In 1923, an ensemble of several thousand works was aquired by the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld: the Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe (German Museum for Art in Trade and Industry), perhaps the very first collection of design. It continues to this day to form the heart of the museum’s collection in the field of applied art. It is a sample collection of exemplary design assembled by the Hagen-based patron and collector Karl Ernst Osthaus between 1909 and 1919 with the support of the Deutscher Werkbund. Alongside his Museum Folkwang, founded in 1902, the new project reflected even more radically the spirit of a new age. The aims of the Deutsches Museum were as ambitious as they were universal: to design the whole of everyday life according to modern aesthetic principles; “Geschmackserziehung,” the education of taste, became the watchword. The aim was to convince product manufacturers and companies as well as merchants and consumers, while at the same time expanding the market for German products. Osthaus devised innovative outreach and educational strategies that remain the foundation of museums’ work to this day. After his death, Osthaus’s life work was sold by his heirs. While Osthaus’s art collections went to Essen, his design holdings went to Krefeld, where it perfectly complements the museum concept of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, which is rooted in the spirit of the reform movement.
Beginning in November 2023, the Kunstmuseen Krefeld will celebrate the hundred-year anniversary of this important collection’s acquisition with a major exhibition and accompanying catalogue. After being comprehensively documented for the first time, the collection will be explored in light of contemporary questions and issues. These highlight the innovative role played by the Deutsches Museum in the cultural history of the early twentieth century, particularly as part of its burgeoning consumer culture.
Curators: Magdalena Holzhey, Ina Ewers-Schultz