The Joy of Anonymity: The Bode-Museum
June 4, 2012 8 Comments
By Rob Packer
We were followed by the sound of jangling keys. From room to room the doors were locked behind us and another dark uniform stood there by the door, fingers on keys, up and down, up and down, metal against metal, kerchink, kerchink. As we stopped to examine a Cranachian gruesomeness of hell, the metronome of the keychain picked up from adagio to andante. I could feel eyes focusing on the back of my head, whispered conversations in German and the kerchink kerchink of the keys. Didn’t we know they were closing soon?
The next time I was in Berlin it was 1998 and the Bode-Museum had closed for its decade of renovation. Living in Berlin one midsummer night, a wisp of daylight in the northern sky, I remember that blank neo-Baroque façade rising triangularly sheer out of the Spree, its moat, bridges connecting it to the river’s other banks, cut off by the railway line from the rest of the island’s museums. The Bode-Museum would forever recall that certain socialist officiousness that I remembered from that first foray into East Berlin, one sweltering summer afternoon in 1995. (My other, equally vivid, memory of that afternoon was on Alexanderplatz, where a drunk decided that my grandfather’s Ich spreche kein Deutsch, “I don’t speak German”, was a contradiction.)
Although the Bode-Museum reopened in 2006, I hadn’t got around to visiting until last month. Where once key chains had marked the hours, the museum today is bright spacious—and almost deserted—galleries of an amazing range of European (mostly religious) sculpture and Byzantine art. Rather than the headlong dash around enormous galleries to dutifully see famous painter after famous painter (I think we’re all guilty of this), the mostly anonymous sculptors here is actually quite refreshing: you can really concentrate on the aesthetics of these lifelike (or sometimes not so lifelike) pieces.
Take a look at the photos and judge for yourself.