The Price to Build Herzog & de Meuron’s New Modern Art ‘Barn’ Museum in Berlin Has More Than Doubled From Its Initial Estimate of €200 Million

The museum will present works from Germany's state collections that have long been languishing in storage.

A rendering of Museum der Moderne in Berlin. © Herzog & de Meuron.
A rendering of Museum der Moderne in Berlin. © Herzog & de Meuron.

The opening date for Berlin’s planned Museum der Moderne is still a long way off, but the project has already become a lot more expensive.

During a budgetary meeting with members of German parliament, the country’s culture minister, Monika Grütters, more than doubled the estimated bill for the “first-class museum” to more than €450M.

Initially, the German government budgeted €200 million for the new museum of 20th century art, but it will now be on the hook for €364.2 million. There will be further costs as well: €52.2 million will be tacked on for projected increases in construction costs and another €33.8 million will go towards managing various building risks, according to the daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. The total amount is now €450.2 million euros and builders are set to break ground in the coming weeks.

The museum, which is being designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and is due to be completed in 2026, has been polarizing from the start. Critics have called the design a nice-looking “barn” that recalls Europe’s discount grocery market chains.

Others have commended the designers for creating a striking, low-profile museum that does not overshadow the surrounding architecture, which includes Mies van der Rohe’s slender Neue Nationalgalerie, the muscular and modern gold-topped Philharmonie, and the historic stone church of St. Matthew.

At a press conference in Berlin Tuesday morning, architect Jacques Herzog noted the complexities of the site and argued that, through an integrated design, “the museum becomes part of life in the square.”

Officials seem tired of the debate. “We are now embarking on a path of clarity and we are looking forward to a spectacular house with which we can catch up internationally,” said Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, in a statement issued Tuesday.

For years, many of the works in the 20th-century collections of Germany’s state museums have languished in storage because there has been no space to present them.

“Our collection has at least tripled since the 1960s due to the merging of the collections from East and West, due to numerous acquisitions and donations, but it [has been] torn apart, spread across many locations and, for reasons of space, can only be seen in excerpts,” says Joachim Jäger, director of the Neue Nationalgalerie, whose all-glass exterior is under long-term maintenance. “With the new building, it will be possible to experience the art of the 20th century from Max Beckmann to Bruce Nauman, from Kurt Schwitters to Jason Rhoades as a continuum.”

Gerhard Richter has also announced that he will be handing over works to the museum once it is completed, making it best place to see works by the famous German painter. He broke that news shortly after saying that he would not be establishing a museum in his hometown of Cologne.


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