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The ‘German Louvre’ just opened in Berlin – but not everyone’s happy

The Humboldt Forum has finally opened its doors, after years of delays and some pretty massive protests

Sophie Dickinson
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Sophie Dickinson

It’s been beset by delays, overspending and some pretty massive protests. But finally, after nearly 20 years of building work, Berlin’s Humboldt Forum is now open to the public.

The culture and science museum was conceived as a big, blockbuster equivalent to the Louvre or British Museum. But the opening has been seen as a controversial addition to the German capital’s museum landscape.

Campaigners have questioned the value of a museum that houses looted objects from the country’s colonial past. Next year, most of Germany’s collection of Benin Bronzes are to be returned to Nigeria. Thousands of other ethnological artefacts, however, continue to make up the Humboldt’s collection.

Curators have opened with a punchy first exhibition, too. Titled ‘Terrible Beauty’, the show contains 40,000 years’ worth of ivory artefacts. Presented as examples of ‘gift, commodity and plunder’, it aims to wrangle with humanity’s relationship with animal matter. Reviews, so far, have been pretty mixed.

The building’s history is itself pretty storied, as – deep breath – it sits in the footprints of fifteenth-century royal palace the Berliner Schloss on Museum Island. That was demolished in 1950 to make way for East Germany’s parliament, which was itself knocked down after reunification and rebuilt in the style of the original palace.

Still following? Well, the city’s heritage officials have combined the old-style façade with a modern interior, so it’s now a combination of Baroque ceilings and sleek minimalism. 

A German newspaper described it as, er, looking like an insurance office. It seems like the Humboldt will remain a contentious part of Berlin’s culture scene for years to come. 

After an educational day out in the German capital? These are the ten absolute best museums in Berlin according to us.

Plus: here are the 16 best things to do in Berlin right now.

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