Berlin (dpa) – According to its managing director Hartmut Dorgerloh, the Berlin Humboldt Forum wants to face critical debates about its own work in the future.

The main topic is “dealing with colonialism and the continuing effects of imperial and colonial appropriation and exploitation of the world to this day,” Dorgerloh said on Monday, a day before the Center for Culture opened, art and science Tuesday. .

This is not only linked to the necessary debates on collections from colonial contexts. “Complex, painful and difficult subjects such as looted art, provenance research or restitution issues will very clearly shape the Humboldt Forum’s agenda.”

The debates are also fostered by the 680 million euro building by Italian architect Franco Stella behind the controversial facade of the reconstructed palace, which also represents the German colonial power. Tricks that ended up in museums in colonial conditions can be found under a cross on the dome with a biblical saying visible from afar, which demands the submission of all peoples to Christianity.

The approximately 40,000 square meter building is shared by two museums belonging to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the State of Berlin, the Humboldt University and the Humboldt Forum Foundation. Exhibitions from Asia, Africa, America, Oceania and Berlin are presented.

After the opening, initially postponed several times due to work and then due to the corona, and a digital prelude in December, the doors will now be unlocked in three stages. First, six exhibitions await visitors in the historic cellar, on the ground floor and on the first of three floors. An overview:

“Terribly beautiful. Elephant – human – ivory “

For Dorgerloh, the special exhibition of the Humboldt Forum Foundation is “a programmatic framework, even with a large subject that is difficult to open”. Along with the history of ivory, more than 200 objects are expected to show the connection to the cultural history of mankind. In media stations, for example, perspectives from the countries of origin of the ivory, from which the exhibits originate, are incorporated. Ivory is shown as a material, the use of the motif is placed in colonial contexts, presented as medicine or the ideal of beauty. The elephant hunting itself and the decline of the population with environmental consequences are also discussed.

“According to nature”

Humboldt University draws you into the smallest exhibition space. The interactive concept addresses the influence of human activity and economic systems on nature, the environment and resources. This is visualized, for example, through the projection of virtual schools of fish, which react very sensitively to the actions of visitors. In the main hall, display cases on mobile constructions combine the character of a laboratory with the impressions of a cabinet of curiosities. The objects presented establish relationships with current questions facing scientists connected to video. Everything takes place in front of a large projection surface which reacts to the respective themes. Scientific archives have also been prepared for the exhibition to provide in-depth information.

“Global Berlin”

The exhibition of the city museum and cultural projects allows a very active walk in “Berlin Global”. Between focal points such as revolution, free space, borders, fun, war, fashion or interdependence, a digital system allows decisions to be made on the respective subject. There is an evaluation of this at the end. Using Potsdamer Platz as an example, the change in open spaces is narrated; slowly moving walls open up new spaces or block old connections. There are no sensitive art treasures on the approximately 4000 square meters of the first floor; the rooms without a museum atmosphere were designed for a library. A very sturdy object represents the intricate connections of Berlin: the rusty steel door, the entrance to the “Treasure” club in the legendary party years after the fall of the wall, comes from the Wertheim department store expropriated by the Nazis.

“Traces. History of the place”

An exhibition like a voyage of discovery. In search of the very changing evolution of this square in the heart of Berlin, the foundation has disseminated 35 traces of the history of the site in the building: marshy meadow, district, Dominican monastery, Renaissance palace first then baroque, after the Second World. War, as well as the palace of the republic was removed due to asbestos. Stations and events of the respective phases can be reconstructed using exposures. In the so-called castle cellar, there are architectural references from centuries, a huge video panorama tells the story in digital version.

“Take place!”

For children and families, this exhibition focuses on the theme of sitting, which can be explored with historical works of art as well as installations in a playful spatial landscape. The seat is explored in a playful way, whether on a throne or between chairs, whether cross-legged or as a Buddha.

“Knowledge. The Humboldt Brothers”

The work of the namesake Alexander (1769-1859) and Wilhelm (1767-1835) von Humboldt, network thinking, curiosity and openness are revealed in the panels and on the windows of the passage that leads through the Forum Humboldt.

Ethnological Museum and Asian Art Museum

The approximately 14,000 square meters of the two museums occupy the entire second and third floors of the Humboldt Forum. The west wing will open in September, the east part in the second quarter of 2022. Then the Benin bronzes, controversial as colonial plundered goods, will also be presented. The museums in Germany and Nigeria as well as the political level are currently negotiating returns – also from next year.