Kunstgewerbemuseum – Kulturforum Berlin

Matthäikirchplatz, Berlin
Berlin, Germany
closed on: Mondays, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve
Museum Type: Decorative arts / Handicraft, Industrial design
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The Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin is the oldest museum of decorative arts, crafts, design, and fashion in Germany, with a collection of artifacts spanning over 1,200 years. The museum comprises two different venues, the main one at the Kulturforum and the other in the Köpenick Castle.

History and building
The museum was founded in 1867 as the Deutsches Gewerbe-Museum zu Berlin (German Museum of Industrial Arts in Berlin).
Renamed Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in 1879, in the following decades the institution changed home four times, at the same time greatly enlarging its collection of handicraft objects and industrial design products and becoming the largest and most important of its kind in Germany.
In 1985, the museum moved into a new building, designed by German architect Rolf Gutbrod, in Berlin’s Kulturforum, a large cultural complex near Potsdamer Platz which also houses the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Musikinstrumenten-Museum, and the Gemäldegalerie are located.
In 2014, the museum’s building was substantially renovated and modernized after a design by Kuehn Malvezzi architects.

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View of the Kunstgewerbemuseum lobby; photo by Ulrich Schwartz, courtesy of Kuehn Malvezzi

Collection and permanent exhibition
The collection of the Kunstgewerbemuseum encompasses various thematic areas, including Decorative Arts and handicrafts, Industrial Design, and Fashion.

The collection comprises objects made in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Asia from the 8th century to the late 20th century, and includes religious objects in gold and silver, jewels, porcelains, glassware, ornate cabinets, textiles, tableware, furniture, light fixtures, dresses, and fashion accessories.
The museum is particularly renowned for its large collections of Medieval, Baroque, and Jugendstil art and craft, as well as modern design, and costumes.

The most interesting pieces on view in the permanent exhibition include the reliquary from the monastery of St Dionysius in Enger (8th century); examples of Italian Renaissance ceramics and glass; a lion-shaped pouring vessel by Jochim Worm (16th century); the wall paneling of the Chamber of Mirrors from Schloss Wiesentheid (18th century); glassware by Emile Gallé (19th century); furniture designed by Henry van de Velde, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Verner Panton, Marcel Breuer, and Ettore Sottsass; and costumes and accessories by Coco Chanel, André Courrèges, Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Gianni Versace, and Manolo Blahnik.

The Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin also hosts temporary exhibitions, special events, and educational programs and creative workshops for children, teens, students, and adults. Along with exhibition spaces, the museum’s building includes a 19,000-volume reference library, a restoration center, a cafe-restaurant, and a gift shop.

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The Middle Age craft gallery; © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, photo: Achim Kleuker

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A Lion-shaped pouring vessel attributed to Jochim Worm (ca. 1540); © Photo: Kunstgewerbemuseum der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, photographer: Karen Bartsch

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View of the modern design exhibition; photo by Ulrich Schwartz, courtesy of Kuehn Malvezzi

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A display with a collection of designs by the Memphis Group (round table “Papilio” by Alessandro Mendini, 1985; Shelf “Casablanca” by Ettore Sottsass, 1981; Lamp “Super” by Martine Bedin, 1981; Chair “First” and Side Table “Crystal” by Michele De Lucchi); photo © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Achim Kleuker

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View of the Fashion Gallery; photo © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum / Fabian Fröhlich

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The fashion workshop of the museum; photo © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Juliane Eirich, 2016

Cover image: the main home of the Kunstgewerbemuseum at the Kulturforum in Berlin; © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, photo: Achim Kleuker

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