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A German software billionaire is opening a new art museum in the former imperial city of Potsdam on Friday, having reconstructed an 18th-century palace, destroyed in the second world war, to house the works. The privately funded gallery occupies three floors of the building, which is in the heart of Potsdam, south-west of Berlin.
The electrical engineer has refused to either confirm or deny the reports, but proudly pointed out the painting in the gallery during a preview this week. Disputes over everything from what Plattner was allowed to exhibit to where the museum should be built have long made headline news.
The project nearly foundered on several occasions. At one point Plattner threatened to retract his offer to give Potsdam its first new art gallery for years, due to fears over new controversial heritage protection legislation. Under the Kulturgutschutzgesetz or national protection of cultural property law, Plattner risked having works from his own private art collection — which will be displayed in rotating exhibitions — confiscated by the German state if he tried to take them out of the country back to his home in Palo Alto, California, or sold them outside Germany.
He has now reached an agreement with the cultural ministry which partially lifts the restrictions, but the fragile pact is believed to be one of the reasons he is being cautious about stating which of the works belong to him. At another stage in the planning Plattner proposed building the gallery on the site of a metre high East Germany-era hotel, which the city had planned to destroy. But the backlash locally was enormous, leading to threats towards Plattner and accusations claiming he was among the increasing numbers of rich elite buying up the city and willing the destruction of a building held in great affection by many Potsdamers, not least because it symbolised a lost past.
Leading art figures have said they expect it to have a big impact on the German museum landscape. He is a member of The Giving Pledge, a group of billionaire philanthropists who promise to give half their wealth to charity during their lifetime or in a will.