Berlin’s $700 Million Humboldt Forum Art Center Has Been Delayed—Again—as Foreign Construction Workers Are Unable to Return to Work

The museum has faced repeated setbacks in recent years.

The construction site around the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/ZB. Photo by Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images.
The construction site around the Humboldt Forum in Berlin. Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/ZB. Photo by Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images.

The opening of the perpetually beleaguered Humboldt Forum in Berlin, which was scheduled to take place in September after a spate of delays over the past several years, has now been postponed indefinitely due to logistical issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The ambitious project, which has been mired in controversy since its inception, was already set back just weeks ago when an accidental fire broke out on its construction site.

Now, travel restrictions have made it difficult for foreign construction workers to return to Germany following the Easter holiday, leaving the site in a state of partial limbo.

“Although work on the Humboldt Forum has continued over the past weeks and months despite the coronavirus crisis, only 70 to 75 percent of the workforce was available due to travel restrictions and quarantine rules,” a spokesperson tells Artnet News, noting that the latest delay was unrelated to the fire in April.

Smoke billows from a portion of the new Berliner Schloss construction site. The fire was not the cause for the new delay. Photo: Konrad Miller/Getty Images.

The spokesperson also said that it is “impossible to predict what kinds of restrictions” will need to be placed on museum visitors as the country’s institutions begin to reopen.

The Humboldt Forum’s special opening exhibition, “Terrible Beauty,” which presents artworks made from ivory and was planned in collaboration with the National Museum of Kenya, has also been postponed indefinitely.

While the opening of the museum’s galleries will no longer happen this fall, the spokesperson says some areas, including a restaurant, a museum shop, and a gallery devoted to this history of the site, where the Berlin Palace used to sit, could open before the end of the year.

The $700 million, 183,000-square-foot Humboldt Forum is due to hold the collections of Berlin’s Asian Art Museum and Ethnological Museum, two of the Berlin State Museums. The ambitious project—on the scale of the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris—has ignited an intense debate in Germany on the subject of the restitution of objects acquired during Germany’s colonial era.


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