Berlin’s history as a divided city and the ideology of the Cold War are both possible reasons for why Berliners had to wait so long for a museum dedicated to Käthe Kollwitz. In East Berlin, the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), and the Otto Nagel House regularly exhibited Käthe Kollwitz’s art.
With the express support of the Kollwitz family, West Berliners campaigned for the establishment of a Käthe Kollwitz Museum – in vain. Their wish was only met in the mid-1980s, when two museums dedicated to the artist were established almost simultaneously in Germany, in Berlin and in Cologne. Today, both museums (and the memorial site in Moritzburg, where she died) have permanent exhibitions on Käthe Kollwitz.
Born in 1908 in Lüdenscheid, Hans Pels-Leusden moved to Berlin in the early 1930s in order to become a visual artist. After successful beginnings with solo exhibitions, e.g. in the Gallery Nierendorf, and museum acquisitions in his Westphalian home, the young artist focused increasingly on writing art criticism during the Nazi era.
In 1940, he was drafted for military service and returned to Berlin in 1945. His studio and artistic work were destroyed by bombing. As of 1950, Pels-Leusden committed himself to antiquarian book trade which was soon expanded by an art trade. From the 1960s onward, his gallery at the Kurfürstendamm became an important cultural institution in the western part of Berlin, which was primarily dedicated to classical modernism. Pels-Leusden has presented the work of Käthe Kollwitz since the 1960s, which has resulted in his collection of works by the artist over the years.
Besides his gallery activities, Pels-Leusden constantly pursued his own artistic ambitions. From the 1970s onward, he regularly presented his works at exhibitions. At the time of his death in 1993, he left behind a vast artistic oeuvre which includes works on canvas and paper at the same time. Preceding exhibitions, which also took place in the gallery Pels-Leusden, presented current works of the artist in a mostly broad overview.
The museum’s founding location on Fasanenstrasse in Charlottenburg, together with the Literaturhaus Berlin and the Grisebach auction house, formed a unique and lively cultural district.
Over the years, however, the museum building of around 600 square meters had become too small for the well-visited Kollwitz Museum and no longer met modern requirements. Therefore, in the fall of 2022, the museum moved to its new location in the Theaterbau at Charlottenburg Palace, which offers more space and barrier-free accessibility. With the important cultural institutions in the immediate vicinity, the Kollwitz Museum now forms another important museum location in Berlin.