BERLIN -- For the first time in decades, Berlin's Neues Museum opened to the public on Saturday, following a $298 million reconstruction led by British architect David Chipperfield. A WWII bombing left much of the building in ruins and most of its treasured fine art and artifacts spent years tucked away in storage. "70 years after it was closed, this building can be handed over to the public again," said Hermann Parzinger, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.
The Neues Museum's "complete reconstruction" has drawn its share of criticism from some traditionalists, who petitioned for a redesign more faithful to architect Friedrich August Stueler's original building. Most Berliners, though, are pleased with the new museum, so much so that over 35,000 people lined up for over three days in March for a sneak preview.
The centerpiece of the museum is a limestone and stucco bust of Queen Nefertiti, circa 1340 B.C. Egyptian antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, recently alleged that the bust left his country illegally and demanded its return. But German officials are adamant that documents exist showing the artifact belongs where it is, as the Neues Museum's most famous resident. The Nefertiti relic was discovered on the banks of the Nile in 1912 by German archaeologist, Ludwig Borchardt, who wrote: "Words cannot describe it; you just have to look at it."
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Queen Nefertiti's Home, a Ruin for 70 Years, Opens in Berlin | Bloomberg
Egypt Demans Return of Nefertiti Statue | New York Times