The Humboldt Forum: Collection Displays and Exhibitions of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst are now fully open

Humboldt Forum

Another milestone has been reached for the Humboldt Forum with the collection displays of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum and Museum für Asiatische Kunst being opened to the public in the east wing on 17 September 2022. The newly opened sections include the rooms on North, Central and South America, along with the second part of the collection display on Asia and Africa, with highlights such as the sections on the global diversity of Islam or the Kingdom of Benin. To celebrate the opening, visitors are invited to a 24-hour programme.

After a digital opening in December 2020 and the gradual opening of the temporary exhibitions and the first part of the collection displays in the west wing in summer and autumn 2021, the Humboldt Forum is now fully open. In addition to major holdings which until five years ago were on display in Berlin-Dahlem, there are also numerous objects which are being presented for the first time. Some 20,000 exhibits are on display and being presented from different angles in over 40 exhibition modules across more than 16,000 square metres of exhibition space. They offer a fascinating overview of the arts and cultures of the world across epochs and continents.

Numerous Highlights in Newly Opened Exhibition Spaces

A traditional meeting house (bai) from Palau, a Fijian double-hulled boat (drua), the famous golden cacique of the pre-Columbian Quimbaya, and the monumental Cotzumalhuapa steles from present-day Guatemala are among the stand-out exhibits. Examples of the art of the Khmer include historical casts of the reliefs of the Angkor Wat temple complex with scenes of heaven and hell, which stretch 23 metres across the gallery. The spectacular reconstruction of the Buddhist “Cave of the Ring-Bearing Doves” gives visitors an impression of the religious architecture along the Northern Silk Road.

In the exhibition segments on the global diversity of Islam, visitors encounter a rare Iranian Dervish robe from the 19th century as well as showcases with displays arranged by mosque congregations in Berlin. Two galleries are devoted to art from the historical Kingdom of Benin. On view are historical works which used to be part of the Berlin collections and remain in Berlin on loan after having been recently returned to Nigeria. The famous “Bronzes” are juxtaposed with contemporary art from Nigeria. This presentation has been conceived together with Nigerian partner institutions, and will be further developed together in the coming years.

At various points, the exhibitions include contemporary artistic interventions which directly relate to the collections or are the result of engagement with them. The large-scale installation Codex Humboldt Fragment 1 / Codex Azoyú Reverso by Mexican artist Mariana Castillo Deball, for example, visualises the contents of two major Meso-American illuminated manuscripts from the 16th century using 320 ceramic plates.

Exhibits from the North American Omaha and Haida, the Indian Naga, questions about objects from Tanzania, and a presentation of sculptures from Africa, Asia and Europe provide insights into different societies and their cultural practices.

Provenance Research at the Humboldt Forum

In addition to presenting current, cooperative research on the objects as well as new exhibition and education concepts, the museums also address the history of their own collections and current postcolonial issues. Critical reappraisal of the objects’ provenances and acquisition contexts as well as their embeddedness in colonial history are part of the narrative in the Humboldt Forum and will continue to inform future work with the collections. The Humboldt Forum’s varied programming also contributes to this, focusing not just on exhibitions but also featuring educational and scholarly components, as well as events on the central theme of colonialism and coloniality.

Numerous components offer visitors opportunities to learn more about to the provenance of the objects in the collections of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst. For example, an accompanying booklet (PDF, 6 MB) looks at the complexity and challenges of provenance research based on selected collection contexts and objects and explains why it is important to research the origin of the pieces together with representatives of their communities of origin, and how to go about this. And during guided tours on the subject, visitors can strike up a conversation with the provenance researchers themselves.

24-Hour Opening Programme

The official opening of the new exhibition spaces kicks off at midday on 17 September with a 24-hour programme. At noon sharp, the first exhibition talks, performances, drop-ins, workshops, and film talks will start. Through guided tours, discussions, performances, and many other formats, international experts and curators will share personal, in-depth insights into the displays. The party will go on all night in the Schlüterhof with the Sauer Power club night of the Slavs and Tatars artists’ collective. The 100-plus different events and activities are free of charge and do not require advanced booking.