The 'Friends of Antique Art in Berlin' (precursor to today’s Friends) was founded shortly before the First World War, in February 1913, thanks to the efforts of Theodor Wiegand, then director of the Antikensammlung and one of the founding fathers of the Pergamonmuseum. By the 1950s, the great traditions of private patronage in the arts were completely extinguished in the East and out of favour in the West. It was a time when most of the surviving antiquities were being gradually returned to Berlin (East and West separately), after either spending many years 'in exile' in the Soviet Union as looted art, or having their numbers greatly depleted at art collection points in the west. It was only until 1979 that a patron society was founded to serve the Antikenmuseum in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
Immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a second association emerged in the city: the Friends of the Pergamonmuseum, set up to nurture archaeological endeavour on the Museumsinsel as a whole. Both associations joined forces in 1998 to pool their resources in serving the Antikensammlung and Vorderasiatisches Museum. After a quarter century since its founding, the Freunde der Antike auf der Museumsinsel e. V. (Friends of Antiquity) is one of the largest patron societies to support the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, with nearly 800 members. By serving the Antikensammlung and the Vorderasiatisches Museum, it is dedicated to advancing two archaeological collections of world renown and importance.