The unique collections of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (under the aegis of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) will constitute a particular highlight of the Humboldt Forum.
Together with the other SMB collections on Museum Island, they will offer a comprehensive overview of the world’s art and cultures that spans the ages as well as the continents. Spread over more than 17,000 square meters on the second and third floors of the Humboldt Forum, the museums will present objects from their archaeological, ethnological and art-historical collections together with an extensive array of photographs, films and sound recordings. Modular exhibition units enhance flexibility, thus facilitating the inclusion of new research findings and viewpoints on current social issues. Exhibition modules, temporary exhibition spaces, visible storage cases, areas for young visitors and action rooms will ensure that the future Humboldt Forum will be a vibrant setting not only for visitors large and small with a thirst for knowledge about the world, but also for art and culture enthusiasts.
The Ethnologisches Museum (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) in the Humboldt Forum will offer visitors the chance to embark on an inspirational voyage around the globe, one that promises to open up new perspectives on the past and present cultures of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific. The Ethnologisches Museum also intends to scrutinize and critically assess the legacy and consequences of colonial rule and the role played by Europe. Globalization is far from being a modern-day phenomenon. The bonds between continents date back centuries, if not millennia. In metropolises such as Berlin, people from all over the world live in close proximity. As a result, questions pertaining to “centre” and “periphery” have to be redefined. The museum’s goal is to stimulate interest in interaction and intercultural encounters and to promote a deeper understanding among the peoples of the world.
In the Humboldt Forum, the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) will present selected works from its collection from the perspective of the social context in which they were created, while juxtaposing them with contemporary art from around the world. The museum’s rich collection of Asian art and craft objects dating from the 5th millennium BCE through to the present day includes East Asian paintings and prints, lacquer objects and ceramics, the art and culture of the Silk Road, South Asian and South-East Asian art, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures as well as more recent Indian paintings. Many of the treasures in the museum’s collection, which numbers 30,000 items in total, are to be on show in the Humboldt Forum in an area measuring more than 6,000 square metres, with exhibitions supplemented by study collections. The focus will be placed on relationships and contexts; the artists will be presented in the social settings in which they worked, and archaeological and craft objects will be shown in their original cultural milieu. The curators also aim to emphasize larger regional trends, such as the mutual influences between South Asian and East Asian art via the conduit of Central Asia, or the significance of contemporary Asian art on the international stage. Far from merely acting as a window on a distant, foreign world, the museum will become a place where visitors can actively engage with Asian art, partaking in its past and its present, its originality and its place in the world.
The Humboldt Lab Dahlem (2012–2015) provided impulses for the exhibition planning of the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, for the future Humboldt Forum. This program, by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, which was realized with the support of numerous participants, comprised around 30 projects, in which visitors could participate in seven rehearsal stages at the Dahlem Museums. Documentation on the exhibitions, interventions, symposia and workshops are accessible online and available as a comprehensive document. In addition, the publication "The Laboratory Concept", which is available at bookstores, provides a detailed insight into the work of the Humboldt Lab.