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Humboldt Forum to Open on 17 December 2020

Humboldt Forum

The Humboldt Forum in the reconstructed Berlin Palace will open in several phases beginning on 17 December 2020. The building will become accessible to the public in four major stages. The diversity of the programme will be presented in numerous formats over the course of a year: from exhibitions and projections, guided tours and lectures, to artistic interventions, dance and film. Besides the three core topics of the Humboldt Forum – the history and architecture of the site, the brothers Humboldt, and colonialism and coloniality – current social and political issues will be a focus right from the start. The Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin will open in late summer 2021.

The new city precinct with the Schlüterhof and the Passage will be accessible 24 hours a day from 17 December 2020. Artists from Berlin’s international communities will use the Schlüterhof’s façades for large-format video projections and its portals for sound installations. For the first time, visitors will be able to experience presentations on the history of the site in the cellar and on the ground floor of the Palace and presentations on the brothers Humboldt, the Forum’s namesakes, in the Passage.

Normal Operation Begins in March 2021

At the end of March 2021, normal operation will commence with an expanding selection of events and education and outreach programming. In addition, there are plans for the first artistic commissions and collaborations, an all-ages family programme, plus productions and programmes associated with the collections and exhibitions. The programme will be complemented by discussion formats, artistic interventions, dance and film. A varied programme focused on education and research will commence when the workspaces on the first floor open with a weekend festival in April.
Education, Outreach and Research – Workspaces to Open From April 2021

Education, outreach and research are a core part of the Humboldt Forum’s activities. As such, a web of diverse offerings for groups and individual visitors extends across the entire building. Guided tours, talks, artistic, participatory and scientific projects, actions and workshops will make the Humboldt Forum an open, social, reflexive and discursive space for a diverse audience. One focus will be the workspaces, which will open with a festival weekend over several days on the Forum’s first floor – an education, outreach and event space covering around 1,000 square metres. In addition, our knowledgeable education and outreach staff will be on site prior to the opening of the workspaces. They are on hand to provide insights into the Humboldt Forum project and its core focuses, in particular the history and architecture of the building.

Ethnologisches Museum and Museum für Asiatische Kunst to Open in Late Summer 2021

With around 20,000 exhibits across 14,000 square metres on the second and third floors of the Humboldt Forum, the presentations of the globally significant non-European collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin provide a survey of the art and cultures of the world that spans epochs and continents.

In late summer 2021 the first part of the collection display will open: the western wing with its famous boats and buildings from Oceania, reconstructed Buddhist cave temples from regions around the Silk Road, the exhibition area focused on Japan with its tea house that visitors can enter, as well as parts of the African collection. At the end of 2021, the opening of the east wing will follow. Highlights include the collections from the central and southern Andes, the history of the Afro-Brazilian diaspora in the Amazon region, the art of the Khmer and the global diversity of Islam.

With exhibits and audio material from the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv, the collection display of the Ethnologisches Museum focuses equally on material and immaterial heritage. Among other things, it deals with the history of the collection, religious questions, contemporary art and the significance of artisanal techniques, rituals, forms of self-representation and the perspectives of Indigenous communities. In the process, the museum takes a critical approach to the legacy of colonialism and the role of Europe.

The Museum für Asiatische Kunst presents art and craft from the 5th century BC through to the present: East Asian painting, calligraphy and graphic arts, lacquerware and ceramics, art and culture from the Silk Road, South and Southeast Asian sculpture as well as Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist sculpture, plus Indian painting from the Mughal era.

Director Lars-Christian Koch said, “with the collection presentation of the two museums, we will occupy almost 14,000 square metres of the second and third floors – more than any other institution in the Humboldt Forum. Visitors can expect an engagement with the past and present cultures of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania of unprecedented scope. In addition to the history of the collection, religious questions and contemporary art, the focus will be on dialogues between cultures and a critical examination of the legacy of colonialism. We are also addressing these and other topics through a discussion series on the challenges faced by ethnological collections today.”

Terrible Beauty: Elephant – Human – Ivory, from 13 May to 24 October 2021

Ivory polarizes. As far back as 40,000 years ago, human beings used tusks to create the oldest known art objects. At the same time, ivory is today synonymous with injustice and violence, slavery and colonial exploitation. The programme – in cooperation with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Museum für Naturkunde and the National Museums of Kenya – aims to bring this complex history to life with a special exhibition, education and outreach programmes and artistic events.

The goal is to show the tensions between the cultural-historical significance of ivory with natural-historical aspects and the socio-ecological consequences of its use. Thus the exhibition creates links to the objects from the collection of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst and broadens the contexts in which they can be viewed.

Visitor Information

Opening hours

• 17 December 2020 to 3 January 2021 (closed on 24 and 31 December)
• 4 January to 26 March 2021: Thursday to Sunday
• 27 March to 31 August: Wednesday to Monday


Time-slot tickets for the free collection displays can be booked from the beginning of December 2020 via the website. Tickets for the exhibition Berlin Global, special exhibitions, events, guided tours and other activities at the Humboldt Forum can also be booked.


From 17 December 2020 one shop will be open in the Passage and one at Portal 3.


The “Lebenswelten” bistro on the ground floor will be open from 17 December 2020.

Publications and Digital Media

To mark the opening in December 2020, the Stiftung Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace is publishing the following books:

  • The Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace, Prestel, 248 pages, 49 Euro: an opulent illustrated volume on the building, with an emphasis on its construction
  • Humboldt Forum: A Short Guide, Prestel, 96 pages, 9 Euro: an overview of the contents of the Humboldt Forum and the participating institutions
  • History of the Site: Exhibition Guide, Prestel, 184 pages, 15 Euro: a companion focussing on the history of the site and the historical centre of Berlin
  • Vom Kloster zum Humboldt Forum: 700 Jahre Geschichte und Architektur: Ein Buch zum Tasten, Sehen und Hören, inclusive design, 19.90 Euro: an inclusively designed tactile book with audio descriptions on the history of the site

In addition to these publications, visitors will have access to media stations, visitor guides and further digital content.

One Building, Four Partners

Inspired by its namesakes Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt and the delight they took in exploring the world with open eyes and comprehending it as an interwoven system of nature and culture, the Humboldt Forum is emerging as a new site of inquiry, learning and encounters. One building, four partners. The multiplicity of voices this implies is already present in the cooperation of the four partner institutions. They are: the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kulturprojekte Berlin and Stadtmuseum Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss