Hasso Plattner isn’t alone in celebrating the revival of Minsk, a modernist-style terrace restaurant built in the 1970s during the East German era that was a popular meeting and event spot in the city of Potsdam.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the building was on the verge of disrepair.
Three years ago, Plattner, a German co-founder of software company SAP and patron of the arts, bought the site from the city and had the building renovated and turned into an East German art museum. This weekend, the art house Das Minsk (which translates to The Minsk) will be open to the public.
It is the second museum of the Hasso Plattner Foundation after the Barberini Museum, which Plattner had rebuilt after a baroque palace of the same name also in Potsdam. Since 2017, art lovers have flocked to the Barberini to see Plattner’s Impressionist collection. Das Minsk with its East German art collection could become just as popular. But there is more to see.
East German art in an international context
Das Minsk kicks off with a juxtaposition of modern and contemporary art. Two exhibitions – “Wolfgang Mattheuer: The Neighbor Who Wants to Steal” and “Stan Douglas: Potsdam Allotment Gardens” – shed light on the subject of landscape from different angles. The aim, explains director Paola Malavassi, is to place East German art in an international context.
The new Kunsthaus Minsk in Potsdam
The exhibits feature 31 paintings — about half of which are from the Plattner Collection — by Mattheuer (1927-2004), a painter, graphic artist and sculptor from the eastern German state of Saxony, and works by Stan Douglas, a Canadian visual artist who captured moments of transition in allotment gardens in Potsdam in 1994 and 1995. For his 1995 film “The Sandman” he reconstructed the gardens before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in the Babelsberg studios.
Parts of the reconstructed building are reminiscent of the old restaurant in Minsk, including a wide spiral staircase. A café with large panoramic windows on the top floor invites visitors to linger, perhaps before or after viewing the exhibits which are presented in two large spaces and a small cabinet more suited to direct comparisons of works of art .
Once a restaurant with Belarusian specialties
However, the filigree glass mosaic panel that once adorned the exterior of the building constructed by architect Karl-Heinz Birkholz has disappeared. The mosaic looked like Belarusian folk embroidery, a journalist recalled in an article in the local daily, Berliner Zeitung. After all, the Minsk was one of the typical “nationality” restaurants that dotted every city in the GDR district in the 1970s. One in Leipzig was called “Kyiv”, Berlin had one called “Moscow” and Rostock boasted of a restaurant called “Riga”. Potsdam had a twin city partnership with Minsk, the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Republic, which in turn had a restaurant called “Potsdam”. The menus featured typical dishes from the respective partner countries.
The Berliner Zeitung claims that a collective of artists created the interior of the Minsk restaurant in Potsdam at the time. Building materials were imported from Belarus, including flamed marble for the entrance area and copper lamps and precious Belarusian bog oak carvings for the restaurant. Today, it benefits from a contemporary interior.
Yet, despite all the changes, the Hasso Plattner Foundation decided to keep its name. The Minsk restaurant became “Das Minsk Kunsthaus in Potsdam”. And as in its beginnings, the place will host concerts, readings and performances in addition to exhibitions.
This article was originally written in German.