A new gallery for the MKG

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) has now completed the renovation of an exhibition gallery on the central axis of the listed heritage building on Steintorplatz. The visitor enters the "Turnhalle" (gym), covering a floor area of 330 square metres, directly behind the entrance lobby, the line of sight takes in the central axis of the building and gives access to one of the inner courtyards via the terrace of the Spiegelsaal.  Visitors will be able to experience the gallery simply as a room in its own right, bathed in light through its 12 floor-to-ceiling windows, its historical arched construction and the original  wood-beamed ceiling from 5 till 31 July. The first exhibition which the MKG will hold in it starts on 2 September 2016 with sports/no sports, illustrating the reciprocal impacts of fashion and sportswear. Historical photographs show an imposing room which served in 1910 as the central exhibition gallery. The room, some six metres in height, was divided in the 1950s by a false ceiling. It has been possible to reverse this constructional alteration thanks to a generous donation of 500,000 euros from Christl and Dr. Michael Otto, so that we can once again admire the imposing dimensions of the room. The Federal Government also contributed 300,000 euros from its Heritage Protection Programme V.  The  Stiftung Denkmalpflege Hamburg made 200,000 euros available. The architects Kleffel Papay Warncke removed the suspended ceiling and reconstructed the room with great expertise. They took as their model the gallery which the founder of the Museum, Justus Brinckmann, had already converted in 1910 to present his fast-growing collection. This was erected on the floor plan of the school gym which had stood on the spot since 1877.

The building on Steintorplatz, erected in 1877, was intended to function as a multi-facetted institution with an educational remit to combine schooling for apprentice craftsmen and the practical study of outstanding works of art.  This was the programmatic conception behind the ideas which led to many German museums of arts and crafts being founded in the last years of the 19th century, and has remained the hallmark of the MKG as an open, visitor-focused museum to this day.  The new gallery, termed by the MKG in an allusion to its history the “Turnhalle”, is a reminder, here in the heart of the building, of this aspiration to be a living place of learning and experiencing for the general public. The MKG has modernized the building comprehensively over recent years, developing new approaches, themes and projects. With their donation, Dr. Michael and Christl Otto are only the latest in a long line of gallery patrons and sponsors who have all enabled the MKG to renew the presentation of its collections in galleries which are fitting for the present. 

The historical gymnasium was part of the Johanneum, a secondary school, up to 1910. This shared a building with the Gewerbeschule (vocational school for tradesmen), the Schule für Bauhandwerker (vocational school for building workers), the draughtsmanship class of the Patriotische Gesellschaft (a society which sponsors many cultural and philanthropic activities in Hamburg), the Botanical Institute, the ethnological collections and the MKG, founded in 1874. The layout with its classrooms, assembly hall and gymnasium reflects the original idea behind our foundation. The MKG is today the only museum of its kind which still occupies its original building, and with this reconstruction work it is once again giving important impulses for what a museum should be to keep abreast of the times. Alongside areas devoted to knowledge transfer and concentrated study, the museum today provides venues for communicative activities and active participation. The "Turnhalle", standing in the very centre of the four-wing complex with a central axis and two inner courtyards, sends a clear signal of this characteristic ordering principle.

Photo: MKG