Surreal Worlds”.


Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg
Schloss Street 70
14059 Berlin


Permanent exhibition

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Thomas Hoepker 1936-2024