The German government will foot the bill for a 351 million-euro ($420 million) restoration of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, home to ancient relics including the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
Situated on Museum Island at the center of Berlin, the Pergamon was completed in 1930 and suffered damage in World War II. It drew 877,000 visitors in 2004, making it the second- busiest museum in the German capital after the Neue Nationalgalerie art museum near Potsdamer Platz.
A government committee chose a plan by architect Oswald Mathias Ungers for the museum's facelift, which will begin in 2011. Ungers designed the German Architectural Museum in Frankfurt and the German ambassador's residence in Washington.
``Now the more detailed planning for the restoration and completion of the Pergamon can begin,'' Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said in a statement. ``The building work will take place in stages so that during the construction different parts of the museum can remain accessible to the public.''
The government is providing a total of about 1 billion euros in financing for the restoration of the five museums on the island in the River Spree and aims to finish the work by 2015. The second of the five to be completed, the Bode Museum, is set to reopen in the middle of this year with a permanent exhibition of works from antiquity to the 18th century.
The first museum to be restored, the Alte Nationalgalerie, was finished in 2001. It houses 19th-century German art and hosts exhibitions including last year's Goya show, which drew more than 200,000 visitors. The next on the renovation list is the partially ruined Neues Museum, set for completion in 2008.
The Pergamon houses Greek and Roman architecture, art and sculptures as well as oriental treasures from the palaces and temples of the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian regions.
... so how long will it be before demands are made for repatriation of the Altar or the Gate?