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Long-awaited $ 800 million museum opens in Berlin’s former royal palace


Written by Catherine hickley

This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.
The Humboldt Forum, a sprawling new museum complex in a partial reconstruction of the Prussian royal palace in central Berlin, opened on Tuesday after nearly two years of postponements caused first by construction delays and then by Covid-19.

The new cultural complex, whose final budget exceeded 680 million euros (over 800 million dollars), according to a press spokesperson, aims to organize around 1,000 events per year and is expected to host up to 3 million visitors per year. While the outdoor terrace and courtyards have been accessible to the public since last year, the official opening of the interior in December 2020 was to take place via livestream.

But as the pandemic recedes and Germany eases restrictions, six exhibits have now opened on the first and second floors of the complex.

The inner courtyard of the reconstructed Berlin Palace. Credit: RONNY HARTMANN / AFP / Getty Images

Colonial exploitation

One of the exhibits, “Terrible Beauty. Elephant – Human – Ivory”, explores the history of the global ivory trade as part of a program developed by the Berlin State Museums, the Museum of Kenya Natural History and National Museums. Colonial exploitation, which the exhibition deals with, became the subject of heated debate during the planning and construction of the Humboldt Forum, which will present Berlin’s ethnological collections.

A major science exhibit hosted by Humboldt University, titled “Humboldt Lab: After Nature,” also opened on Tuesday. It explores the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss on society and democracy. An exhibit for children ages 3 to 10, titled “Have a Seat!” Examines why, when, where and how different groups and societies sit.

Meanwhile, an interactive permanent exhibition, “Berlin Global,” takes a handful of themes to explore Berlin’s connection with the rest of the world, including revolution, war, entertainment, and fashion. A fifth exhibition is dedicated to the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, who gave the complex its name. Born in 1769, Alexander was a naturalist, explorer and geographer, while Wilhelm, two years his senior, specialized in political theory and the philosophy of language and history.

Long-awaited $ 800 million museum opens in Berlin’s former royal palace

Visitors interact in the “Berlin Global” exhibit at the reconstructed Berlin Palace which houses the Humboldt Forum. Credit: RONNY HARTMANN / AFP / Getty Images

The basement contains some remains of the historic palace walls and a medieval Dominican monastery, excavated in 2008. An archaeological exhibit examines the history of the site, while fragments of the original palace dating back several centuries are on display in the hall. sculptures. A video panorama spans eight centuries of the site’s history, emphasizing that it “has always been a building site in the service of power”.

Work in progress

The Humboldt Forum will be a bit longer: the third and fourth floors of the West Wing will open in September, with exhibits from Berlin’s ethnological and Asian art collections. These include a section on Japan featuring a tea house, Chinese imperial art, and parts of the African collections. A rooftop restaurant also opens that month.

Long-awaited $ 800 million museum opens in Berlin’s former royal palace

Visitors walk through the “After Nature” exhibit. Credit: RONNY HARTMANN / AFP / Getty Images

The third and fourth floors of the east wing, along with the rest of the ethnological and Asian exhibits, will open in the first half of 2022. These include sections on the history of the Afro-Brazilian diaspora in the Amazon region, diversity world of Islam and Southeast Asian theatrical traditions. A temporary exhibition of bronzes from Benin, which Germany has undertaken to return to Nigeria, is also planned.

During the summer months, numerous dance performances, film screenings, concerts and lectures are scheduled, as well as an open-air festival in the Schlüterhof courtyard.

Top image: The iconic television tower of the German capital and the reconstructed Berlin Palace which houses the Humboldt Forum.

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