After seven years of extensive refurbishment, the Semperbau am Zwinger (Semper Building at the Zwinger) reopened its doors again last Saturday, 29 February 2020. In the renovated building the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) presents a combination of works from both the world-famous Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery) and the Skulpturensammlung bis 1800 (Sculpture Collection up to 1800).
Alongside Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, visitors can look forward to a unique tour through European art history. The concept behind the new permanent exhibition follows the principle of hanging paintings by geographical origin and era, picking out certain main topics from each period and impressively showcasing key masterpieces such as Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, Rembrandt’s Ganymede or Bellotto’s Dresden Vedute.
The innovative aspect of this fully revamped permanent exhibition is that it integrates the Skulpturensammlung: after ten years in the Albertinum’s viewable storage facility, the famous Dresden antiquities collection will now be put on striking display in the Semperbau. Its new home will be the large Antiquities Hall on the ground floor of the east wing. Renaissance and Baroque sculptures have been relocated in the first-floor sculpture gallery, which is flooded with natural light. Small bronzes, busts and marble pieces will interact directly with selected paintings.
In preparation for the reopening, extensive restorations have been carried out since 2013. Some 45 paintings have been thoroughly restored, and another 162 paintings cleaned up on a smaller scale, with a particular focus on conserving paintings on wood. Research was carried out into panels from the workshop of Cima da Conegliano, Lucas Cranach the Elder or Giulio Romano, and they were intensively restored, with significant professional support provided through cooperation with the Getty Institute in Los Angeles. Various generous grants made extensive restoration and research projects possible, such as the restoration of the Cuccina Cycle by Paolo Veronese. Following their restoration, several paintings can now be brought out of storage and exhibited. Another especially important task was restoring the baroque gallery frames: roughly 310 frames were reconditioned and 33 professional replicas of gallery frames made, while another 140 frames were reconstructed, strengthened and reglazed.
New exhibition areas
New special exhibition areas are now available for temporary presentations of art treasures from the holdings, as well as national and international loans. The Winckelmann Forum provides a large temporary exhibition area spanning the entire ground floor of the west wing. On 3 April 2020, this will open with the special exhibition Raphael – The Power of Images. Tapestries and their Impact. On the first floor, the Semper-Kabinett will provide a setting for small, focused presentations. The exhibition “Encounter with a God. The Dresden Mars by Giambologna”, dedicated to the successful recovery of this famous small bronze, will be held there at the same time as the reopening.