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16 September 2020

Exhibition 'Modernism and Refuge'

Georg Kolbe’s Sensburg as an Architectural Monument of the Nineteen Twenties

September 13, 2020 – January 10, 2021

All images: Image archive Georg Kolbe Museum. 

The Georg Kolbe Museum is devoting its main exhibition of this fall season to the extraordinary architectural structure in which the exhibition venue has resided since its founding exactly 70 years ago: the former residence and studio of the sculptor Georg Kolbe. For the erstwhile builder-owner, who maintained close ties to the modern architecture of the nineteen twenties and its protagonists, the house was closely related to his own sculptural production. Based on never-before-seen archive material, the exhibition traces the interplay between space and sculpture that was of great importance for Kolbe throughout his career. It offers insights into the living environment of the artist who was actively involved in the conception of his iconic workplace and refuge on Sensburger Allee from the time of the earliest planning sketches.

In the late nineteen twenties, when his generously sized studio house was being constructed in the Westend district of Berlin, the sculptor Georg Kolbe (1877-1947) was at the height of his artistic success. Represented by the major art dealers Cassirer and Flechtheim, he had customers all over the world and was well-networked within Berlin’s artist circles. However, after his wife Benjamine unexpectedly died at the age of only 45, he desired a place to withdraw and work near her grave. This is the origin of his Sensburg, as Kolbe himself lovingly called his cubic brick ensemble, with reference to its location on Sensburger Allee. Situated close to downtown Berlin and yet on the outskirts of the Grunewald forest, the architecture would reflect the productive interaction between art, nature and structural form, to which the artist regularly referred.

Georg Kolbe maintained close ties to the New Objectivity architecture of his day. In conjunction with his collaboration with such architects as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bruno Taut, Hans Poelzig and Walter Gropius, the sculptor participated from early in the discourse concerning the further development of modern architecture. To realize his own custom-designed home and studio, Kolbe commissioned the Swiss architect Ernst Rentsch and later the former Bauhaus student Paul Linder, working closely with both during the design phase. The joint planning visibly profited from the artist’s firm focus on the relationship between sculpture and space.

Well connected to public transportation, entirely electrified and with telephone as well as completely furnished baths, the brick building in Berlin’s Westend district corresponded to the notions of modern living, embodying its definition of a new unfussy type of comfort. As a studio, it fulfilled all the prerequisites needed to create the working conditions Kolbe sought as an artist. Especially the deployment of lighting and perspective throughout the house was meticulously planned, masterfully realizing the lucid connection between interior and exterior space.

With its ceiling-high windows, the large studio space opens to the adjacent garden; a complex skylight allows neutral daylight to flow into the room while high windowsills direct framed views into the green of the surrounding nature. Laid out in 1935, the inlying sculpture court features sight lines that allowed the sculptor to simulate the effect of his pieces in the public spaces and parks for which they were often intended. The entire property is surrounded by a brick wall, giving it an almost fortress-like feel that contrasts the light clarity of its atmosphere. As a secluded refuge, the Sensburg was not least designed to protect the artist from the glances of curious passers-by and benefitted his work with models outdoors.

Kolbe’s artist studio was opened to the public exactly seventy years ago—as the first museum to founded after WWII and the only Berlin artist house from the nineteen twenties in which the original function remains visible and tangible. Even today, the cubic brick building exudes the modernist spirit of the time of its construction.

‘Modernism and Refuge’ portrays Kolbe’s Sensburg in the mirror of its rich history. From the first construction drawings to the time of its private and then public use, the exhibition brings together many never-before-seen historical documents, which present the artist as creative building client and within his most private nucleus. Surrounded by family and friends as well as his dogs and cats, Kolbe becomes discernible as a man of various facets that have previously remained concealed behind his public role and attributions. A considerable portion of the exhibited material comes from the estate of the artist’s granddaughter, which arrived in Berlin this year and is currently being integrated into the museum’s holdings.

An extensive, profusely illustrated publication to the exhibition will be published in November 2020.

Parallel to the ‘Modernism and Refuge—Georg Kolbe’s Sensburg as an Architectural Monument of the Nineteen Twenties’, the museum is presenting 20 ceramic works by the Japanese artist Shinichi Sawada.

Important Visitor Information
Because of the current Corona virus situation, prior registration is required for all events. Please book by writing an e-mail to info@georg-kolbe-museum.de. We ask for your understanding that the situation may make it necessary for us to cancel or change the dates of our events at short notice. Up-to-date event information can always be found on our homepage.

Please also note that, due to the precautionary measures in conjunction with the Corona virus, only a limited number of visitors are permitted inside the museum at same time. This may lead to a waiting period.

About the Museum
The Georg Kolbe Museum is a former artist studio in the Westend district of Berlin. Built by the sculptor Georg Kolbe in 1928, it is now one of the outstanding examples of modern architecture of the nineteen twenties. High ceilings open the cubic building constructed of fired bricks to the garden that is shielded from the street. With its population of tall pine trees and a mighty beech, the sculptor’s garden conserves a section of the Grunewald forest that the artist preserved in its pristine condition and which served him in turn as a source of inspiration and an energetic regeneration for his art. The museum now presents exhibitions on modern and contemporary art.
View the Georg Kolbe Museum on our map!

Georg Kolbe Museum · Sensburger Allee 25 · 14055 Berlin · Tel: +49 30/3042144 · www.georg-kolbe-museum.de · Email: info@georg-kolbe-museum.de. Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily.
Public transportation: S3 or S9, Bahnhof Heerstraße

Posted 16 September 2020