DRESDEN.- After thorough-going restoration and refurbishment, the new Albertinum now presents itself as a centre of art from the Romantic period to the present day. The new exhibition halls are shared by the Galerie Neue Meister and the Skulpturensammlung. The holdings of both museums, with paintings ranging from Caspar David Friedrich to Gerhard Richter and sculptures ranging from Rodin to the 21st century, have an outstanding worldwide reputation. Huge glass-fronted display storerooms provide visitors with unprecedented insights into the internal workings of the museum and will open previously hidden works to view on a permanent basis. Within the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden the new Albertinum constitutes a bridge between the past and the future. Whilst the exhibition rooms provide a large stage for the presentation of modern and contemporary art, paintings by both old and modern masters are simultaneously restored behind the scenes. The new Albertinum as a whole is designed for encounters between painting and sculpture, between the Romantic and the Modern, between East and West and between yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Todays Albertinum has little in common with the gabled Zeughaus, or arsenal, that was built between 1559 and 1563 and fulfilled important military functions over the following centuries. The most important remaining architectural features of the Renaissance building with its immense ground-floor vaults are the basement, the two-aisled hall with Tuscan pillars on the ground floor, two portals and parts of the rusticated façade. In the late 19th century a new arsenal was built in the Albertstadt district of Dresden and the old Zeughaus was no longer needed for its original purpose. In just four years (1884-1887) the building was converted for use as a museum to house the Skulpturensammlung. It was given its present Neo-Renaissance appearance and named after the reigning monarch at the time, King Albert of Saxony.
In the bombing of Dresden in 1945 the Albertinum was less severely damaged than the citys other museum buildings. When the works of art that had been confiscated by the Red Army and transported to the Soviet Union after the war were returned to Dresden in the 1950s, the Albertinum became the collecting point for the art treasures. In the damaged building exhibitions were held of the precious objects belonging to the Grünes Gewölbe, of sculptures and porcelain, of coins and medals from the Münzkabinett, and of treasures from the Rüstkammer. The museums presented their most beautiful items together. The Porzellansammlung and the Rüstkammer soon moved out, but the others remained. After the restoration of the upper floor (196165) they were joined by the Galerie Neue Meister. In 2004 and 2006 respectively, the Münzkabinett and the Grünes Gewölbe moved into new premises in the Residenzschloss. Today the Albertinum is home to the Galerie Neue Meister and the Skulpturensammlung, two of Dresdens most illustrious art museums.
Flood disaster and reconstruction: What began as a disaster turned out to be a new opportunity for the old Albertinum. In August 2002 flood water threatened the priceless museum treasures, and within a matter of hours unique paintings and sculptures had to be evacuated from the basement storerooms. This rescue mission would not have been possible without numerous helpers. The underground storerooms did not provide adequate protection for the precious cultural assets. Now a flood-proof workshop and storeroom complex hovers above the inner courtyard of the sandstone-clad building.
That, too, would not have been feasible without the assistance of generous partners. The foundation stone for the new structure and for the complete refurbishment of the Albertinum was laid at an art auction in November 2002 for which 40 renowned artists donated their own works. The auction raised the fantastic sum of 3.4 million Euros. Planning worked commenced. The total costs for the new structure and the restoration work eventually amounted to 46.7 million Euros. Through procedures conducted under the aegis of the state-owned enterprise Sächsisches Immobilien- und Baumanagement, an architectural solution was found which enabled a new structure to be built without altering or destroying the original fabric of this historic building.
The 60 metre long two-storey workshop and storeroom building, which weighs 2700 tonnes, is borne by a steel latticework structure that spans the inner courtyard like a bridge. The central space within the four-wing complex is not affected at all. With this unique and aesthetically pleasing technical solution, the architect Volker Staab and his team have succeeded in creating a flood-proof location in which to store works of art and at the same time generated a high-grade multifunctional inner courtyard. What is more, the spectacular new structure above the inner courtyard is hardly perceptible to visitors. From below it looks like a canopy and from outside it cannot be seen because it does not protrude above the roof of the building. The thoroughly refurbished exhibition halls, on the other hand, do look surprisingly new. What really is new for visitors is the entrance on the side of the building close to the Frauenkirche on Georg-Treu-Platz, and the entrance on the Brühlsche Terrasse has also changed. As before, you can turn left or right to start viewing the exhibitions, but now you can also go straight on. Then you find yourself on a kind of balcony in the inner courtyard, the ground floor of which is one storey below. The visitor also sees the display storerooms behind large panes of glass. However, the storeroom and workshop building is not visible even though the visitor in the courtyard is right under it. With the new Albertinum, Dresdens museum architecture has well and truly arrived in the 21st century: spectacular but unobtrusive.