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Hamburger Bahnhof is a former railway station in Berlin that serves today as the Museum für Gegenwart (Museum for the Present), a contemporary art museum which is part of the Berlin National Gallery.
The station was built to Friedrich Neuhaus' plans in 1846/47 as the starting point of the Berlin–Hamburg Railway. It is the only surviving terminus building in Berlin from the late neoclassical period and counts as one of the oldest station buildings in Germany. The building has not been used as a station since 1884.
On 14 December 1906, the former station became home to the new Royal Museum on Traffic and Construction (German: Königliches Bau- und Verkehrsmuseum), supervised by the then Prussian State Railways, which was incorporated into the new all-German national railways Deutsche Reichsbahn in 1920. The term 'royal' was dropped after the Prussian monarchy had fallen in 1918. The museum attracted the crowds and was thus twice extended with additional wings to the left and right of the main building in 1909–11 and 1914–16.
Hit by Allied bombing in 1944, the museum remained closed; however, most of the collection survived. After the war, although located in what had become the British sector of Berlin, the museum remained under the supervision of the East German Reichsbahn, which—by agreement of all the Allies—fulfilled the role of the old Reichsbahn in all of Berlin as well as in East Germany. The Reichsbahn's East German management had no interest in reopening a museum now located in West Berlin, but only in the exhibits, which the Western Allies did not allow to be brought to the East. In 1984 the Reichsbahn transferred both building and collection into western hands. The collection included examples of industrial and technological developments of its time—many locomotives and rolling stock. The museum was thus a precursor of the German Museum of Technology (Berlin), which today shows many of the exhibits once shown in Hamburger Bahnhof. In 1987, the then empty halls were used for changing exhibitions.
In the mid-1980s Berlin entrepreneur Erich Marx offered his private collection of contemporary art to the city. The Berlin Senate decided in 1987 to set up a Museum of Contemporary Art in the former railway station. The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation agreed to integrate the museum as part of the National Gallery. A competition for the renovation of the station was announced and won by architect Josef Paul Kleihues. Between 1990 and 1996, Kleihues refurbished the building, and in November 1996, the museum was opened with an exhibition of works by Sigmar Polke.
The Museum für Gegenwart exhibits modern and contemporary art. As part of the Marx collection, works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol are on permanent display. An emphasis of the Nationalgalerie collection is art on video and film. A collection of 1970s video art, made as a gift by Mike Steiner, as well as the Joseph Beuys-Medienarchiv form its basis.