The building is the new home of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, an anthropological museum specializing in non-European cultures, and includes an extension to the neighbouring Schnütgen Museum for medieval European art.
Georg Quander, head of the culture department for Cologne, called this weekend's opening the city's most important cultural event of the year. The building enhances what is known as the cultural quarter of the Neumarkt district, which includes the central library, the Architecture House and the St. Peter's Kunst-Station – a music and art venue.
Quander blamed the protracted planning and construction of the new project on the complicated political and economic conditions in the city. The new building fills in what was infamously called the 'Cologne Hole,' after a much-loved Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle gallery was pulled down in 2002 despite protests from across Germany's art community.
The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum takes a thematic, rather than a traditional geographical approach to its exhibition of ancient cultures from around the world. The Schnütgen Museum, meanwhile, has gained considerable extra space in the new building, and now also includes the Cäciliengarten, which offers a chance to explore the plant word of the Middle Ages.
Entry is free for the opening weekend.