Private Art Collections in Public Museums

Theorie und Geschichte von Architektur, Kunst und Design

Full Title:
The Virtuous Alliance of Private Art Collections in Public Museums, the Controversial Case of the Flick Collection in the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin

This master’s thesis examines the potential of the Hamburger Bahnhof (Nationalgalerie), a state-owned public museum that houses private collections in the form of permanent loans and donations. The former railway station provides an ideal architectural format for the presentation of contemporary art.

From the 1990s until today, globally and in Germany, there has been a boom in the acquisition of contemporary art as well as in the interest of private collectors in founding their own museums. For this purpose, the reasons and contexts why private collectors should present their collections in state public museums instead of showing them in private museums are to be presented. The Hamburger Bahnhof is a public institution that makes private collections accessible to the public. To date, there has been no representational survey that explicitly addresses the importance of presenting these private collections in public museums. What reasons can be given for the fact that since the 1990s more and more collectors have founded private museums for their art collections instead of exhibiting them in public museums? What advantages and disadvantages do the respective exhibition models entail, both for the public museum and the private collector? What problems but also potentials do both variants have? What kind of competition exists between private collections and public museums? Why is the exhibition process of public museums more democratic than that of private museums?

The first part of the paper deals with the theoretical and practical relevance of the topic and offers firstly a definition of the different types of institutions and collections, secondly an overview of the boom of private museums since the 1990s and thirdly different forms of private collections that are presented publicly. In the second part, the Hamburger Bahnhof is presented as an exemplary example of a public museum with private collections. Finally, the third part of the thesis applies the contexts and findings developed in part one to the example of the Hamburger Bahnhof. The work is based on specialist literature, newspaper articles and interviews with experts. The aim of the research work is to present the reasons for the importance of public museums as exhibition venues for private collections.

Exhibition model – In the following, the use of the term „exhibition model“ refers to a collection being made publicly accessible, both by private collectors in public museums and by private collectors in private museums.

Exhibition Catalogue Friedrich Christian Flick Collection
Catalogue of the Exhibition