The provocative 64-year-old, known as “Dr. Death” in Germany, is infamous for inventing a process for transforming the bodies of people and animals into plasticised pieces for his Body Worlds shows. Von Hagens, who dresses a bit like an 19th century undertaker, caused a stir last year in Berlin, where his show “The Cycle of Life" featured dissected corpses having sex.
Now, after 15-months of renovations, von Hagens is opening the doors to his “Plastinarium” in the town of Guben in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. He called the facility a “valuable contribution to medical education, enlightenment and the advancement of health” in a statement.
In addition to offering hundreds of jobs to locals in the town of 20,000, the Plastinarium will be a place for doctors, students and healers to conduct research, a spokeswoman said.
Von Hagens also plans to offer courses in plastination, in addition to renting out the exhibition space for weddings and parties amid the preserved corpses.
Meanwhile a special shop for medical professionals will sell both human and animal plastinate cross sections. A human lower-leg section will begin at €80, cranial sections will be a steep €1,500, and full-body plastinate cross sections are priced at a whopping €11,000.
Those not willing to pay quite as much can purchase life-sized photographs of the plastinates.
Many critics have accused von Hagens of exploiting the dead, though all of his subjects have donated their bodies to the plastinator. But local parish priest Michael Domke said that his church would not protest the Plastinarium's reopening as it did in 2006 for fear of increasing publicity.
“We're not saying anything,” he said.
Meanwhile Guben mayor Klaus-Dieter Hübner said the revamped facility was a valuable addition to the town economy.
“With 220 employees the Plastinarium is an important employer in the city and has also become an important economic factor,” he said, explaining that thousands of tourists and visitors were expected to descend on Guben following the opening.