Rising Star Hartmut Dorgerloh Is Appointed Director of Berlin’s Massive Humboldt Forum Museum Project

The incoming director takes the helm of one of the most ambitious and expensive cultural projects in Europe.

Hartmut Dorgerloh, general director of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation (SPSG), attends a press conference on June 24, 2010 in Potsdam near Berlin. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Hartmut Dorgerloh has been appointed director of Berlin’s Humboldt Forum, one of the most ambitious and expensive museum projects in Europe. The 55-year-old art historian replaces founding director Neil MacGregor, the former British Museum director who has guided the project since 2015, on June 1.

Once complete, the €595 million ($630.9 million) museum will house Berlin’s ethnological and Asian art collections in a reconstructed version of the German capital’s 16th-century city palace that once served as the residence of the Kings of Prussia an the German Emperors. The original building was razed by the communist East German government in the 1950s after sustaining heavy damage during World War II. It is now being rebuilt from scratch and is scheduled to open at the end of 2019.

The incoming director made a name for himself as a talented fundraiser during his tenure as head of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, which he has led since 2002. According to the Art Newspaper, he successfully raised €400 million ($472 million) from the German government to refurbish significant UNESCO world heritage sites including Berlin’s Charlottenburg Palace, Potsdam’s Sanssouci Palace, and the Cecilienhof Palace.

The construction site of the Berliner Schloss city palace. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

When nominating Dorgerloh in March, Germany’s culture minister Monika Grütters described the incoming director as an excellent communicator who “has a wide international network, is highly respected, and has proven that he knows how to transpose multifaceted historical issues into exemplary exhibitions and events for a broad public.”

Even though Berliner Zeitung reported that Grütters had initially hoped to attract incoming Metropolitan Museum of Art director and star executive Max Hollein for the job, local papers largely supported Dorgerloh’s appointment. They cited his familiarity with the particularities of Berlin’s art scene, his management acumen, and his track record of dealing with competing political interests as important points in his favor.

Dorgerloh will need to draw on this skill set immediately: The Humboldt Forum’s highly complex management structure encompasses four government ministries, the German parliament, and the city’s foundations for buildings and culture. Recently, Grütters requested an additional €3.7 million ($4.4 million) for Berlin’s Humboldt Forum in Germany’s annual budget.

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