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The Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) is the largest collection of graphic art in Germany - and one of the four most important in the world. It comprises over 550,000 works in the print medium and 110,000 drawings, watercolours and oil sketches. This 'world of pictures and centre of research' includes works by major artists ranging from Sandro Botticelli and Albrecht Dürer to Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, via Rembrandt and Adolph von Menzel.
As a part of the National Museums in Berlin, the Museum of Prints and Drawings collects European drawings and prints from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as international works related to Europe from recent times. The museum also contains illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, books with original graphic art, cartographic works, sketch books, topographical views and printing plates. The museum amounts to a unique laboratory of artistic ideas, pictures and forms of expression. With its treasures, it forms a key site for both the cultural heritage of Europe and of world cultures inspired by Europe.
This incredibly interlinked universe of 'art on paper' holds works by major artists as diverse as Sandro Botticelli and Andy Warhol. The collection of drawings and prints of early Italian and old German and Dutch masters in particular, as well as those of the 19th century are exquisite for their number and quality. There are numerous works by Mantegna and Botticelli, Dürer, Altdorfer and Grünewald, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel and Rembrandt, Tiepolo and Chodowiecki, Caspar David Friedrich, Schinkel and Menzel. The art of Classical Modernism, (with figures such as Munch, Kirchner and Picasso), international postwar art (Giacometti), Pop Art, (Hamilton, Warhol, Johns, Stella), Conceptual and Minimal Art all also form highlights in their own right. A particular note in the area of contemporary art is also struck by internationally important artists working in Berlin. Depending on the context of each respective collection, works on paper are also held in the Ethnological Museum and Museum of Asian Art, the Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg and in the Art Library and thus complement the collections in the Kupferstichkabinett.
Due to the sheer size of its collection and the sensitivity of art on paper, the museum of the graphic arts cannot put its treasures on permanent display. Instead, alongside special exhibitions, the Kupferstichkabinett also hosts several temporary exhibitions, which have the added advantage of consistently allowing new and surprising aspects of the diverse collection to be presented to the public. Another way to access the collection is through the study hall, where the public can request to have original art works presented to them.
In its work the museum receives support from many artists, foundations, collectors and patrons. The Graphische Gesellschaft zu Berlin - Vereinigung der Freunde des Kupferstichkabinetts e. V. however offers particular assistance in this area. The society was founded in 1997 with the aim of promoting the activities of the museum, principally the expansion of the collection. In recent years the Graphische Gesellschaft has helped finance individual acquisitions, facilitated donations (Paul Maenz Gerd de Vries) and has purchased works from such artists as Olafur Eliasson, Raymond Pettibon, Julie Mehretu, Franz Ackermann, Dieter Roth, John Armleder and Damien Hirst.