What do the humpbacked bull Nandi and the eagle serpent Cuauhcoatl have in common? They are precursors to the exhibitions that will soon be on display in the Humboldt Forum. From October 2018 until the end of September 2019, the first 15 Humboldt Forum Highlights are displayed to the public in two different formats: in a series of public discussions, and in an exhibition on the Museumsinsel Berlin and at the Kulturforum featuring objects from the collections of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
In the Neues Museum, highlight objects from America and Micronesia are on display. The Aztec eagle serpent Cuauhcoatl – to this day one of Mexico’s most important national symbols – takes up residence surrounded by Egyptian pharaohs. The detailed images on a Mayan vase resemble a comic, depicting the mythic triumphs and defeats of their most important leaders. The Colombian cacique, a golden ritual receptacle of the Quimbaya people, places the focus on the meaning of objects beyond their material properties. The figure of Sope on the other hand almost resembles a Modernist sculpture, yet it is in fact an example of the diverse ritual culture of Micronesia. But it’s the processional bull Nandi that receives the most prominent position, finding a temporary home in the middle of the Processional Way of Babylon in the Pergamonmuseum.
What value did these objects have for the people whose lives they have formed a part of? What meaning do they possess today? In addition to the exhibition, the objects will serve as points of reference for a series of public discussions in which curators and experts will provide insights into the diverse world of the Humboldt Forum. The series were launched by an evening of discussions on Friday 26 October 2018 in the Pergamonmuseum. More events followed, including dates in the Gemäldegalerie (5 December 2018), the Altes Museum (31 January 2019) and the Neues Museum (4 April 2019), and in other locations around the city.
Inspired by its namesakes Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt and their passion for exploring the world with curiosity and for viewing it as an interwoven system of nature and culture, the Humboldt Forum will be a new site for experiences, encounters and learning. The Humboldt Forum Highlights provide prime examples of the diversity of the topics that will be gathered together in the centre of Berlin – topics relating to science and the arts, to nature and culture, history and society – and of the range of perspectives represented, from the past and the present, from near and far. As material artefacts, they offer a first sense of the range of fascinating histories and contemporary questions that are connected with them. And we’ll have to wait and see what other, entirely unexpected connections might be waiting to be discovered.
The complete programme for the Humboldt Forum is available at: humboldtforum.com/highlights.
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