Heinz Berggruen bought his first work of art in 1940 at the age of 26 during his American exile in San Francisco: the aquarelle Perspektiv-Spuk by Paul Klee. Without any capital or sponsors he opened his gallery in Paris seven years later and began collecting art. He relied on his sense of quality and his intuition, concentrating consciously on the works of a small number of classic modern masters. Pablo Picasso granted him the privilege of being the exclusive dealer of his prints. While building his Picasso collection with works from all of the artist’s creative phases, Heinz Berggruen over the following fifty years also concentrated on collecting works by Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, and Alberto Giacometti. He was the first – during the artist’s lifetime – to discover the importance of Matisse’s almost abstract later works. The collection of Matisse works is the largest exhibited collection in Germany. Heinz Berggruen first exhibited his entire collection publically at the Art Museum of Genf in 1988; it was then on display in the National Gallery of London for five years before moving to the Stülerbau in Berlin-Charlottenburg, opposite to Charlottenburg Palace, which had been refurbished specifically for the collection.
The Berggruen Collection focuses on the art of Pablo Picasso and holds over 100 works from all of his creative phases. Beginning with a study sketch made at the age of 16, the collection includes works from Picasso’s Rose and Blue Periods, cubism, classicism, and the late works up until 1972. African sculptures augment the exhibition of Picasso’s works. Individual artworks by Georges Braque and Henri Laurens also complement the collection.
The Berggruen Collection’s second focus, with over sixty works, is the poetic art of Paul Klee. The twenty works by Henri Matisse represent the largest publically exhibited collection of his work in Germany. Sculptures by Alberto Giacometti both open and close the presentation of the collection in the Museum Berggruen.