Surprise at Gemäldegalerie

Detail of Last Judgement Sculpture

I was actually on my way to see some old masters at Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie. The idea was to enjoy the current peace in this jewel of a museum as there are still only a few people in town who search for insights. On my bike and off to Kulturforum behind Potsdamer Platz. The prospect of meeting some of the old friends like Botticelli and Jan van Eyck made me get out of my house just after breakfast.

Not having to guide anybody I hadn’t even looked at their website to see what is on. I entered the usual door, this time with my mask on, just to see that there was a pleasant surprise.

Normally I am not a friend of contemporary sculpture. It seldomly speaks to me and most of the time it leaves me uninspired. Today, however, I met Sir Anthony Caro’s sculpture “The Last Judgement” inside the large, central galery of Gemäldegalerie. I had no clue what it was about but I was surprised to see that the thing (acutally it is quite an installation) did speak to me. So I went in.

Detail of Last Judgement Sculpture
Inside the Last Judgement Sculpture you can take a walk.

The sculpture that was exhitbited for the first time some twenty years ago at Venice Biennale makes a few references to the topics that the old masters deal with in the adjacent rooms. The whole story of the last judgement itself is a focal point in the storytelling of western culture and normally comes along with all sorts of cruelties. It is thus not surprising that Caro takes this image of the end of time as a source of references for some of the more recent cruelties we have witnessed (and are actually witnessing).

Walking through the installation I was somehow reminded of Picasso’s painting “Guernica” … Caro uses representations of heads and also uses very geometrical elements, arranging them into various situations. Dark as the whole presentation is, you get the impression of reduced colours, of harshness, even of cubism … maybe thus the memories related to the great painting that is to be seen in Madrid’s Reina Sofia museum.

Detail of Last Judgement Sculpture
The sculpture “Civil War” within The Last Judgement
Detail of Last Judgement Sculpture
Detail of “Civil War” within the Last Judgement Sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro

One anecdote though I found hilarious: Caro’s installation is one that you are free to walk inside. You will find yourself on something like a promenade that starts at the Bell Tower (“For Whom the Bell Tolls”) and leads you to the gate of heaven with its four trumpets. And it is here, in front of that gate, that you are actually confronted with the message: “Please to not enter.”

Whatever you think of that, don’t miss out and compare this gate with a more classic one by Lucas Cranach the elder.

Detail of Last Judgement Sculpture
“Do not enter” the Gate of Heaven. Hilarious!
Lucas Cranach the elder and his Last Judgement
Lucas Cranach the elder and his Last Judgement, with a depiction of the Gates of Heaven, too. This one is 16C though.