Opening Berlin’s Ambitious Humboldt Forum

Opening Berlin’s Ambitious Humboldt Forum

After repeated delays, a new museum in the heart of Berlin will open its doors in December.

E urope’s most ambitious cultural project in decades will finally get off the ground this winter in Berlin. The 42,000 sq m museum complex known as the Humboldt Forum, housed in the reconstructed Berlin Palace (Stadtschloss), is to be Germany’s answer to the Louvre.

Officials for this long-awaited €644 million cultural district at the heart of the city aim to deliver more than 1,000 events annually, organising “exhibitions, films and discussions with specialists on science, art, religion, politics and business exploring the day’s burning questions”, making the Forum a mirror of our turbulent times.

The Humboldt Forum in Berlin. Photograph: SHF / Stephan Falk.

Unifying four institutions under one roof, including Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Museum for Asian Art), appears a herculean task. But general director Hartmut Dorgerloh insists that, after numerous delays including pandemic-related hold-ups, the first phase will launch in December. “We’re going to open the institution step by step until it is fully opened at the end of 2021,” he says. The first parts of the complex will open on the ground and first floors throughout December and January, with an exhibition on the 800-year history of its Schlossplatz site and the launch of the interdisciplinary research space, the Humboldt Lab, which works on issues connected to current research at the Humboldt University of Berlin.


What sort of message does Dorgerloh want to send out? “That the Humboldt Forum will open in the historic heart of Berlin as a unique place of inquiry and encounters; that it is a place with a significant past, a place for the arts and sciences, for exchange, diversity and for a multiplicity of voices where differences come together,” he says.

The Berlin Exhibition at the Humboldt Forum can be explored virtually with guides Jennifer Danquah and Markus Georg (pictured) in advance of its live opening in January 2021. The first room – “360° Thinking the World” – reveals a 375 sq m mural designed by New York-based urban artists How and Nosm. © How&Nosm/Kulturprojekte Berlin and Stadtmuseum Berlin Foundation, photograph by Polyvista GbR.

The new institution may get its name from Enlightenment figures Wilhelm von Humboldt, a celebrated linguist and diplomat, and his explorer brother, Alexander, but Dorgerloh insists that Berlin’s newest culture hub looks to the future. “This is what the building stands for – a partial reconstruction of the Berlin Palace, but also with a modern east façade [on the side facing the Spree River]. Will the Humboldt Forum remain relevant? That is our main mission and goal.”

Humboldt Forum, Berlin, will open 17 December 2020.

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