Model interiors from the Art Nouveau period, iconic modernist furniture such as the Frankfurt Kitchen and a special Hamburg highlight: the dance costumes by Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt. Additional spaces contain a changing display of fashion designs, and the Schümann Wing extension houses the keyboard instruments from the Beurmann Collection. Besides spaces for special exhibitions, there is also a section dedicated to exhibits from Islamic and East Asian cultures – from early forerunners all the way to contemporary works.
I am fascinated by the Nō mask as a starting point for the "cross-cultural play" of the objects in the MK&G's broad collection. Here, potentials, ruptures and disproportions are reflected in the transcultural exchange between European, East Asian and Islamic cultural areas. Nō, for example, is a form of traditional Japanese theatre that is also called "dance drama" because of its movement stylisations. Just a few rooms down the hall, Loïe Fuller, celebrated as an icon of the European dance avant-garde around 1900, moves in spirals to colourful light. She found the inspiration for her "Serpentine Dance" in Japan, among other places, and made the dancer Ōta Hisa, who came from there, a star in this country through Japanese-like compositions. Today, a direct comparison raises the question of how much exoticism and colonial marketing is inherent in such stagings of foreignness. And also: how, conversely, European dance ensembles were able to succeed on stages in Asia 100 years ago and what traces this has left behind in the present?
Stephanie Regenbrecht, Research Assistant to the Director
The design of this unique plug-in comb takes me back to the Art Nouveau period around 1900. I imagine myself in a contemporary dress, sitting at a dressing table in Paris and fixing my hair. At first glance, the light brown comb made of horn looks very plain. Green leaves entwine through the curves and the incorporated beads represent small berries. Surely a man bought this mistletoe from the French manufacturer Vever Frères as a gift for his wife to make her happy. The piece of jewellery is passed on in the family and only worn on special occasions until it ends up in the display case in the museum and is now admired by many eyes. That's how it has remained in my memory since my first visit to the museum. Therefore, the accessory has a magical attraction for me and is not just an object. It is a handmade work that presents a deep connection to nature in a simple way.
Marie-Josephine Grund, Education Intern
I would love to serve myself good tea with this: Created in Vienna around 1904, this service, consisting of a pot, milk jug, box and tray, still exudes timeless elegance. In its strict design, it is exemplary of the best works of the geometric phase of the Wiener Werkstätte. The black ebony handles not only protect the pot's fingers from the heat, but also accentuate the matt silver sheen of the surface. It was designed by Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956). The architect and designer was, along with Koloman Moser, a founding member and one of the main representatives of the Wiener Werkstätte. It is known that the jug and accessories came from the estate of the Austrian graphic artist and painter Carl Otto Czeschka (1878-1960), who used it throughout his life. He was also active as a designer at the Wiener Werkstätte. The absence of any signs of use testifies to the esteem of its owner, his careful handling of it, but also to the solid craftsmanship of the tea service.
Ulrike Blauth, Marketing
Table lamp "Salome"
Form Follows Function! The design by sculptor Raoul François Larche depicting the American dancer Loïe Fuller in serpentine dance embodies a symbiosis of technical craftsmanship and art. If you look closely, you can see a socket for a light bulb hidden in the dancer's upper, billowing robes. Electricity and aesthetics are united here in an impressive style that reflects the contemporary appreciation of flowing abstract line formation and decorative but sensory form; the ethereal motifs of the Art Nouveau era contrast with the rationalising world. The fascination with this piece lies in its relation to the present: the original film that can be seen in the exhibition space shows the inspiration for this piece and at the same time has the effect of breathing life into the figure. The silhouette of the dancer, the "electric fairy" - as she was also called - was symbolically translated by Larche into haptic form and with a clear function.
Shana Beims, Intern Ancient Art and Antiquities Collection
Club Chair B3 "Wassily"
The encounter with Marcel Breuer's "Wassily" club chair in the Applied Arts and Design Collection was a wonderful moment of recognition for me. This genuine Bauhaus design classic was one of the first to be produced in 1927/28 and I had previously known it in a different guise. Compared to the exhibits in its immediate surroundings, this one looks a little outdated. With its abstract construction of a frame of metal tubes and the textile strips stretched between them as a seat and backrest, it always reminds me somewhat of the prototype of an invention. The armchair seems as if you can retrace the entire process of creation from the making of the individual parts to the entire construction on the basis of this version. The "Wassily" club chairs that are sold today usually present themselves in chrome and leather, i.e. a little more dressed up than their predecessor. However, the latter is in no way inferior to them in its innovative, timeless and elegant design. With these characteristics and the reduction to the most necessary components, the armchair embodies the central ideas of modern furniture design and thus deserves a place in many a design-savvy living room, in addition to its place in the collection.
Hannah Neufang, Visitor Service
Staircase by Bruno Paul
In fact, I have known the wood-panelled staircase since I was a child. Back then, it was accessible to the museum public and I was allowed to jump up and down the creaking wooden steps. You enter a darkened room smelling of old wood - like a time capsule - and land in 1920s Hamburg, in the home of Gustav Fraenkel, owner of a Saxon cloth weaving mill. The architect and designer Bruno Paul located the panelled staircase on the garden side of the villa in Krumdalsweg. Ornaments in the form of foliage, vines and branches wind their way up the heavy banister. But how did this impressive work get into the MK&G? The history of the collection objects and how they find their way to us never ceases to amaze and delight me: in the course of a reconstruction of the villa and through the mediation of the Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments, the staircase and its wooden panelling came to the MK&G in 1964. Once in the museum, it remained hidden for about 15 years and was reconstructed by restorers in 1978/79, true to the original, in the place where it still is today. Originally, the staircase connected the Art Nouveau section on the first floor and the Modern section on the second floor of the museum. To ensure that the staircase remains open to the public for a long time to come, the passageway has since been closed.
Vivian Michalski, Curator, Exhibitions and Projects
Japanese Tea House
My favourite object, the "hut of pure pine" caught my eye right away when I was exploring the East Asian Collection at the beginning of my time here at MK&G. The Shoseian Tea House was donated by the Urasenke Foundation Kyoto in 1978 to mark the 100th anniversary of the museum. I was surprised. A few years ago, I had gone on a trip to Japan myself and unfortunately, due to my limited time in Kyoto, I missed the famous tea ceremony on site. When I left, I said goodbye for the time being to the idea of witnessing such a ceremony. Before I knew it, my FSJ at MK&G began, and lo and behold, a real tea house, like the one in Kyoto, stood opposite me. As I then found out, the simple yet elegant hut is not only an exhibit to marvel at, but also a place where the tea ceremony is performed according to the rules of Japanese tradition. Now I have the perfect opportunity to make up for the experience I missed, so I'm sure I'll soon be sitting in the East Asian Collection enjoying a soothing bowl of tea.
Swantje Neumann, FSJ Culture Press and Public Relations
The sugar bowl from the "Melon" mocha set reveals how the service got its name. The yellow stripes and the small handle on the lid show the design's reference to a melon. The reference to nature and the simple design are exemplary of Art Nouveau. Art should find a place in everyday life in functional objects; the reference to nature and the slow production document the aversion to industrialisation. The service was produced in 1929, but it could also sell today. Pop-cultural aesthetics such as cottagecore promote idyllic country life, the followers want to do more themselves and live more sustainably. Flowers and fruits play a big role in fashion and interior design. Cottagecore sees itself as a counter-movement to capitalist productivity and digital presence and thus resembles the ideas of Art Nouveau. For me, the Melon mocha set seems like the perfect tableware for picnicking in a meadow and escaping the daily grind with cupcakes and tea - whether now or in Art Nouveau.
Merit Meurers, Trainee Education Department
Statuette of the "Seasons" (Spring)
Tarte au citron! The delicate yellow French lemon tart is the first thing I think of when I see the elegant lady made of earthenware. I wonder if she's dreaming of it too? As the embodiment of spring, she stands somewhat shyly in the display case next to her sisters summer, autumn and winter, whose dresses each vie for attention in a different colour. Although her look with bonnet and fan is reminiscent of the early 19th century, the figure dates from the heyday of the Wiener Werkstätte around one hundred years later. The reduced choice of colours with a touch - or rather dabs - of black points to the graphic design power of the time. I like the simplified but not abstract form, seemingly on the verge of kitsch. Its creator, the sculptor Johanna Meier- Michel, may even have shown it in the 1910 show "The Art of Women" at the Vienna Secession. For this first exhibition of the Austrian Association of Female Artists, Meier-Michel designed the flowery, sparkling advertising poster that you should take a look at in the MK&G Collection Online. Accompanied by a tarte au citron - right near us in the café of the Central Library?
Friederike Fankhänel, Education
"The medium is the message" - Marshall MacLuhan's phrase has become Hussein Chalayan's "Airmail Dress". Designed in 1993, the foldable and mailable dress brings communication and migration into the picture, two themes that preoccupy Chalayan, denoting absence and presence in equal measure. Parallelograms in alternating blue and red are printed on the side seam and hem of the dress, like those that mark airmail envelopes. In its flutteriness, weightlessness and incorporeality, the dress could be the service dress of old-fashioned airmail letter carriers, it could be a garment of angels. Angels are intermediate beings. And they move accordingly: as "birds of God", as Dante writes, they can fly. Angels are equally messengers and messages, they are middle and intermediate existences, between the divine and the human, between heaven and earth. Their ability to fly also makes these tremendously secularisation-resistant beings the dream and ideal of man: "Whoever flies escapes - and rebels against the compulsion to the horizon, to gravity, to humiliation, to the ground," Thomas Macho notes in his text "Heavenly Fowl".
Dr Caroline Schröder, Curator, Head of Applied Arts and Design Collection
What looks like a normal trumpet is actually a piccolo trumpet! As the name "piccolo" - meaning "small" in Italian - indicates, it is a kind of miniature trumpet with a halved tube length. It was developed because the high notes in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries - which in the Baroque period were played on natural trumpets using the technique of "clarino blowing" - can no longer be played on modern valve trumpets. In the 1950s, the trumpet virtuoso Adolf Scherbaum helped the piccolo trumpet achieve a breakthrough with his outstanding technique and became its undisputed master. The Brandenburg Concerto was his bravura piece, which he performed over 400 times throughout the world and recorded no less than 15 times. Together with the Hamburg instrument maker Wilhelm Leistner, Scherbaum designed this "cheating trumpet", in which blind bows simulate a normal size. Apparently, this makes the impossible possible: Bachian highs on a completely normal trumpet!
Olaf Kirsch, Head of the Musical Instruments Collection
Wiener Werkstätte showroom
Practical, square, good: if a chocolate manufacturer hadn't chosen this advertising slogan, it would have been tailor-made for the objects of the Wiener Werkstätte (founded in 1903). Because one of its founding members, Josef Hoffmann, literally took this to the extreme with the squares. In our first exhibition room on Art Nouveau, this design principle is consistently followed through: From the floor with square tiles in black and white, to the furniture with square details, to service components known in new German as tableware, which catch the eye with a timelessly modern-looking grid pattern. The background to this minimalist design is Hofmann's and his fellow campaigners' demand that all objects of daily use should be beautifully designed and fit together. They gave craftsmen a guiding principle: "It is better to work ten days on one object than to produce ten objects in one day! This formal preference incidentally earned the architect and designer Hoffmann the nickname "Quadratl-Hoffmann". Unjustly so: for Hoffmann could also do things differently - as the decorative opulence of the Palais Stoclet in Brussels shows.
Dr Manuela van Rossem, Education Department
Bottle gourd-shaped jug
The gourd-shaped jug, acquired during the time of founding director Justus Brinckmann, is the highlight of the MK&G's Korea collection. The celadon glaze - named after the sea-green clad hero Céladon of the novel L'Astrée (1610) by Honoré d'Urfe (1567-1625) - was invented in China and perfected in Korea. The green glazes of the Goryeo period (918-1392) initially imitated Chinese forms and decorations. From the 12th century onwards, a Korean formal language and aesthetic of its own developed. Close to nature, as here in the form of a bottle gourd. What is special about this jug? The paintings under the glaze in copper red. Controlling the copper pigment is considered one of the greatest technical challenges in the production of ceramics. Individually contoured, the leaves of the lotus rise above the body of the jug. Even from the deepest swamps, the lotus grows beautifully. In Buddhism, it therefore symbolises the purity of the spirit. As one of only three examples worldwide, the jug is a must-see!
Maria Sobotka, Volunteer in the East Asia Collection