Bridging Cultures Together

Alwaleed Philanthropies Global and the Museum für Islamische Kunst at Berlin’s Pergamonmuseum open doors to newly refurbished galleries and launch digital platform to enhance access and understanding of Islamic art

Alwaleed Philanthropies Global, chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Museum für Islamische Kunst (Museum for Islamic Art) in the Pergamonmuseum have opened the doors to eight newly refurbished galleries as part of the first phase of works. As part of the re-opening of the galleries, Alwaleed Philanthropies Global and the museum also announced a series of projects focused on enhancing the knowledge and understanding of Islamic and Middle Eastern art; including the digital platform 'islamic-art.smb.museum', a ‘New Approaches to Islamic Art’ symposium and the continuation of the Multaka Project.

The launch event, held in partnership with Friends of the Museum for Islamic Art Association, on the 20th May at the Museum für Islamische Kunst, united the art, academic and political communities to celebrate the launch of the galleries; as well as jointly envision how art and culture can contribute to the public perception of diversity and Islamic art history. Guided tours were provided by Multaka guides, an initiative which provides opportunities for persons with migration or refugee experience from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as tour guides. Since its launch, the Multaka project at the Museum für Islamische Kunst has expanded into an international network that consists of 29 cultural institutions across Europe and more than 140 guides and volunteers.

With support from Alwaleed Philanthropies Global, the Museum für Islamische Kunst has undertaken significant changes and modernisation in its permanent exhibition to enhance diversity and access. This includes a new holistic and sensory experience, allowing visitors to hear and smell unique museum pieces.

The newly refurbished galleries also include a 3D model display of the full exhibits at the museum when they open in 2026; which have been co-designed with Alwaleed Philanthropies Global and were unveiled at the event. When complete, the galleries will offer visitors an immersive and atmospheric experience with adults and children invited to explore the collection with all their senses through tactile objects, media stations, games, sounds and scents.

The event also marked the official launch of ‘islamic-art.smb.museum’, an online platform that brings to life the Museum für Islamische Kunst and is accessible for teachers, students, and the wider public to further the education of Islamic art and heritage. The platform allows people to pass through a 360° virtual tour, as well as download teaching materials and access more information about the art and exhibits.

Attending the event, HRH Princess Lamia bint Majed Saud Al Saud, Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies Global, commented: “Museums have a significant influence on shaping the perceptions of cultural identities, making them vital to building more understanding and tolerant communities. Our work with the Pergamonmuseum is playing an important international role in exploring the possibilities to make Islamic art and cultural history more accessible to the wider public and continuing to build cultural bridges to serve all within our communities.

“We are pleased to be extending our support for the Multaka program here in Berlin. Since we began our support in 2018, it is inspirational to see the positive impact that it has had on the lives of refugees and immigrants living here in Berlin, who are playing a crucial role in helping to develop deeper cultural understanding of the Islamic world.”

Alwaleed Philanthropies Global entered a partnership with the Pergamonmuseum in 2018, announcing more than €9million of funding to support the refurbishment of the Museum für Islamische Kunst and its galleries. As well as improving the visitor experience, the partnership is also focused on increase cultural understanding by supporting education programs and raising public awareness, alongside helping to train refugees as tour guides at the museum through the Multaka program.

Professor Stefan Weber, Director of the Museum für Islamische Kunst, commented on the event: “Today is an important moment as we complete the first phase of refurbishments to the Museum für Islamische Kunst, a four-year journey that could only have been possible with the support of Alwaleed Philanthropies who have supported our vision. The funding support provided has enabled the museum to enlarge the team in order to develop cutting edge media platforms and educational program.

“The ongoing success of Multaka, now in many museums across Europe, is fundamental to our core belief: that the migration of ideas, techniques and people is the mother of all cultures. Islamic culture over the centuries has influenced the societies that we live in today, be it in the Middle East or in Europe.”

Museums have a significant influence on shaping the perceptions of cultural identities, making them vital to building more understanding and tolerant communities.

The Saudi Museums Commission partakes in this global event by showcasing the Kingdom’s efforts in supporting Islamic arts and enhancing its role in serving the concepts of tolerance, acceptance, and cooperation, in addition to lending unique Islamic art pieces that will be displayed in the museum at a future date.

During the event, a symposium was held under the theme of ‘New Approaches to Islamic Art’, inviting insights from Silke Ackermann, Director at the History of Science Museum, Oxford, Stefano Carboni, CEO of the Museums Commission of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, Wendy Shaw, Professor of World Arts and Art History of Islamic cultures, and Professor Stefan Weber, Director of the Museum für Islamische Kunst.

Bachar Almohammad Alchahine, tour Guide from the Multaka Project added: "My experience as a guide in Multaka was rich and distinguished, as I was a cultural activist. Through this, I was able to spread the message of art, culture and heritage, which is a global language to build bridges between all the civilized peoples with different cultural backgrounds. The language of art and culture is the bridge that unites us to spread the concept of tolerance and world peace. Especially in this world where there is too much conflict."

The Museum für Islamische Kunst in the Pergamonmuseum is the only one of its kind in Germany and is home to almost 100,000 artifacts, making it the largest in Europe. The museum is located on Museumsinsel Berlin (Museum Island Berlin), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where it attracts almost one million visitors a year.