The Old National Gallery (Alte Nationalgalerie) is the original home of the Nationalgalerie, whose collections today are divided between the New National Gallery, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art – Berlin, the Friedrichswerder Church, Museum Berggruen and the Collection Scharf-Gerstenberg.
The idea of establishing a cultural and educational centre across from the Berlin Palace dates back to the time of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who dreamt of creating a “sanctuary for art and science” on the site. The basic architectural concept for the Alte Nationalgalerie – a temple-like building raised on a plinth decorated with motifs from antiquity – came from the king himself. The building was designed by Friedrich August Stüler, a student of Schinkel who also designed the Neues Museum. It was completed after Stüler’s death by another of Schinkel’s students, Johann Heinrich Strack.
During the division of Germany, the 19th-century paintings that had survived the war in Western zones of occupation were housed in the Neue Nationalgalerie, starting in 1968, and in Schloss Charlottenburg’s Gallery of Romanticism from 1986. After the fall of the Berlin wall, the growing collections were united in their original building, now called the Alte Nationalgalerie, on Berlin’s Museumsinsel. Accommodating the collection meant repairing the damage the war had wrought to the building as well as adding new rooms. The architectural firm HG Merz Berlin was entrusted with this work in 1992. In March of 1998 the Alte Nationalgalerie was closed for renovations. The museum was finally re-opened in December 2001, marking its 125th anniversary.