Accepted Paper:

The Museum of Asian Art in Berlin: From Prussian Heritage to World Museum  


Regina Hoefer (Bonn University)

Paper short abstract:

This lecture investigates the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin. It will show how the museum's history influenced its collection policies and examines the changing approaches over the time to col-lecting East Asian and South Asian artefacts.

Paper long abstract:

This lecture investigates the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin, which belongs to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. With objects dating back to the Brandenburgische Kunstkammer, the museum was founded as The Museum of East Asian Art in 1906 as the first of its kind in Germany. In 1963 it was joint by The Museum of Indian Art which form today the two departments of the museum. It emerged out of the Indian department of the Ethnological Museum, which was founded in 1873. A significant caesura will take place in 2019 when the museum will be integrated into the Humboldt-Forum in the heart of Berlin, where together with the collections of occidental cultural artefacts on the Museum Island, a global landscape of Western and non-Western artefacts will arise.

The lecture shows how this founding history is reflected in the museum's policies and objectives. It examines the changing approaches over the time to collecting Asiatica. Starting with Kunstkammer-exotica and the altered notions and evaluations of "high arts" and "decorative arts", the different approaches towards East Asian- and South Asian artefacts and their appraisal have shaped the Berlin museum. For example, the relatively early appreciation of the "non-religious" and "high arts" of East Asia by the academic discipline of art history and collectors in contrast to the "grotesque and monstrous" South Asian arts led to different museum policies. The future plan of the upcoming Humboldt-Forum transforms the cultures and arts of the world eventually into the 21st century.

Panel P006
Museums of Asian Arts outside Asia: Questioning Artefacts, Cultures and Identities