Reopening of the Semper Building at the Zwinger postponed until February 202018 September 2019
Additional private funding enables exhibition design and infrastructure improvements
The reopening of the Semper Building at the Zwinger, scheduled for 7 December 2019, will be postponed by a few weeks. The Semper Building at the Zwinger is home to the world-famous Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery). Once the restored and newly refurbished building opens, the Skulpturensammlung bis 1800 (Sculpturecollection up to 1800) will also be presented here in dialogue with the paintings.
The reopening will now take place in February 2020. The reason for this postponement is that new opportunities have opened up, primarily because the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) has recently succeeded in securing around 600,000 Euros of additional private funding.
This makes it possible, in particular, to install state-of-the-art accent lighting throughout the building – from the Antiquities Hall on the ground floor and the skylight-ceilinged halls and side galleries on the first floor to the collection rooms on the second floor. This will enable the paintings and sculptures to be shown in the best possible light and ensure, for example, that the Sistine Madonna is not outshone by its frame. This cutting-edge lighting system will significantly improve visitors’ viewing experience and supplement the daylight that is widely used in the gallery.
In the main staircase, too, a new lighting concept will enhance enjoyment of both the space itself and the works of art displayed in it.
In addition, the two side staircases in the east and west wings of the building will be painted in new colours and will also be used for exhibiting works of art.
The walls of the world-renowned Dresden Pastel Cabinet will be lined with precious silk damask, enabling the pastels there to be displayed in unprecedented splendour.
The infrastructure of the Gemäldegalerie will also be significantly improved by the integration of a café into the building, so that future visitors will be able to enjoy a refreshment break during their tour of the exhibition. Located on the first floor of the German Pavilion, it will be suffused with light and offer delightful views of the magnificent Baroque Zwinger courtyard.
The sum of 49.8 million Euros provided by the Saxon Landtag for this construction project was not sufficient for such special cutting-edge lighting technology to be installed, or for realizing the other design and infrastructure measures mentioned above. Hence, it is all the more pleasing that these improvements to the gallery building can now be implemented as part of the ongoing project after all.
The additional time will also enable small-scale construction and refurbishment measures to be carried out on top of the extensive refurbishment work that was completed and officially handed over by the state-owned company Saxon Real Estate and Construction Management (SIB) on 7 August 2019. This will be financed under the building maintenance budget. In the coming weeks, there will be a unique opportunity to implement these measures quickly and without negative impacts on visitors during the partial closure of the Semper Building. In particular, it is planned to overhaul the parquet floor on the second floor, which was not part of the original refurbishment project. It was agreed by all parties concerned that this opportunity should be seized in order to ensure equal flooring quality throughout the gallery and enhance the presentation of the works. Steps are also currently being taken to optimize the hanging system.
The last refurbishment and closure of the Semper Building took place in the early 1990s. The current refurbishment was divided into two construction phases, so that important masterpieces belonging to the SKD could remain on show during the construction period. From 2013 to 2015 the east wing was renovated, and between 2016 and 2019 the
refurbishment of the west wing was carried out, the ceremonial handover to the SKD taking place on 7 August 2019.
Afterwards, under the direction of the SIB, acceptance procedures for the technical systems were conducted by TÜV (the body responsible for technical inspections) and legal ownership was finally transferred to the SKD, which has since begun to hang the paintings. At the same time, the SIB is performing the last remaining services (such as trial operation of the ventilation and air conditioning systems). The damaged wall coverings from the first construction phase are also currently being replaced in parallel with the hanging of the pictures. From the end of September, the construction site will be cleared and the grounds in front of the building will be reinstated. By early December, the exterior will be back to its original state and open to the public. Only after the closure of the SKD’s special exhibition “Highlights of the Old Masters Picture Gallery” will it be possible for the SIB to carry out its final services on the ground floor and prepare the building for the opening of the new permanent exhibition of the SKD as planned.
Despite the intensive reconstruction phase, the SKD continues to provide access to the world-famous masterpieces. The special exhibition “Highlights of the Old Masters Picture Gallery” will be extended over the Christmas and New Year period, remaining on view until 5 January 2020. Centrepieces such as Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna”, Giorgione’s “Sleeping Venus”, Vermeer’s “The Procuress” and Bellotto’s views of Dresden can be admired in close proximity. The exhibition presents 55 of the gallery’s most famous paintings, providing a condensed overview of the various schools and periods represented in the collection.