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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 13:44 GMT
Major Berlin gallery reopens
Berlin's Old National Gallery
Museum Island was in the eastern, communist sector
Berlin has welcomed back its Old National Gallery after a £50m facelift to erase some of the scars of World War II and the communist era behind the Berlin Wall.

The ornate, neoclassical building houses about 500 of the most important German paintings and sculptures of the 19th Century.

Berlin's Old National Gallery
The museum houses art of the 19th Century
The gallery opened its doors on Sunday after a three-year renovation.

The restoration is part of a long-term plan to restore a long-neglected cluster of museum buildings on Berlin's Museum Island, on the Spree river, at the heart of what used to be East Germany.

The Alte Nationalgalerie contains impressionist paintings by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne and sculptures by Auguste Rodin.

German artists are represented by Hans Thoma, Anselm Feuerbach, Arnold Böcklin, Hans von Marées, Wilhelm Leibl and Wilhelm Trübner, among others.

Culture Minister Julian Nida-Ruemelin said the re-opening of the Old National Gallery was "a cause for celebration for all our citizens interested in art".

Gerhard Schroeder and his wife Doris (both on right)
Gerhard Schroeder and his wife Doris toured the exhibition
'Visible step'

"The Museum Island is taking on an increasingly important role in Germany's, and Europe's, cultural life," he said.

"In terms of the overall concept for the Museum Island, the opening of the Old National Gallery marks an important and very visible step."

Ruling mayor Klaus Wowereit used the occasion to call for more funding from federal coffers to help continue restoring the museums.

Four other museums on the island - which is a Unesco World Heritage Site - are due to have been fully restored by 2010.

See also:

04 May 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Berlin: Soaked in history
27 Jan 00 | Europe
Berlin's battle to build memorial
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