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Across borders: The “PURe Visionen” exhibition at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden tells the fascinating story of German polyurethane furniture.

Design: Peter Ghyczy, 1968, VEB Synthesewerk Schwarzheide, around 1971, © Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Photo: Felix Ghyczy/FG Foundation
Employee at PCK-Schwedt reworking the kangaroo chair, around 1973 ©️ Stadtarchiv Schwedt
Ernst Moeckl, Kangaroo chair, 1968, PCK Schwedt, from 1972, © Kunstgewerbemuseum / SKD, Photo: Lorenz Kienzle, Ronka Oberhammer

It is about a German-German story and a special material. In the 1960s and 1970s, polyurethane (PUR) was regarded as the material of a new, visionary modernity among plastics. In furniture design, the material made it possible to create innovative shapes in eye-catching colours; plastic furniture could also be produced quickly in large quantities. How furniture production with polyurethane was expanded in the FRG and GDR, who supplied the designs and what role politics played in this is the subject of the exhibition “PURe Visions. Plastic furniture between East and West”, which the Museum für Kunstgewerbe Schloss Pillnitz is showing from 27 April to 7 July. (The show will then be on display in Eisenhüttenstadt from August until March 2025).

The “Garden Egg”, also known as the “Senftenberg Egg”, by Peter Ghyczy and the “Z-Chair” by Ernst Moeckl are now regarded as icons of GDR design. They were both made from PUR as part of an exciting history of transfer between West and East Germany as part of German-German cultural and economic history. In addition to well-known designers such as Moeckl, Ghyczy and Rudolf Horn, the exhibition also presents designs by lesser-known designers such as Ute Heubelein, Siegfried Mehl, Jürgen Falley and Manfred Rathgeber. The 30 or so pieces of polyurethane furniture on display are complemented by numerous advertising and archive materials, photographs and design drawings. 

There is also a participatory aspect to the project: the Kunstgewerbemuseum would like to ask users and fans of the furniture about the cross-border design classics and invite them to share private photographs of and with PUR furniture, postcards, purchased pieces and personal memories. All stories, descriptions, memories and photographs can be sent by e-mail to kunstgewerbemuseum@skd.museum. Christian Links Verlag has also published a book on the subject entitled “Möbel aus der Zukunft. A German-German Story”, a publication by Sascha Lange.

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