The 1950s master pupil murals in the ‚Picture Cellar’ of the Academy of Arts in Berlin
The Academy of Arts is situated on Pariser Platz near the Brandenburg Gate. Behind today’s façade, there hide the structural remnants of the building’s predecessor. In 1937, the task force of Albert Speer, the General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital, moved into the Academy building. Under Speer, the sculpture halls and the skylight rooms to the sides were converted and expanded. Two new wings with staircases and office rooms were built on. In the large exhibition halls, Speer presented his architectural models for the projected transformation of Berlin into Germania, the “capital of the world”.
In 1957/58, a row of murals sprung up in the basement rooms for a Fasching party. Today, these paintings constitute some of the most artistically valuable items of the property’s legacy. At the suggestion of the sculptor and master pupil Werner Stötzer, “the poacher’s feast” was chosen as the motif. The pictures were created by master pupils Manfred Böttcher, Harald Metzkes, Ernst Schroeder, and Horst Zickelbein. The works are seen today as unique evidence of youth opposition in East Berlin painting towards the end of the 50s. The rear basement rooms of the building were torn out in the year 2000. When taking the inventory of remaining building parts, the hidden wall murals emerged from the basement as “irretrievable documents in the history of GDR art”. An assessment by the Berlin Monument Authority found them to have high artistic value and to be exceptional examples of the Black Period in the East Berlin art of the late 1950s.
Using a draft developed by the Berlin Monument Authority and Restaurierung am Oberbaum (RAO), they were able to be removed and rescued in the lead-up to the demolition. The removal and relocation was funded by the owner and other benefactors.
Three of the images from Metzkes’ Gastmahl des Wilderers (The Poacher’s Feast) are on display today in the basement of the new building on Behrenstrasse. The central painting Tafelrunde der Wilddiebe (Round Table of the Poachers), was dug out entirely along with the 24 cm thick girder supports. It can be seen today behind glass in the foyer. Other paintings were removed from the wall using the ‘Strappo Technique’ and applied to other surfaces. Two additional paintings by Metzkes are on display in the restaurant of the new building. The painting Interieur des Wilddiebs (Poacher’s Interior) by Schröder went into the custodial care of the Ernst-Schröder-Gesellschaft, while Böttcher’s work Tanzende Frauen und ein Mann (Dancing Women and a Man) and Zickelbein’s Der Pan (Pan) are now in the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn.
By 2014, all the murals left on-site in the basement had finally been completely conserved and restored by Restaurierung am Oberbaum (RAO). The Academy of Arts will open the Picture Cellar to visitors on special occasions in the future.
Clients and Benefactors
Bredero Projekt GmbH (Harald Metzkes: „Das Gastmahl des Wilderers“)
Stiftung Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Manfred Böttcher: „Tanzende Frauen und ein Mann“; Horst Zickelbein: „Der Pan“)
Ernst-Schröder-Gesellschaft, Berlin (Ernst Schröder: „Das Interieur des Wilderers“).
3. – 6. November 2011 German National Committee of ICOMOS, Conference: Strategies for the Conservation of Coated, Surfaces in Damp Environments: Dipl. Rest. Jörg Breitenfeldt M. A., Berlin / Dipl. Rest. York Rieffel M. A., Berlin Die Meisterschüler-Wandmalereien der 1950er, Jahre im Bilderkeller der Akademie der Künste in Berlin