One of Germany’s most ambitious cultural projects, which will feature collections of African, Asian and non-European art in a partial replica of a Prussian palace demolished by the Communist government of East Germany after the Second World War II opens to the public Tuesday.
The Humboldt Forum – located in the heart of Berlin, next to the neoclassical Museum Island complex – was designed by Italian architect Franco Stella and features three replica facades, a modern and a modern interior. It cost 680 million euros (USD 802 million).
The project results from a vote in 2002 by the German parliament to rebuild the 18th century palace. The original was demolished in 1950 and later replaced by the East German Parliament, which is itself now demolished.
It will feature exhibits from two of Berlin’s state museums, the Ethnological Museum and the Asian Art Museum. It begins with six exhibitions, including one on the history of Berlin, another on ivory, and one on the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, the explorer and educator named after the forum.
“The exhibits are very varied, from very different institutions,” director Hartmut Dorgerloh told German news agency dpa. “I think that’s great because it shows the bandwidth of the subjects but also the different ways exhibitions can be done today. Recreating the 18th century royal palace was not universally popular. Some former East Berliners had fond memories of the Palace of the Republic, the East German parliament building from the 1970s, which also housed restaurants and a bowling alley, but was considered an eyesore by most Westerners.
The Berlin Museums Authority hopes to be able to show the Humboldt Forum some of the artifacts known as Benin bronzes, which were looted from the Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Benin by a British colonial expedition in 1897. The Ethnological Museum has the one of the world’s largest collections of historical artifacts from the kingdom, and Berlin wants to discuss possible future exhibitions in Germany as part of negotiations to return artifacts to Nigeria. (AP) RUP RUP
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