History of the Building

From 1945 until today

Following the end of World War II, the former Arno Breker Atelier was first used by the Information Control Division (ICD) of the US occupying power, which regulated and licensed cultural institutions and publication media.

After the ICD vacated the building, control was transferred back to the city administration. Kurt Reutti, former employee of the Central Office for the Documentation and Conservation of Artworks, first offered the atelier to the former National Museums and the University of Applied Arts in Berlin’s Weissensee district. Both institutions declined to use the building. In addition to the rather unfavorable commute, the decisions were mainly influenced by the growing political tensions between the occupying powers: “Unfortunately for us who live in the East Sector, it is not the most opportune moment to beat an art-territorial path into the American Sector since both territories have presently become somewhat over-sensitive in such regards,” stated Jan Bontjes van Beek, acting director of the university, in explaining his refusal.

Since neither the museums nor the university were interested in using the complex, the central atelier was then made available to the Berlin Stonemasons Guild. Reutti’s plan to make parts of the atelier available to “important sculptors for executing large-scale sculptural works” could then also be realized: in 1949, upon the recommendation of Adolf Jannasch, the former director of the Office for Fine Arts of the Berlin Senate, the sculptore Bernhard Heiliger moved into the building’s east wing. Heiliger, a former student of Arno Breker, had relocated to the American Sector of the city in 1949. Moving into the atelier of his former teacher was not unproblematic for the sculptor. Heiliger described his reservations to a friend in the following words: “Since the new, large, former Breker State Atelier was made available to me, some new things have been created. I first had to overcome my reluctance to move in there, as you can certainly imagine, but then did so since coming by such a studio is a unique opportunity. Now I feel very comfortable here, in spite of the comfort.” In addition to the atelier, Heiliger also used the three living spaces and lived and worked on Käuzchensteig until his death in 1995. The Bernhard Heiliger Foundation was founded after the artist’s death and moved into the spaces on Käuzchensteig in 1996.

In 1964/65, Emilio Vedova was the first international artist to occupy the building’s central section. The Italian, who was living in Berlin since November 1963 on a grant from the US Ford Foundation and upon the invitation of Werner Haftmann, here produced his major work, Absurdes Berliner Tagebuch, a walk-through painting installation consisting of various free-standing or ceiling-suspended, painted wood panels. The work was exhibited at documenta III in 1964 and at the Haus am Waldsee in Zehlendorf in 1965. The artist donated the work to the Berlinische Galerie in 2002.

In 1966/67, a year after Vedova moved out, the vicinity of the atelier building also changed. The Brücke Museum, designed by architect Werner Düttmann, was built directly alongside the atelier building on the Breker dwelling’s designated property.

A few years later, in 1971/72, at the instigation of the Friends of the Brücke Museum, the architect Rolf Nieballa divided up the large central atelier, formerly used by Vedova, into eight smaller studios. In the following years, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Berlin Senate allocated these studios and both spaces in the west wing to artists from around the world. Well-known representatives of their field, such as Armando, Ouhi Cha, Jimmie Durham, Ayse Erkmen, Dorothy Iannone, Jean Robert Ipoustéguy, Emmett Williams, Zhu Jinshi and Qin Yufen worked in these spaces.

In addition, in the 1980s and 90s, prominent artists worked in the building’s west wing, where the plaster and stone carving studios were formerly housed. In the 1980s, the artist and co-founder of the Fluxus-movement Wolf Vostell also moved into the large stone carving atelier and worked there until his death in 1998. After 1998, the former plaster studio, which faced the street, was also made available through the DAAD to others such as Canadian artist Jimmie Durham and his wife, the photographer Maria Thereza Alves. In 2006, the artist Elfie Fröhlich occupied this space, and from the following year on, the artist Tina Born used the adjacent stone carving studio.

Following the dismantaling and renovation from 2014-15, the Kunsthaus Dahlem is open since summer 2015 as an exhibition venue for postwar German modernisme from East and West Germany.