Speech by Minister of State Pieper at the opening of the Renaissance Faces exhibition at the Bode Museum

24.08.2011 - Speech

--Translation of advanced text--

Minister Zdrojewski,
Minister of State Neumann,
Professor Parzinger,
Mr Campbell,
Dr Eissenhauer,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to me to join you here today in opening the Renaissance Faces exhibition.

For me as a politician it is a great pleasure above all because the Renaissance is an era of artistic achievement which brought to the fore the notion of the human being as a single, individual person.

In light of this, it is above all humanism which lends the Renaissance its contemporary political relevance as a historical turning point which laid the groundwork for the enlightenment, democracy and freedom of our times.

The exhibition we are opening is something special not only because it uniquely brings together works such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady with an Ermine”, Botticelli’s “Portrait of Giuliano de’ Medici” and Ghirlandaio’s “Portrait of an Old Man with His Grandson”.

It also represents the third time in recent years that the National Museums in Berlin have successfully collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on a world-class exhibition, following on the successes of the 2004 exhibition “MoMa in Berlin” and the 2007 exhibition “French Masterpieces of the 19th Century”.

Berlin has long since established itself as a hub of international collaboration and artistic representation, a city on par with cultural capitals like London, Paris and New York.

The Renaissance Faces exhibition offers a prime example of the truly great things that can be achieved through close and effective cooperation and the collective will of all involved in a project.

It’s a special experience to see even one Lippi painting, but the chance to see two complementary Lippi paintings together in the same exhibition is truly something spectacular.

At this point I’d like to thank you, Mr Campbell, for the extraordinarily close and successful collaboration between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Berlin, without which an exhibition like this would not have been possible.

Likewise, I wish to express my deep gratitude to you, Minister Zdrojewski, who have travelled to Berlin from Poland for today’s opening. I’m especially pleased that you’re with us today, as it was not a given that the previously mentioned painting “Lady with an Ermine” would find its way from the Krakow National Museum to Berlin’s Bode Museum.

I see the presence of this painting as a sign of close and friendly cooperation between Poland and Germany as well as of the success of the cultural relations dialogue between our two countries.

Many regard Leonardo da Vinci’s world-famous portrait “Lady with an Ermine” as the centrepiece of the exhibition. That’s why the Federal Foreign Office is so especially pleased that this painting is on view here today in Berlin as a part of this exhibition.

Poland has thereby made a vital contribution to the exquisitely high quality of the exhibition. For this I would like to expressly thank and recognize you and your country, Mr Zdrojewski.

Recently we and Poland celebrated the 20th anniversary of the German-Polish Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness with a joint cabinet meeting. The joint declaration and the cooperation programme also encompass close cooperation in the area of culture, as currently illustrated by the joint exhibition “Side by Side: Poland-Germany. A Thousand Years of Art and History”, which will be opened in Berlin in a few weeks by the two countries’ Presidents.

The Renaissance Faces exhibition exemplifies the imperative for world-class museums to go beyond all obstacles and limitations of money and effort in order to deliver to the art viewer and the Italian Renaissance painting aficionado broad-ranging insight into 15th century portraiture – and, for this purpose, to temporarily assemble renowned works of art here at the Bode Museum.

This is why it fills me with pride that the Federal Foreign Minister has, together with the Foreign Minister of the Italian Republic, taken on the role of patron for this extraordinary project. We view art and the promotion of art not as a marginal concern, but rather as a central pillar of our foreign policy. Art and culture reflect the state of a society; often, they are also at its fore, spurring on societal development. Art and culture are what convey the diversity of views in a society. They are not niche issues, but rather are indispensable to the development and cultivation of true understanding of one another.

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “What is fair in men passes away, but not so with art.”

I wish the exhibition great success and many enthusiastic visitors.

And I wish all of you a lovely evening here at the Bode Museum on the Museum Island of Berlin, an eminently suitable location for Renaissance art.

Thank you very much.

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