Kunstgewerbemuseum - Museum of Decorative Arts
The Museum of Decorative Arts at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz will be closed from 5 May 2008 until winter 2009.
website of the Museum of Decorative Arts
newspaper article (german) about the museums´ future
The Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) is one of the oldest of its kind in Germany. It possesses one of the most important collections of skilled craftsmanship. The museum can be found at two sites: Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz and Schloss Köpenick (Köpenick Palace).
This museum collects works of skilled craftsmanship ranging from post-antiquity to the present. It encompasses all the styles and periods in art history and includes silks and costumes, tapestries, decorative wainscots and furniture, vessels made of glass, enamel and porcelain, works in silver and gold as well as contemporary crafts and design objects. Most of the materials involved are of great value. Many items were commissioned by representatives of the church, the royal court and members of the aristocracy.
A tour of the spacious building at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz takes visitors through 7,000 square metres of exhibition room revealing the historical development and great variety of applied arts and crafts from the Middle Ages through to Art Nouveau and up to the present day.
Treasures from medieval churches, including the famous Guelph Treasure (Welfenschatz) and the "Baptismal font of Emperor Barbarossa" illustrate the excellent skills of goldsmiths at that time, as does the representational silverware which once belonged to councillors of the wealthy town of Lüneburg.
On the ground floor the highly sophisticated lifestyle at the courts of Italian nobles during the Renaissance is highlighted with examples of bronzes, tapestries, furniture, Venetian glass and decorated glazed earthenware (majolica). The upper floor is reserved for the treasures from cabinets of curiosities and baroque art collections: faience work and glass from central European courts as well as the homes of patricians, Meissen and Berlin porcelain, sophisticated pieces of furniture, decorative tableware and accessories ranging from rococo and classicism to historicism and Art Nouveau.
The lower ground floor contains the so-called "New Collection" where arts and crafts of the twentieth century are complemented by examples of industrial products which are far more dominant in modern life than hand-made objects.
History of the Museum of Decorative Arts
Berlin's Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) opened in 1868 with donations from the World Fair. Its original name was "Deutsches-Gewerbe-Museum zu Berlin". The founders aimed to develop the taste of artisans, industrial designers and the general public by means of the exhibition and an accompanying educational programme.
Within a few decades the museum developed into one of the most important collections of applied art in Europe. The basis was formed by the purchase of the Councillors' Silver from Lüneburg (1874) and the acquisition of almost 7,000 items from the Royal Art Collection (1875). In 1879 the collection received its present name: the Kunstgewerbemuseum.
In 1881 the museum acquired its own premises in the Martin Gropius Building which provided space for numerous special collections of goldsmithery, ceramics, glassware and textiles. They were arranged to give a chronological panorama of the history of interior design from the late Middle Ages to contemporary times.
In 1921 the museum moved to a section of Berlin's City Palace where its possessions were united with those of the former royal household under the new name of "Palace Museum". After the Second World War the buildings lay in ruins and the collections were divided.
The items in the east of the city found their permanent home at Schloss Köpenick (Köpenick Palace) in 1963, while those in the west of the city were temporarily accommodated in Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace). In 1985 they were moved to the newly built museum at the Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz. Since the reunification of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) the two sections of the Museum of Decorative Arts have acted in close co-operation and made mutual exchanges to improve the quality of each collection.
In recent years the collection got a new main focus due to the acquisition of the two collections of costumes "Kamer/Ruf" (fashion and accessoires from the 18th to 20th century) and "Uli Richter".
The building of the Museum of Decorative Arts at the Kulturforum belongs to the group of museums around the "piazzetta", all of them specialised on the presentation of European art in different crafts.
In 1967 the architect Rolf Gutbrod had been assigned to plan and build the whole Centre for European Art including the Museum of Decorative Arts (completion in 1985) but already during its building phase there was a lot of criticism towards Gutbrod´s designs ("brutalistic architecture", "concrete bunker"). Because of that Gutbrod was not allowed to realise the other buildings and in the following they were newly planned by the architects office "Hilmer & Sattler".
In 2004 the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung) organized an architectural competition in order to find better solutions to the design of the Museum of Decorative Arts, as well. The architects office "Kühn & Malvezzi" was awarded first prize.