Ordinarily, this is the season for spending lots of time indoors in museums and galleries, exploring new exhibitions and shows. As that obviously can’t happen at the moment I thought I would share some 2021 museum openings from around the world that I’m most excited about, as well as some culture fixes you can have from home.
We are living in very uncertain times for the arts, with a whole tonne of cultural venues permanently shutting their doors in the past year. What’s clear though is that museums and galleries (and theatres) have provided culture lovers with solace in dark times.
We should support them in whatever way we can.
(Re) Openings to plan future holidays around
These are just some of the museums and galleries opening or re-opening in 2021. In most cases, they have understandably been quite coy about exactly when they will open, so I suggest signing up to their newsletters or social channels if you want to receive announcements on opening dates directly.
March: Berlin’s Humboldt Forum
What they say
The Humboldt Forum is taking shape in the historical heart of Berlin as a unique place of inquiry and encounters. A place with a significant past. A place for the arts and sciences, for exchange, diversity and a multiplicity of voices. A place where differences come together.
Why I’m keen
Describing itself as a place for culture and science, exchange and debate, the Humboldt Forum, Berlin’s newest landmark, took down its hoarding in December so that Berliners could enjoy the architecture ahead of opening in March, and you can take a look inside now. Behind the curatorial-marketing jargon there seems to be a real attempt to foster new ideas across disciplines.
Not to miss
Its architecture – which would be hard to miss I think? The Humboldt Forum as an entity was made by reconstructing Baroque features from the Berlin Palace that stood on its site – bombed in 1945 and demolished in 1950 – pieced together with cavernous, contemporary spaces. A statement larger than words.
Exploring outside the building you’ll find gardens planted with 13,000 flowers and trees.
Spring: France’s Luma Arles
What they say
Luma Arles is a cultural centre dedicated to providing artists with opportunities to experiment in the production and presentation of new work in close collaboration with other artists, curators, scientists, innovators and audiences. The centrepiece of Luma Arles is the Arts Resource Centre designed by American architect Frank Gehry.
Why I’d like to visit
It brightened up my day just discovering the Luma Foundation website, let alone discovering their Luma Arles art project, which has been going since 2013, somewhat under the radar.
That all changes with their spring openings. It would be wonderful to explore the art, architecture and architectural landscape gardens in this UNESCO town.
Catching sight of the stunning Frank Gehry-designed arts centre (pictured above), a shimmering, magnetic presence within the complex, overlooking the new public park and gardens designed by Belgian landscape architect Bas Smets.
Also worth looking into, Luma Arles will be hosting photography festival Rencontres d’Arles, and the Les Suds world music festival every summer.
While you’re there, you’d also be next door to ancient Arles and its well-preserved Roman amphitheatre. And you might recognise more than a few of the surrounding landscapes from Van Gogh’s paintings…
Late spring: London’s Museum of the Home
What they say
Our purpose is to reveal and rethink the ways we live and think about home. The reimagined Museum will be a place for visitors to consider the ways we have lived in the past [and] explore creative ideas about new ways of living in, and looking at, the world today.
Why we should all want to go
Our idea of what home is and where it is has never been as important or integral to our everyday thinking and well-being as it has been in the past year.
The Museum of the Home (formerly called the Geffrye Museum) had been shut for renovations some time before the pandemic struck, but I imagine an analysis of 2020 and all that it has meant for our homes will feature prominently.
In fact, they are asking members of the public to share experiences for their Stay at Home project. It may sound like homework, especially if being at home has been a trial, but don’t psychologists say the best way to deal with bad memories is confront them head on?
New Home galleries with new stories, including that of Shirin who moved to London from the African island of Zanzibar and a man named Harry who lived in the same house in east London for most of his life, as did four other generations of his family – and Rusty the tortoise! I have a sneaking suspicion it’s the same Harry I met years ago when promoting a recreation of his house at Imperial War Museums London. He was in his nineties and still went bowling every week.
Gardens Through Time, an outdoor survey of city gardens from Elizabethan knots and Georgian rooms to modern roof gardens.
Summer: Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM)
What they say
The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) holds in trust for Egypt and the World a chronological statement for the ancient history of Egypt over the past 7000 years. Neighboring a timeless wonder, the Giza Pyramids, the new museum is to pay homage to eternal Ancient Egyptian monuments, treasures and history, hosting over 100,000 artifacts, about 3500 of which belong to the famous King Tutankhamun.
Why I want to go
GEM‘s plans to open have suffered years of delays (the Arab Spring, ensuing political turmoil, lack of funding and a global pandemic to name a few reasons), and 2021 seems quite an unlikely year to get to Cairo if they do at last launch, but this makes the prospect of the eventual opening all the more tantalising to me.
Probably the entire building and its contents?!
Of the 100,000 artefacts in its collection, GEM have picked out a few highlights beyond the statues, monuments and sarcophagi we all think about; an alabaster cosmetics jar from the New Kingdom (1570 – c1069 BC) adorned with a lion poking its tongue out (I bet it was a must-have item), a decorated gold dagger found on Tutankhamun; a Libyan tribute tablet carved with entrancing hieroglyphic patterns, dating to 3000 BC; a stela gravestone from the west banks of the Nile in Upper Egypt, still bright with colour 2,221 years on from the reign of King Ptolemy V, to whom it is dedicated.
The museum master plan shows there’ll be lots of terraces and gardens in the grounds (I like the sound of the Nile Valley Garden), and the panoramic views out to the Giza Pyramids are surely going to be phenomenal.
If you’re as keen as I am to get to this museum when it does eventually open, I recommend signing up to receive updates from this independent website, run by Egypt travel expert John Nicholson.
30th September: L.A.’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
What they say
When it opens, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be the world’s premier institution dedicated to the art and science of movies. Global in outlook and grounded in the unparalleled collections and expertise of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy Museum will offer exceptional exhibitions and programs that illuminate the world of cinema. The Academy Museum will tell complete stories of movie-making—celebratory, educational, and sometimes critical or uncomfortable.
Before even opening, the Academy Museum is a very slick operation, right down to the Rolex-sponsored countdown clock on the homepage announcing the days are left until the 30th September opening.
The building has architectural clout as well as the might of the Academy of Motion Pictures behind it; the designer is famous Italian architect Renzo Piano who has lots of form building fantastic museums and city landmarks.
2020 was the year no-one went to the cinema, so this opening is something film fans can be seriously excited about. The museum will have six floors of exhibition, education & cinematic spaces and they plan to hold regular screenings and live events throughout the year, making it a changing space, and no two visits quite the same.
Who doesn’t love a Hollywood ending, after all?
Autumn: Stockholm’s Vrak – Museum of Wrecks
What they say
On the bottom of the Baltic Sea lies much of the world’s greatest cultural heritage. It is time to bring these wrecks and finds to the surface in a new museum. With Vrak – Museum of Wrecks, we want to let visitors dive deep into the secrets of the Baltic Sea.
Why I want to go
I’ve visited Stockholm many times and their museums are always great – this one has the potential to be one of the most fascinating in the whole city.
Vrak – Museum of Wrecks will be situated on Djurgården Island, next door to the slightly bonkers Vasa Museum – the home of the preserved 17th Century warship that was so enormous it sank in Stockholm’s harbour before it saw any service. A crazy, royal shipbuilding fantasy that led to the death of 30 crew.
Unlike the Vasamuseet‘s more narrow focus, the Museum of Wrecks will bring together the work of all the naval museums in the city and show off the work of marine archaeologists who have been scouring Stockholm’s Archipelago and the Baltic Sea for decades looking for new shipwrecks.
And that’s how I found out about this project, when I saw the news in November 2019 of the Vasa’s two sister ships found in the water off of Vaxholm Island in Stockholm’s Archipelago.
The opportunity to learn about a vast underwater world – and crazy giant wrecked ships – through archaeology and technology. For now, here are some of the shipwrecks archaeologists have discovered in recent years.
From 2022 you may also be able to go diving with shipwrecks in one of several dive parks that are planned off the coast of Sweden’s Karlskrona region, south of Stockholm.
Get your culture fix from home
For culture vultures and procrastinators alike, scroll on for more art news and my picks of some great ways to re-acquaint yourself with museums anywhere in the world, from home.
- If you can access BBC iPlayer, I recommend watching the first episode of Secrets of the Museum which goes behind the scenes at the V&A in South Kensington. Available until the end of January, meet curators, staff and some of the 2m objects in the museum’s collections.
- Further afield, a museum I’d like to visit one day in Western Australia: the WA Museum Boola Bardip.
The museum is built on Aboriginal Whadjuk Nyoongar land, and the words Boola Bardip mean ‘many stories’ in the local language. Exploration of the importance of the land to its ancestors and present day custodians is a key part of the museum’s mandate. Learn a bit more about their permanent collections, or take a drone ride round the museum building (pictured above).
- As soon as it was announced I wanted to see the British Museum’s Arctic: Culture and Climate exhibition, but I haven’t been able to. It will be closed for the remainder of the run till 21st February, and I’m hopeful rather than optimistic that they might extend it.
Whether that happens or not, there is a lot of excellent online content to consume, from a curator tour of the exhibition to in-depth articles and recent online events you can stream for free. There are some upcoming climate change-themed in conversation events too.
- The premise of the book Treasure Palaces is simple; a group of great writers visit some great museums and write about them. Among the 24 chosen, author Roddy Doyle sweeps through the front door of the Tenement Museum in New York, columnist Ann Wroe recounts a soggy, marvellous day at poet William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in Cumbria and writer and MP Rory Stewart encounters perhaps one of the world’s most scarred museums, The National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul.
My brother bought me a copy a few years ago and I’ve only just started reading it – I’ve been missing out. It sadly seems to be out of print now, but you can get hold of copies (sorry to say it) on Amazon.
- The Bourse de Commerce is a Parisian contemporary art venue that’s been 20 years in the creating, so the postponement of its 23rd January ‘inauguration’ will be taken in its stride I’m sure.
It’s got insane amounts of money to thank for its inception (built to display French billionaire businessman François Pinault’s art collection), but I’m not going to be turning my nose up at it for that – better to have money in the arts than out! Scroll down on the gallery’s homepage and you can watch a time-lapse of the transformation and re-construction of the site of the centuries-old commodities / stock exchange into a €140m art gallery.
- Google being Google, their arts & culture hub (best viewed using the app) has umpteen virtual tours round some of the world’s most impressive museums (large and small) and famous heritage sites, plus stories behind the creation of iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, and artworks from around the world in high definition. Easy to lose a whole day on there, if that’s what you need / want right now.
Pick of the day: It’s Martin Luther Day today, marking the anniversary of his birthday on 15th January 1929, an extra reason to explore MLK’s life in 10 locations. It’s a partnership between LIFE, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and Google Street View.
- Somewhere in London that I’ve really missed getting a chance to know better is the Institute Français, home of Ciné Lumière. From 22nd – 29th January they’re hosting Night of Ideas online, with film screenings, in conversation events and debates. All answering this year’s theme, ‘together’.
On a side note, one of the most hilarious films I’ve ever seen was one I saw at Ciné Lumière, a French film called C’est La Vie (yes, really) about a wedding going wrong in just the most glorious and gorgeous way.