Heinz Berggruen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heinz Berggruen
Berggruen in 2002
Heinz Berggruen

(1914-01-06)January 6, 1914
DiedFebruary 6, 2007(2007-02-06) (aged 93)
  • United States
  • Germany
Occupation(s)Art dealer and collector
Known forProviding art collection to form Berggruen Museum
Lillian S. Zellerbach
(m. 1939; div. 1945)
(m. 1960)

Heinz Berggruen (January 6, 1914 – February 23, 2007) was a German-born American[1][2] art dealer and collector who sold 165 works of art to the German federal government to form the core of the Berggruen Museum[3] in Berlin, Germany. He was the father of John, Olivier and Nicolas Berggruen.

Early life and education[edit]

Berggruen was born in Wilmersdorf, Berlin[4] to assimilated Jewish parents: Ludwig Berggruen, a businessman who owned an office supply business before the war, and Antonie (née Zadek).[5][6] He attended the Goethe-Gymnasium in Wilmersdorf and graduated from the Friedrich-Wilhelms (now Humboldt) University in 1932, where he read literature. After 1933, he continued his studies at the universities of Grenoble and Toulouse.[7]


He contributed free-lance articles to the Frankfurter Zeitung, the forerunner of today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He got around the restrictions on Jewish contributors by submitting his pieces through a colleague and signing them with his initials, H. B., rather than his full, Jewish-sounding surname.[8] He fled Germany in 1936.

Immigration to the United States[edit]

Berggruen immigrated to the United States in 1936 and studied German literature at University of California, Berkeley. After working as an art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, in 1939 he became an "assistant to the director" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.[9] There, he helped to prepare an exhibition about the Mexican painter Diego Rivera. Later, in New York in 1940, he met Frida Kahlo with whom he had a short love affair.[10][11][12][13] That same year he says that he bought his first picture for $100 while honeymooning in Chicago.[14] It was a watercolour by Paul Klee, and he bought it from a Jewish refugee in need of money.[7][15] While living in California, Berggruen was a student of the painter David Park.[16]

After the Second World War Berggruen returned to Europe as member of the U.S. Army and worked briefly on the American-sponsored paper Heute in Munich (located in the same building where the novelist Erich Kästner worked). He then moved to Paris, where he worked in the fine arts division of UNESCO, run by his former boss at the San Francisco museum, Grace Morley. Within a few years, he opened a small bookshop on the Île Saint-Louis, specializing in illustrated books and later lithographs.[5] During this time he became acquainted with Tristan Tzara, who introduced him to Pablo Picasso in Paris.[17] He soon became an important dealer in Picasso prints, as well as in second-hand Picasso paintings.[18] His renowned art collection, which he valued at $450 million in 2001, included 165 works by 20th-century masters such as Braque, Matisse, Klee, and Giacometti, with a unique group of 85 works by Picasso.[19]

In 1977, Berggruen published Douglas Cooper's catalogue raisonné of Juan Gris.[20] He finally resigned as director of the Paris gallery in 1980 in order to devote himself to collecting and dealing. In 1988, he donated 90 Klee works to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, although he later expressed fear that his donation would go unnoticed in the museum's own vast collections.[8][21] That same year, he exhibited his collection at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Geneva.[22] In 1990, he lent a good part of his collection to the National Gallery in London, where he exhibited works—including Seurat's landmark painting Les Poseuses (1886)—until 2001.[23][24][25] In 1995, the German government lent him an apartment in Berlin and gave him an art museum opposite the Charlottenburg Palace. The collection, then comprising 118 works, opened to the public in 1997. At the time, then German culture minister Ulrich Roloff-Momin described it as "the most meaningful art transfer in Berlin's post-war history."[26] In 2000, he finally sold the art collection to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation: the collection of 165 works (including 85 Picassos), which Berggruen valued at €750m, was purchased by the PCHF at about a quarter of that value.[27][28] It additionally includes over sixty works by Paul Klee, and twenty by Matisse.[29]

His tomb in Berlin
Heinz-Berggruen-Gymnasium in Berlin

For his achievements, Berggruen was named a Commandeur of the Legion of Honour by the French government, received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1999, and was named an honorary citizen of Berlin. He additionally received the Jewish Museum Berlin's Award for Understanding and Tolerance in 2005, and was bestowed an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Adelphi University in 1993.[30][31][32][33] In 2008, a Berlin school was named the Heinz-Berggruen-Gymnasium in his honor.[34][35] An honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum, he additionally served on the board of the Berlin Philharmonic.[36]

In 2016, Berggruen's Klee collection was exhibited in its entirety to inaugurate the Met Breuer, and traveled to the National Gallery of Canada in 2018.[14][37]

Personal life[edit]

Berggruen was married twice and had four children.[8] Berggruen, who until his death maintained homes in Paris, Gstaad, and Berlin (and in Geneva and New York before that),[38] was quoted as saying "I am neither French nor German, I am European. I'd very much like to think there was a European nationality, but I think I may be dreaming."[8] Through his mother, Antonie Zadek, Berggruen was a cousin of the opera singer Hilde Zadek (1917–2019).[39]

  • In 1939, Berggruen married the American Lillian Zellerbach. They divorced in 1945. They had two children:
    • John Berggruen, owner of the Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco and active in the Bay Area art scene since 1970;[40]
    • Helen Berggruen, a San Francisco-based artist.
  • In 1960, he married the German actress Bettina Moissi, a Catholic of Albanian and German descent. They had two children:


Berggruen died at the American Hospital of Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine on 23 February 2007. At his own wish he was buried in the forest cemetery in Waldfriedhof Dahlem, in Berlin. His funeral was attended by German chancellor Angela Merkel, and then-president Horst Köhler, among others.[41][42]


  1. ^ Naturalized in 1941 https://www.parlament-berlin.de/Das-Haus/Berliner-Ehrenbuerger/heinz-berggruen
  2. ^ United States Naturalization Records
  3. ^ "Berggruen Museum". Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
  4. ^ Heinz Berggruen, Hauptweg und Nebenwege, Fischer Verlag 1996.
  5. ^ a b John Green (May 23, 2007), Heinz Berggruen The Guardian.
  6. ^ Nicola Kuhn: "Vom Glück der Kunst" in: Der Tagesspiegel, 26 February 2007 (in German)
  7. ^ a b Heinz Berggruen The Times.
  8. ^ a b c d Riding, Alan (27 February 2007). "Heinz Berggruen, Influential Picasso Collector, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 October 2007.
  9. ^ Rosenbaum, Fred (28 June 2011). Cosmopolitans: A Social and Cultural History of the Jews of the San Francisco Bay Area. Univ of California Press. ISBN 9780520271302.
  10. ^ Heinz Berggruen (13 July 2004), Fridas Zeit und Zeuge Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
  11. ^ Martin, Guy (14 May 2001). "Herr Berggruen's Blue Period". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  12. ^ Marnham, Patrick (3 May 2000). Dreaming with His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera. University of California Press. p. 296. ISBN 9780520224087. heinz berggruen.
  13. ^ Herrera, Hayden (9 August 2018). Frida: The Biography of Frida Kahlo. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781526608536.
  14. ^ a b Lesser, Casey (30 August 2016). "How a Passion for Paul Klee Inspired a Family's Art-World Legacy". Artsy. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  15. ^ Rewald, Sabine; N.Y.), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York (1988). Paul Klee: The Berggruen Klee Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780810912151.
  16. ^ Boas, Nancy (17 March 2012). David Park: A Painter S Life. Univ of California Press. ISBN 9780520268418.
  17. ^ LEAL, Brigitte (13 September 2018). Dictionnaire du cubisme (in French). Groupe Robert Laffont. ISBN 9782221238783.
  18. ^ Kahn, Charlotte (2004). Resurgence of Jewish Life in Germany. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275973742.
  19. ^ Germany Buys Berggruen Works
  20. ^ Hook, Philip (26 January 2017). Rogues' Gallery: A History of Art and its Dealers. Profile Books. ISBN 9781782832157.
  21. ^ Tully, Judd (12 May 1988). "SOTHEBY'S $7.5 MILLION WARHOL WEEKEND". The Washington Post.
  22. ^ Russell, John (21 August 1988). "ART VIEW; The Gift of a Great Dealer - And Collector". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  23. ^ Clement, Russell T.; Houzé, Annick; Houze, Annick (1999). Neo-Impressionist Painters: A Sourcebook on Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro,: Paul Signac, Theo Van. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313303821.
  24. ^ "Berggruen Collection | Glossary | National Gallery, London". www.nationalgallery.org.uk. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  25. ^ Gage, John (1999). Color and Meaning: Art, Science, and Symbolism. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520226111.
  26. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (13 May 1995). "Collector Who Fled The Nazis Returns With His Artworks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  27. ^ "Heinz Berggruen, 93; collector of 20th century art" Los Angeles Times.
  28. ^ Cohen, Roger (7 May 2001). "An Odyssey of Passion and Prudence; Behind Masterworks for Sale, the Unerring Eye of a Determined Collector". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  29. ^ Connolly, Kate (7 June 2013). "Pablo Picasso works draw art world to Berlin". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  30. ^ "The Gallerist | International Council Museum Berggruen Berlin". www.icmuseumberggruen.de. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  31. ^ Caplan, Greg. "Federal Republic of Germany." The American Jewish Year Book 98 (1998): 308-31. JSTOR 23605405.
  32. ^ "Prize for Understanding and Tolerance | Jewish Museum Berlin". www.jmberlin.de. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  33. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Adelphi University". commencement.adelphi.edu. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  34. ^ Bennhold, Katrin (26 August 2020). "Schools Can Reopen, Germany Finds, but Expect a 'Roller Coaster'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  35. ^ Grendler, Paul F. (2 May 2022). Humanism, Universities, and Jesuit Education in Late Renaissance Italy. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-51028-9.
  36. ^ "The Board of Trustees: As of July 1, 1991." Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 121 (1990): 3. JSTOR 40304282.
  37. ^ "Paul Klee's exhibition displays the work behind a pivotal moment". Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  38. ^ Strauss, Michel (12 December 2013). Pictures, Passions and Eye: A Life at Sotheby's. Halban. ISBN 9781905559688.
  39. ^ Hanssen, Frederik (15 December 2017). "Ein Leben für die Bühne". Der Tagesspiegel Online (in German). Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  40. ^ Durón, Maximilíano (7 November 2016). "San Francisco's John Berggruen Gallery Will Move to New Space in January". ARTnews. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  41. ^ Berlin, Berliner Morgenpost- (28 February 2007). "Merkel erweist Berggruen die letzte Ehre". www.morgenpost.de (in German). Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  42. ^ "Ein Leben, das ein Kunstwerk war". Der Tagesspiegel Online (in German). 3 March 2007. Retrieved 1 January 2019.

External links[edit]