Keeping in the Present: 300 Years of the Dresden-Kupferstich Kabinett
In 2020, the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett celebrates its 300th anniversary. Founded in 1720 by Augustus the Strong as a museum specializing in works on paper, the collection – now with over half a million works, from the Middle Ages to the present day – has always acquired contemporary art alongside recognised masterpieces.
The collection – which includes exceptional works by Jan van Eyck, Dürer, Verrocchio, Grünewald, Cranach, Holbein, Rembrandt, Caspar David Friedrich, Ludwig Richter, Toulouse Lautrec, Mondrian, Hermann Glöckner, Gerhard Altenbourg, A.R. Penck, Georg Baselitz and Evelyn Richter – began in the 18th century with drawings, miniatures and prints, before photography was added in 1898 as the promising future means of reproduction.
The people in charge of the collection always had a keen eye for the art of their contemporaries and often demonstrated particular foresight in their acquisitions. Many of the works that were contemporary and still unknown at the time of their acquisition are now considered special treasures and rank equally with those that had been added to the collection as masterpieces. Exemplary are freshly printed etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, which were little known at the time, and were bought in the 18th century. And towards the end of the 19th century, the then director Max Lehrs promoted artists directly, such as Max Klinger and Käthe Kollwitz.
Today, the Kupferstich-Kabinett occupies an outstanding international position thanks to the high quality and abundance of works. However, the collection is often hidden from the public. Works on paper in particular require special protection and, due to their fragility and extreme sensitivity to light, they can only rarely leave the safety of the depot. The anniversary gives reason to air many masterpieces of the collection, and offers the opportunity to look into both the past and into the future, and to anchor the Kupferstich-Kabinett with its seemingly inexhaustible holdings as a lively, innovative and democratic place in the public consciousness – as a place where creativity and knowledge, critical thinking and aesthetic pleasure can be experienced.
The exhibition of 84 masterpieces, which opens in Dresden in April 2020, will then travel to New York in October 2020, where they will be presented in the prominent, international context of The Morgan Library & Museum.
Edited by Petra Kuhlmann-Hodick, Stephanie Buck and Gudula Metze
Hardback, 300 x 230 mm
296 pages, 200 illustrations