The Hamburger Bahnhof


The Hamburger Banhoff – it isn’t in Hamburg and it isn’t a Bahnhof (railway station) either – not any longer anyway. Although originally it was the Berlin railway terminus for the line from Hamburg, these days, like the Gare d’Orsay in Paris, it’s an art gallery – the Museum für Gegenwart (Museum for the Present), part of the Berlin National Gallery displaying Contemporary art.


The central exhibition space is the rather magnificent hall where 19th Century rail passengers would have boarded their steam trains.


A beautifully restored, airy, tranquil space, ideally suited for displaying large scale sculpture.


During our visit it was being used for Part File Score,  a sound installation by Susan Philipsz, a Scottish artist who won the Turner Prize in 2010, inspired by the persecution of Hanns Eisler by the FBI.

I’ll let the museum’s website explain what the work is about.

Based on three film music compositions by Eisler, Philipsz has developed a 24-channel sound installation. Recorded individually by live musicians in the studio, each tone is played separately on one of 24 loudspeakers installed in the hall. Through this acoustic work and 12 prints, in which pages from musical scores by Eisler are overlaid with pages from his FBI file, Philipsz attempts to convey Eisler’s aesthetic of “displaced form” while touching on themes such as life’s journey and the experience of surveillance, separation and displacement.

We sat and listened for a while, soaking up the atmosphere in the large open hall which, relatively early in the day, felt empty. I found the work interesting and rather atmospheric, if a little disturbing. The atonal sounds – arriving from different directions from speakers positioned around the hall – echoing around the cavernous space.

Hung on the walls underneath the arches were 12 large scale prints copied from Eisler’s FBI file – “redacted” by heavy black lines – printed over the composer’s annotated musical scores. I found it fascinating to pick out other names mentioned including Schoenberg, Chaplin, “Bert” Brecht  and Fritz Lang.

A review of the exhibition is available on the Guardian’s website.

Most of the art was displayed in the wings off the main hall. I’d say we only liked about 20 or 30% of what we saw. But that is normal with Contemporary Art, I think. As much is still relatively new it hasn’t all been subjected to the test of time to determine what is really great.

I didn’t note the titles or the names of the artists in most cases, but these were some of the works on display that I particularly liked




This work was created by the artist spraying graffiti observed in Berlin on the wall – each word and phrase sprayed on top of each other. The emptied spray cans are scattered on the floor. There was a video showing the artist creating the work.



I rather lied these life-sized sculptures of birds scattered on the floor. You had to walk through the flock to access other parts of the exhibition.


This is Waiter’s Race, by Nicholas Monro.  Questioning the competitive nature of art, the figures represent the artists Marcel Duchamp, David Hockney, Gilbert and George, Dan Flavin and Monro himself. Can you spot who’s who?


This is Andy Warhol’s large scale print of Mao. They had several works by the former on display.


These paintings are by Cy Twombley. Very typical of his style.


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