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Restoration Work at the Pergamonmuseum: Mshatta Façade on Display until 20 February 2022

04.02.2022
Pergamonmuseum

The Mshatta Façade is the largest exhibit in the Museum für Islamische Kunst’s display in the Pergamonmuseum. As part of the planned renovation and refurbishment work in the museum, from March 2022, the monumental architectural piece will undergo restoration work and be prepared for its relocation to the north wing of the museum. 

The Façade originates from the monumental Qasr al-Mshatta Palace in present-day Jordan, 30 kilometres south of the capital Amman. The structure formed part of a string of more than 30 “dessert palaces”, which extended across Bilad as-sham, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Surrounded by a rectangular, 144-metre perimter wall, the Mshatta Palace was among the largest of its kind. Construction work on the complex is thought to have begun during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al-Walid ibn Yazid (743–744), but was left incomplete after his assassination. A later earthquake did further damage to the unfinished structure.

While part of the complex is still standing at its original location in Jordan – right next to the Amman airport – the 33-metre-long and approximately 5-metre-high main façade of the southern exterior wall made its way to Berlin in the early 20th century. The façade, which also includes two gate towers, is almost complete, adorned with impressive stonemasonry work, and once formed part of the entrance to the caliph’s throne room.

This monumental object came to Berlin as a gift from the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Hamid II to Kaiser Wilhelm II. The royal gift arrived in Berlin on 23 December 1903, broken down into 459 parts. Currently, the audience highlight of the Museum für Islamische Kunst is being examined and restored, before being integrated into the Pergamonmuseum’s archaeological circuit, entering into a direct spatial relationship with the other large works of architecture in the collection. Visitors will be able to follow the progress of the work, which will take place in a publicly accessible display workshop.

On Display until 20 February Alongside the Mshatta Façade: I Am a Stranger: Twofold a Stranger

With his installation I Am a Stranger: Twofold a Stranger, the German-Syrian artist Ali Kaaf enters into a contemporary dialogue with the approximately 1,300-year-old Mshatta Façade of the Jordanian caliph’s palace. Kaaf creates a charged space that makes room for ambivalences in the area in-between – be that between the Façade and its intervention, history and the present, the familiar and the foreign, or the visible and the invisible. In this way, he makes the structure – erected around AD 740 – tangibly accessible, providing an experience for the viewer that is both physical and emotional.