Our Man in Berlin

In this podcast Michael Arthur, UK Ambassador to Germany 2007–2010, is interviewed by Penny Johnson, the Director of the Government Art Collection in Berlin. Filmed in two parts, the first part of the interview takes place in the British Embassy near the Brandenburg Gate on Wilhelmstrasse and concludes in the Ambassador’s Residence. The discussion focuses on some of the works of art currently on display in both buildings.

Our Man in Berlin podcast

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The Embassy itself is a very striking, colourful, modern building and was designed in 2000 by Michael Wilford, one of Britain’s leading architects. Known to Berliners as ‘the colourful house’, the building has an open cobbled courtyard and a spacious, light interior area known as the Wintergarden, which houses several works of art from the Government Art Collection.

In her interview, Penny Johnson asks Michael Arthur to comment on the impact of the new architecture and the art that was chosen for display in the building. Michael Arthur responds that the building is still, ten years on, ‘the talk of the town’. He says that because ‘thousands of people’ are constantly passing through the space there is a real sense in which both the art and architecture represent the very best of modern Britain. Standing in front of ‘Turning the World Inside Out’, Anish Kapoor’s polished stainless steel ‘egg’ sculpture and ‘Dancing Columns’, Tony Cragg’s twisting sandstone pillars, Arthur explains how delighted he is that the Embassy is home to iconic works by some of the greatest sculptors working in Britain today. (image 2)

Johnson continues her interview with Arthur in the Ambassador’s Residence, where further works from the Collection are on display.  Arthur explains that some works – such as a historical portrait by Allan Ramsay of Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, a German-born Princess of Wales – help create links between the UK and Germany, which is useful to his diplomatic work. The Ambassador also reveals that some visitors have been particularly drawn towards the contemporary works, namely the dramatic, black and white landscapes of London by John Virtue and a moody, contemporary landscape by Elizabeth Magill.