Minor arts from Middle Ages to Renaissance, Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin

On the ground floor, the museum presents a systematic survey of European masterpieces of the minor arts, from the Middle Ages to Art Deco. On the ground floor are precious Mediaeval devotional objects, including the famous Guelph Treasure, together with magnificent Renaissance artefacts such as the silver treasure of Lüneburg city council.

The Kunstgewerbemuseum displays European (and Byzantine) decorative arts from all post-classical periods of art history, and features gold, silver, glass and enamel items, porcelain, furniture, panelling, tapestry, costumes, and silks.

There is a very important collection of Late Antique objects in many media. The items from the Middle Ages include a large number of gold reliquaries. The Renaissance is represented by silverware from the city councillors of Lüneburg, and bronze sculptures, tapestries, furniture, Venetian glasses and maiolicas from the Italian princely courts.

Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin
The Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) is the oldest of its kind in Germany. It houses world-famous examples of European arts and crafts, including magnificent reliquaries made of gold and precious gemstones, exquisite vases of glass and porcelain, finely embroidered textiles, ornate inlaid furniture, and classic examples of modern industrial design. The permanent and special exhibitions hosted by the Kunstgewerbemuseum can be seen at two locations in Berlin: at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz and in the picturesque setting of Schloss Köpenick on an island on the river Dahme. The Schloss Köpenick site features masterpieces of interior design from the 16th to 18th centuries.

The museum at the Kulturforum was completed in 1985 to designs by Rolf Gutbrod, one of the leading German architects in the 1960s. Gutbrod’s trademark is that he allowed structural elements of his buildings to remain clearly visible. The museum is conceived as a ‘constructed landscape’ and the trees dotted around the side make reference to the adjacent Tiergarten park. While the building has a closed appearance from the outside, it welcomes visitors on the inside with an open stairwell and generous exhibition spaces. Visitors are encouraged to focus completely on the remarkable exhibits in the collection and to wander from one level to the next.

From 2012 to 2014, large parts of the original Gutbrot building were modernized by the architectural practice of Kuehn Malvezzi. Since reopening on 22 November 2014, the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s main site at the Kulturforum now again provides a systematic overview of the key achievements in European design, from the Middle Ages to the present day. New features in the collection display include an extensive Fashion Gallery as well as the departments of Design and Jugendstil to Art Déco.

Ater extensive renovations 2014, the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in the Kulturforum greets the world in dazzling, new attire. Many parts of the building, designed in 1966 by Rolf Gutbrod in the spirit of post-war modernism, have been remodelled by the architectural firm of Kuehn Malvezzi. In the foyer, the ticket desk, information desk and cloakroom have been housed in white, cube-shaped installations, whose simplified form allows them to retreat into the background, leaving the staircase to occupy a space of its own. The treads of the stairs have been enclosed in a sumptuous casing, emphasising the horizontal and lending a unity to the staircase while at the same time bringing out its sculptural quality.

An easy-to-follow signage system explains the spatial arrangement of the building, directing visitors around it by means of red, overhead signs. Also newly designed are the exhibition rooms for the Fashion, Design, and Jugendstil to Art Deco collections.

The sheer breadth of the collections of the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) is impressive, encompassing a wide variety of materials and forms of craftwork, fashion and design from the early Middle Ages to the present day. The museum is particularly famed for its prestigious works of sacred art from the Middle Ages: world-renowned are such masterpieces of medieval goldsmithing as the bursa (purse-shaped) reliquary from the monastery of St Dionysius in Enger, Herford, the domed reliquary, and the portable altar made by the monk and goldsmith Eilbertus from the collection of the Guelph Treasure.

Works from the 16th to 18th century pay testament to the outstanding craftsmanship of the time and offer visitors the perfect opportunity to discover the art and cultural history of Europe in the early modern era. The collection ranges from precious Renaissance chests to leather wallpaper and fine examples of Italian maiolica, and glass art. Ornate cabinets and objects from private cabinets of art reflect the passion for collecting in the Baroque period. The full extent of royal splendour during this era is impressively demonstrated by the great silver buffet from the Knights’ Hall of the Berlin Palace. The Rococo period is exemplified by the wall panelling of the Chamber of Mirrors from Schloss Wiesentheid and the chinoiserie Lacquer Room from the Palazzo Granieri in Turin as well as porcelain from the table service of Schloss Breslau. David Roentgen’s writing desk from the year 1779 marks the transition to Neoclassicism.

Jugendstil and Art Deco are also well represented at the Kunstgewerbemuseum with glassware from Emile Gallé, pieces of furniture by Henry van de Velde and the glass doors of César Klein. The collection comprises famous and influential design classics such as furniture by Bruno Paul, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer as well as tableware from Wilhelm Wagenfeld.

The collection’s extensive range of costumes and accessories from the 18th to 20th centuries is presented to visitors since the reopening of the museum in 2014 in a newly conceived fashion gallery.