Police are investigating an attack that caused extensive damage to more than 60 works of art and artifacts displayed at three locations on Berlin’s Museum Island and whose motivation is a mystery.
Unidentified suspects had splashed an oily liquid around the museums during opening hours on October 3, Carsten Pfohl of Berlin’s criminal police told a news conference.
The damaged exhibits include Egyptian sarcophagi, stone sculptures and 19th-century paintings held at the Pergamon Museum, the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie, according to local media reports that broke the news of the attack on Tuesday night.
“For the state museums it is the greatest damage to objects that has been caused by a single act,” Christina Haak, deputy director general at the Berlin State Museums, told a joint news conference.
She did not put a figure on the extent of the damage but said that objects that are owned by the state are not insured.
There was no indication that the attack related to a certain ideological or political background as “a large number of different objects that are not directly related to each other” were damaged, said Pfohl, adding: “One does not recognize any propaganda.”
The public had not been informed to enable police to investigate discreetly, he said.
The splashed liquid was oily but not corrosive and the museum’s top exhibits are not affected, said Friederike Seyfried, the director of Berlin’s Egyptian collection, which is housed in the Neues Museum.
Restoration work has begun and will take a while.
More than 3,000 people visited the Museum Island on October 3, Germany’s national holiday, and about 1,400 of them with online tickets had been contacted to ask whether they had noticed anything untoward, Pfohl said.
The attacks, which could have been carried out with a water pistol or a concealed spray bottle, were not visible on surveillance cameras.