Art Market

An explosion rocked Berlin’s Humboldt Forum museum.

Justin Kamp
Apr 8, 2020 3:31PM, via New York Times

Smoke billows from the future home of the Humboldt Forum museum complex on April 8, 2020. Photo by Konrad Miller/Getty Images.

Berlin’s long-delayed Humboldt Forum museum was the site of a workplace accident Wednesday morning, when two tar cookers exploded, injuring one construction worker and sending up a plume of smoke, the New York Times reports. The accident, which blackened a façade of the museum, has caused further uncertainty regarding its opening, currently scheduled for September.

Construction on the museum began in 2013, and the nearly-$700-million project has since been plagued by delays and controversy. It was scheduled to open in 2019 with a major show centered around ivory artifacts, including works on loan from the Louvre and the Museum of Modern Art, but problems with the Humboldt Forum’s climate control system caused the institutions to rescind their loans, and the show was cancelled. The museum has also come under scrutiny for its possession of several hundred Benin Bronzes, with critics arguing that the works were seized improperly under colonial British rule of what is now Nigeria.

This latest accident compounds the stresses put on the institution, which was already facing uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While construction workers are deemed essential in Germany, the nationwide lockdown may affect attendance numbers come September. This is a problem faced by museums across the world—the Museum of Modern Art, which recently laid off educational staff due to forced closures, noted in an email that “it will be months, if not years, before we anticipate returning to budget and operations levels to require educator services.”

Justin Kamp