Heinz Berggruen

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Heinz Berggruen, 2002

Heinz Berggruen (born January 6, 1914 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf ; † February 23, 2007 in Paris ) was one of the most important German art collectors of the 20th century, a journalist, author, art dealer, gallery owner and patron . During the Nazi era , Berggruen was persecuted by the German authorities as a descendant of a Jewish family and forced to leave Germany. His German citizenship was revoked. Sixty years after his emigration in 1936, he returned to Germany and sold his valuable collection of paintings to the city of Berlin and the German state for a price of DM 253 million in a "gesture of reconciliation". The collection includes around 200 works of art from classical modernism by artists such as Picasso , Matisse , Klee and Alberto Giacometti . Berlin provided the western Stüler building for the collection , which was converted into the Berggruen Museum , which is in great demand. It was mainly because of this generous gesture that Berggruen was made an honorary citizen of Berlin in a ceremony in 2004 .


Heinz Berggruen was the son of Ludwig Berggruen and Antonie, geb. Zadek. The father came from Nakel, Wirsitz district in the administrative district of Bromberg , the mother from the city of Bromberg in the Prussian province of Posen . They had a stationery shop in Wilmersdorf , Olivaer Platz , whose proximity to Kurfürstendamm also attracted many foreign customers, which the young Berggruen found very attractive. He described his father as "very, very meek" and his mother as "most energetic". At the Goethe School in Wilmersdorf, the so-called Goethe Reform Realgymnasium , he had French lessons for nine years; later French became his main language. Berggruen began studying literature and art history in 1932 at what is now the Humboldt University and later continued at the Universities of Grenoble (today: Université Stendhal ) and Toulouse . After two years his mother brought him back to Germany - regardless of National Socialism , which the Berggruens, like many others, did not take seriously at first. After completing his master's degree, he completed an internship at a Jewish weekly newspaper in Berlin with the aim of becoming a journalist and writer. He then wrote for a short time in 1935 for the Frankfurter Zeitung . However, due to his Jewish origins, his articles were no longer allowed to appear under his full name, but were instead marked with his initials.

Emigration in 1936

He received a one-year scholarship at Berkeley University in California in 1936 and then stayed in the United States . In 1939, three years later, he married Lillian Zellerbach, the daughter of a paper manufacturer in San Francisco. Meanwhile he worked as an art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle . In the same year he became an assistant ("Assistant director") at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art , where he was commissioned to prepare an exhibition by the Mexican painter Diego Rivera . As a result, he met Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo , with whom Berggruen had a brief, intense affair in 1940, which he said he was asked about in every interview. Berggruen himself erroneously dated the affair to 1939, but Frida Kahlo was only in San Francisco after the assassination of Leon Trotsky in August 1940. After the affair with Berggruen, she married Rivera for the second time on December 8, 1940.

Berggruen managed to persuade his parents to emigrate “just in time”. They left Germany in May 1939 on the St. Louis . Her escape initially led her to England. Berggruen was only able to bring them to the USA in 1942. In 1940 he bought his first picture in Chicago from a German emigrant for 100 dollars: a watercolor by Paul Klee , Perspective-Spuk . It accompanied him as a talisman for 40 years.

Paris from 1947

During World War II he came to Europe as a sergeant in the United States Army . After the end of the war he was co-editor of the art magazine Heute in Munich for a short time . One of his colleagues was Erich Kästner , whom he liked straight away. He felt that working at Today was the high point of his journalistic career. Shortly afterwards, with the help of the publisher Heinrich Maria Ledig-Rowohlt, he published his glosses under the title Angekreidet . Berggruen describes this work as the "keystone" of his journalistic career. He then worked as an employee at the cultural department of UNESCO in Paris , where in 1947 he established himself as an art dealer in the Rue de l'Université on the left bank of the Seine . In retrospect, Berggruen could not describe exactly how he became an art dealer. Seen in this light, it was a series of coincidences or fate . The purchase of the Elles portfolio with eleven color lithographs by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec , which he was later able to sell again for twice the price, could be described as a key experience in the art trade . He started the art trade without capital or sponsors, relying entirely on his sense of quality, his intuition and his enthusiasm . In 1949 he was introduced to Pablo Picasso by the Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara . He won his sympathy and became his dealer and friend. In 1973 he renounced his US citizenship and regained German citizenship . In 1980 Berggruen gave up his art gallery in order to concentrate on building up his own collection.

Heinz Berggruen mainly collected art by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse , Paul Klee , Paul Cézanne , Marc Chagall and Joan Miró , all of whom he knew personally except Klee and Cézanne. He attributed his success as an art collector to his conscious concentration on a few masters. With this collecting activity, like the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard, he pioneered the development of 20th century art and discovered the importance of the paper cuttings of the more mature Henri Matisse, in which nobody was interested at the time. The Berggruen Collection is considered to be one of the most important art collections of the 20th century.

Return to Berlin 1996

Museum Berggruen in Berlin

In January 1991, Berggruen and Wolf-Dieter Dube , the then General Director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin , met at the opening of an exhibition of the Berggruen collection, initially limited to five years, in the London National Gallery . Dube was able to persuade Berggruen to visit Berlin, from which Berggruen's return to Berlin in September 1996 with his collection of 113 masterpieces became concrete. For this purpose, the specially renovated western Stüler building opposite Charlottenburg Palace , now known as the Berggruen Museum , was made available to him. Shortly before Christmas, on December 21, 2000, Berggruen sold his collection, estimated at 750 million euros, to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation for 126 million euros. Since the original purchase price of 400 million  marks could not be borne entirely by the federal government (200 million) and the state of Berlin (50 million), Berggruen hoped that private art lovers would buy these paintings and give them back to the collection. But hope was deceptive, and so in 2001 he took seven works of art - five Cézannes and two Van Goghs - from the transfer in order to be able to pay off his heirs. The auction at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York City achieved a "disappointing result" with only $ 64.7 million, the estimates and the non-public guarantee for Berggruen had been over $ 120 million.

Heinz Berggruen lived alternately in his Parisian apartment at the Jardin du Luxembourg , in Switzerland and in his native Berlin, directly above the exhibition rooms of his collection in the Stülerbau in Charlottenburg .

He was able to persuade his friend Helmut Newton to entrust his photo collection to his hometown as well.


His son from his first marriage, John Henry Berggruen (* 1943), has also become an art dealer in San Francisco . His daughter Helen was born in 1945 , but his marriage ended in divorce that same year. Helen Berggruen is now a painter, she has a studio in California and southwestern France. Berggruen was married to the film actress Bettina Moissi (* 1923), the daughter of the actor Alexander Moissi , for the second time since 1959 . From this marriage two sons were born. Nicolas Berggruen (* 1961) is the founder and managing owner of Berggruen Holdings , an association of companies that has made over a hundred long-term investments to date, the most famous being the acquisition of Karstadt Warenhaus GmbH , and has an extensive real estate portfolio in Berlin and Potsdam. In 2009 he founded the politically impartial Nicolas Berggruen Institute , for which well-known economists and former heads of government work. His second son Olivier Berggruen (* 1963) is an art historian who curated an exhibition of Matisse silhouettes with works from his father's collection in the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt in 2002 and an exhibition on Picasso and the theater in 2006/07 . In the last decade of his life, Heinz Berggruen again published small glosses in the features section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, as he did in the 1930s. These memories were published in several editions by Wagenbach Verlag .


Honor grave , Hüttenweg 47, Berlin-Dahlem

Berggruen died in Paris in 2007, where he had celebrated his 93rd birthday just a few weeks earlier. At his own request, he was buried on March 2, 2007 in the Dahlem forest cemetery in Berlin ; there he was given an honorary grave from the state of Berlin . The highest state representatives and prominent exponents of cultural life took part in the funeral service: including the then Federal President Horst Köhler , Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel , the then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier , the former State Minister of Culture Michael Naumann , the then President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation , Klaus -Dieter Lehmann , and the General Director of the National Museums in Berlin, Peter-Klaus Schuster , as well as Picasso's granddaughter Diana Widmaier Picasso , the French ambassador Claude Martin and the art collector Friedrich-Christian Flick .

Honors (excerpt)

Heinz Berggruen had been a member of the French Legion of Honor since 1971 (officer since 1986, commander since 2000) and became an honorary citizen of Berlin on June 10, 2004 .

Publications (selection)

Art catalogs
  • Diego Rivera: drawings and watercolors: From the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Art and the collection of the San Francisco Art Association in custody of the museum . Together with Diego Rivera. Ed .: San Francisco Museum of Art 1940. (Note: Contains, among others: Rivera and California by Heinz Berggruen. Pp. 15–18)
  • Klee from New York. Major works of the Berggruen Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Berlin-Charlottenburg, Stülerbau, Berggruen Collection June 4 to October 18, 1998), Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Prussian Cultural Heritage. With contributions by Heinz Berggruen… Catalog by Sabine Rewald. Translated from the article by Olivier Berggruen from Franz: Brigitte Uppenbrink. Translated from the article by Sabine Rewald from the English by: Wilfried Prantner, Ars Nicolai, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-87584-712-1 .
Contemporary historical considerations, speeches and glosses .
  • 1935–1937: Little farewells. 1935-1937. Berlin, Copenhagen, California. Foreword by Klaus Harpprecht ,

Transit, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-88747-191-1 .

  • 1946–1947: Chalked: A journal . With drawings by Jo R. von Kalckreuth. Rowohlt, Hamburg 1947; (Text part using other image material in 1998 than evening hours in democracy. Published: see below )
  • 1946–1947: Evenings in Democracy . With 8 color reprod. from Paul Klee's paintings from the Berggruen Collection. Rowohlt, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-87134-353-6 .
  • 1996–2000: A Berliner returns home. Eleven speeches (1996-2000). Photos by Barbara Klemm . 3rd ext. Edition. Edition Bücherbogen, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-9808272-0-8 .
  • A wonderful cocktail. In: Martin Doerry (Ed.): Nowhere and everywhere at home. Conversations with survivors of the Holocaust. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-421-04207-1 , pp. 88-97. (also as CD)
Encounters with art and artists
  • Monsieur Picasso and Mr. Schaften. Memorabilia. Wagenbach, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-8031-1198-6 .
  • Spoilers, not all: considerations . Wagenbach, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-8031-1219-2 .
  • Giacometti and other friends. Memorabilia, portraits, purrs. Wagenbach, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-8031-1233-8 .
Readings / audio
  • Life is not art. Heinz Berggruen reads his most beautiful stories. Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-8031-4092-7 . (Audio CD, running time 73 min.)


  • Vivien Stein [= Reuter]: Heinz Berggruen - life and legend . Edition Alpenblick, Zurich 2011, ISBN 978-3-033-03022-0 .
To the Berggruen collection
  • Anne Baldassari (ed.): Picasso-Berggruen. Une collection particulière. Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN). Flammarion, Paris 2006, ISBN 2-08-011659-2 , exhibition catalog for the exhibition of the same name at the Musée Picasso , Paris
  • Hans Jürgen Papies (Ed.): Picasso and his time. The Berggruen Collection. Published by the National Museums in Berlin. With contributions by Heinz Berggruen u. a., Berlin, Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung 2003, ISBN 3-87584-248-0 .
  • Gabriele Struck: The Berggruen Collection. Foreword by Heinz Berggruen. Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-87584-837-3 .


  • Art collector Heinz Berggruen dies. RBB evening show, February 25, 2007, 3:52 min.
  • Farewell to Heinz Berggruen. RBB evening show, March 2, 2007, 2:00 min.
  • Pictures are like drugs. Documentation, 15 min., Production: RBB , first broadcast: February 26, 2007
  • Heinz Berggruen. The art collector. Documentation for the Goethe-Institut 2004, 45 minutes. Author and director: Ralf Gierkes, Lux Filmproduktion Aachen
  • Heinz Berggruen. My life - Ma vie. Documentation, 43 min., A film by Felix Schmidt, Diane von Wrede, production: arte , first broadcast: September 4, 2004, summary in: Die Welt


  • Let's be honest ... Heinz Berggruen. Conversation with Anne Will and Andreas Schneider, production: SFB , first broadcast: January 22, 1999, 40 min.
  • Günter Gaus in conversation with Heinz Berggruen. Production: SFB, first broadcast: August 17, 1996, 30 min. → Transcript : “I am a» Heinz im Glück «”, RBB

Web links

Commons : Heinz Berggruen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Contributions from Berggruens




Individual evidence

  1. Picasso Museum as a legacy . In: Tagesspiegel of February 25, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  2. Rose-Maria Gropp: A gesture of reconciliation. In great tradition: For the art dealer and collector Heinz Berggruen on his ninetieth birthday . In: FAZ , January 6, 2004, p. 29.
  3. Nicola Kuhn: From the luck of art. In: Der Tagesspiegel , February 26, 2007.
  4. Heinz Berggruen: Desire for expression. In: The time . No. 25, 2001.
  5. Jörg Wagner, Heike Zappe: Every little stretch of the way plays a role. In: Der Tagesspiegel , October 12, 2002.
  6. Heinz Berggruen: main path and side paths. P. 41, lines 20-22.
  7. ^ Heinz Berggruen: Heinz Berggruen. Frida's time and witness. In: FAZ , July 13, 2004.
  8. Flick was attacked unfairly. One should stop the kin liability. In: taz , July 6, 2004, interview
  9. Mourning for Picasso's friend. Art collector Berggruen died at the age of 93. ( Memento from June 22, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) In: Tagesschau , February 25, 2007, archived on the Internet Archive
  10. Heinz Berggruen: main path and side paths. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2004.
  11. a b Was art at the beginning of the 20th century a world of images of opposites? Laurentianum High School Warendorf , 2001.
  12. Heinz Berggruen: Hauptweg and Nebenwege , p. 75, line 6ff.
  13. Main path and secondary paths , p. 83, line 8 ff.
  14. Main way and secondary ways , p. 93, line 1 ff.
  15. The Elles portfolio is currently in the possession of the Dresden Kupferstich-Kabinett : Kupferstich-Kabinett acquired Elles portfolio from Toulouse-Lautrec . news.ch, July 19, 2003.
  16. Main way and secondary ways , p. 98, line 15 ff.
  17. ^ Alan Riding: Heinz Berggruen, Influential Picasso Collector, Dies at 93. In: New York Times , January 27, 2007.
  18. ^ Günter Gaus in conversation with Heinz Berggruen. In: SFB / RBB . 17th August 1996.
  19. Review of: Heinz Berggruen: main path and secondary paths. Art collector memories . parapluie.de, 2006.
  20. Berggruen Collection is to come to Berlin. In: Der Tagesspiegel . August 28, 2007.
  21. Uta Baier: Berggruen - The patron leaves his pictures. In: Die Welt , February 25, 2007, with picture gallery
  22. Record price for Cézanne picture. In: Spiegel Online , May 8, 2001.
  23. ku .: disappointing result. Only five pictures from the Berggruen Collection in New York auctioned . In: Berliner Zeitung , May 9, 2001.
  24. Gunda Wöbken-Ekert: The son of the great collector . In: Berliner Zeitung , June 24, 2004, magazine, page M02
    John Berggruen Gallery
  25. Ingeborg Ruthe: Helen in luck . In: Berliner Zeitung , January 5, 2008
    Gisela Sonnenburg: Helen Berggruen paints against speed. In: Berliner Morgenpost , October 24, 2009.
  26. ^ Brigitte Koch: Karstadt investor with collector gene. In: FAZ , May 25, 2010.
  27. ^ Claas Greite: Berggruen buys the former main post office. In: Potsdamer Nachrichten , December 22, 2006.
  28. ^ Nicolas Berggruen Institute - Official site
  29. Nicolas and Olivier Berggruen. In: Berliner Morgenpost , October 18, 2008.
  30. ^ Henri Matisse. “Drawing with scissors.” Masterpieces from recent years. December 20, 2002 - March 2, 2003. ( Memento from June 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) frankfurtlounge.de, 2002, archived by Internet Archive
  31. ^ Heinz Berggruen in Wagenbach Verlag
  32. Cay Dobberke: Berlin says goodbye to Heinz Berggruen. In: Der Tagesspiegel , February 27, 2007.
  33. Bernd Matthies: A life that was a work of art. In: Der Tagesspiegel , March 3, 2007.
  34. Esther Kogelboom: Patrons and collectors. The University of the Arts awards Heinz Berggruen an honorary doctorate . In: Der Tagesspiegel , June 25, 2000.
  35. Collecting happiness. In: Der Tagesspiegel , November 20, 2005, laudation by Michael Naumann
  36. Stefan Strauss, Birgitt Eltzel: Renaming after 52 years . In: Berliner Zeitung , May 28, 2008.
  37. ^ "The naming." The procedure for renaming, documented on the website of the Heinz-Berggruen-Gymnasium.
  38. Who was this Herr Schaften? . In: Berliner Zeitung , March 16, 2001; review
  39. ^ Swantje Karich: Campaign against Heinz Berggruen. He can no longer defend himself. In: FAZ . November 17, 2011.
  40. Jacques Schuster : Rumor mill: A book attacks art collector Heinz Berggruen. In: Die Welt , November 15, 2011.
  41. ^ Association of Friends of the National Gallery