Ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars ... they are neither their concepts nor their laws. (Walter Benjamin)

Portrait Dr. Rudolf Fischer
© Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Foto: Oliver Killig
Dr. Rudolf Fischer, Director Archiv der Avantgarden

Collection History

Artworks, design objects, furniture, drawings, posters, architectural plans—the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA) is a safehold for material from the most divergent artistic movements of the 20th century avant-garde. Comprising approximately 1.5 million objects and documents, the collection is the only one of its kind worldwide in terms of both scope and structure. Its cornerstone is Egidio Marzona’s collection, which was donated to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden in December 2016. Housed in the Japanisches Palais on an interim basis, it is set to relocate to its own permanent location in the nearby Blockhaus in a few years’ time. Researchers and other interested parties are welcome to visit the archive.

[Translate to English:] Marzona |

Marzona began collecting in the late 1960s, right around the time the concept of art was being redefined. The collection encompasses correspondences, manuscripts, manifests, photography, brochures, invitation cards, artist vinyls by, and films. The contemporary art forms of the Arte Povera and conceptual art movements were of particular interest to the German-Italian collector; later he would also branch out into avant-garde architecture and design prevailing from the Bauhaus movement, for instance. The avant-garde aimed for the unity of applied and fine arts as well as society and art throughout the early 20th century, an endeavor that was adopted by Marzona.

Portrait Egidio Marzona
© Luc Saalfeld
Egidio Marzona

[Translate to English:] Marzona ||

His archive is thus also a compilation of radical utopias with regard to aesthetic values and social standards. It comprises artworks from various genres and medias as well as corresponding context materials pertaining to artistic processes and curatorial practices and activities, but also literature, music, dance, theater, film, and politics of the time.

Thanks to its breadth and scope, this unusual and very special collection affords an ideal foundation for discovering, delving into and reassessing the artistic avant-gardes in their many interpretations, incarnations and societal interweavings in the 20th century. It further documents the networks of protagonists and objects and ties together production work, critiques and reviews in the context of the international avant-gardes.

Egidio Marzona

AdA in Dresden

Taking up the collection’s international and interdisciplinary approach, the AdA in Dresden functions as an open archive: transparent and accessible, it serves as a forum for dialogue and discussion. A lively space affording sensuous experiences, the archive is also the place where it is possible to come into contact with objects and documents, as well as creating a space – physically and figuratively – that promotes communication.

Ada in Dresden

Its program will be of particular interest to visitors based in Dresden and environs, offering workshops, discursive events such as lectures, readings, round tables, and public discussions, as well as exhibitions. Scientific research will be presented in an accessible and easily understood form, and selected objects from the archives are to be showcased and discussed within the scope of the Object Talks.

© SKD, Foto: David Pinzer

AdA in Dresden |||

Artists are invited to present ideas and projects as they interact with the public and the archive. Thus, a democratic space is called to life, one whose objective is to remain vibrant, fresh, and always evolving. A place for visions and impressions, for reflection and discussion. In short, a permanent home for the avant-garde.

© SKD, Foto: David Pinzer


Our Collections

Taking his inspiration from the book Die Kunstismen (1925) by Hans Arp and El Lissitzky, Egidio Marzona structured his collection according to the various artistic currents of the 20th century. As a result, the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA) can today boast a multitude of documents and objects spanning across the entire century, from the beginnings of Art Nouveau all the way to the Neuen Wilden.

The collection is not limited to the fine arts, architecture, and design, but encompasses further genres such as music, dance, theater, film, literature, photography, politics, and philosophy. When it came to exhibiting his collection, Marzona was further influenced by Aby Warburg’s system of “the law of the good neighbor” (methodology keyword: Serendipity).

The AdA is also home to premature legacies, bequests and estates of renowned and influential artists and art scholars, including but not limited to:

  • Hans Bolliger (librarian, antiquarian)

  • Francesco Conz (collector, journalist)

  • Thomas Deecke (art historian)

  • Hans Eckstein (journalist, design theorist)

  • Birgit and Wilhelm Hein (film directors)

  • Elisabeth Jappe (art critic, art scholar)

  • Diethart Kerbs (art educator, cultural and photo historian)

  • Martin Rosz (artist)

  • John Weber (gallerist)

  • Herta Wescher (art historian, journalist)

Our Collections II

The approximately 1.5 million documents and objects include:

  • Several thousands of posters

  • Several thousands of monographies and newspapers (primary source material and secondary literature)

  • Several thousands of files (containing letters, manuscripts, sketches, plans, catalogues, invites, etc.)

  • Several thousands of artworks, graphics, and design objects

  • Photographs

  • Audio-visual material

  • Architectural models and plans


The monumental building that is today referred to as the Blockhaus was, at the time of its construction, known as the Neustaedter Wache. Built in 1732 along the northern shore of the river Elbe and on the west side of the Augustusbruecke bridgehead, the impressive construction is based on plans by the French architect Zacharias Longuelune. 1749–1755 Johann Christoph Knöffel or J. G. M. von Fürstenhof commissioned to have new elements – a mezzanine and new roof – added; after these upgrades were made, the building served not only as a guardhouse, but also as living quarters and for administrative purposes. In 1892, the sandstone clad Blockhaus was adorned by yet a further storey by Dresdener architects Ernst Sommerschuh and Gustav Rumpel. During World War II, it was badly damaged by a fire that left the building a ruin for the following 35 years. 1978–1982 saw the reconstruction of the Blockhaus as the “House of German-Soviet Friendship”, and the addition of a ballroom, club, and restaurant that was open to the public. Its façade was restored to its original 1892 splendor. Following the reunification of Germany in 1989, the federation sold the Blockhaus to the Free State of Saxony in 1994 and it was thenceforth used for federal state government functions. It also became the home of the Saxon Academy of Arts, the Saxon Academy of Sciences (Aussenstelle Dresden), and the Saxony State Foundation for Nature and the Environment. The building was very badly damaged and consequently closed after a flood in the summer of 2013.

Following Egidio Marzona’s donation to the SKD, the decision was made to house the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA) in the Blockhaus. With only the river Elbe lying between them, the building is located in close proximity to the Dresden Castle, the Zwinger, and the Albertinum in the historical center. On the Neustaedter side, it is close to the Japanisches Palais and the Jaegerhof.

The winners of the architectural competition to redesign the Blockhaus were announced on January 31, 2018. A total of 103 proposals from various European countries had been submitted, and a further 11 had been preselected. Following a selection procedure, 35 architect’s offices were invited to participate; 28 proposals were entered. The jury and its president, Stuttgart-based architect Prof. Arno Lederer, awarded first prize to Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos of Berlin. They characterized the winning design as follows: “The elegant provocation and play on ideas implied by the institution’s moniker is taken as a reference and starting point in this project. A massive concrete corpus that floats in the hollowed-out remnant of the Blockhaus is the archive’s core piece—a hidden treasure that affords history with presence.”

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