3 Min Lesezeit
Berta Kiesewetter, label Dr. Ötker’s baking powder, Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Photo: Dirk Rose / Kunstmuseen Krefeld
Julius Gipkens, poster Kaiser Brikett, 1913, colour lithograph, printed by Hollerbaum & Schmidt, Berlin, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Photo: Dirk Rose / Kunstmuseen Krefeld
Josef Hoffmann, carafe with two glasses from the Var. B series, c. 1911, frosted glass, bronzite decoration, made by J. & L. Lobmeyr, Vienna, c. 1914: J. & L. Lobmeyr, Vienna, c. 1914, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Photo: Dirk Rose / Kunstmuseen Krefeld

Karl Ernst Osthaus was not only one of the most important German art collectors and patrons of the arts at the beginning of the 20th century, he was also a visionary of modernism and a new unity of the arts. His first cultural project was the establishment of a museum in Hagen, which was named the “Folkwang Museum”. Originally intended for his natural history collection, its focus shifted to art even before it opened. The museum building was constructed between 1898 and 1902 according to plans by architect Carl Gérard in the neo-Renaissance style; the interior was designed by Belgian artist Henry van de Velde in the Art Nouveau style. Osthaus endeavoured to shape social life through art in a broad sense and encouraged the founding of an artists’ colony, workshops and a teaching institute. One year after Osthaus’ death in 1921, his heirs sold the majority of his art collections to the city of Essen, where the Museum Folkwang was rebuilt. The holdings of the “Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe” (DM), however, were transferred to Krefeld.

Until the 28th of April 2024, the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum (KWM) in Krefeld is presenting the exhibition “The Grand Seduction. Karl Ernst Osthaus and the Beginnings of Consumer Culture”. The fact that Osthaus’ DM collections came to Krefeld exactly a century ago, where they formed one of the world’s first design collections, is the reason for the exhibition, along with the 650th anniversary of the city. The KWM is honouring “the legacy and visionary work of the Hagen patron and collector who, in collaboration with the Deutscher Werkbund, amassed an impressive collection of exemplary advertising graphics and everyday products between 1909 and 1919”. The spectrum ranges from posters and advertising graphics, typography and photography to wallpaper and fabrics to everyday objects made of glass, metal and ceramics as well as luxury silverware. In building up the collection, Osthaus worked closely with leading artists of the time, including the aforementioned Henry van de Velde, Walter Gropius, Peter Behrens, Richard Riemerschmid, Clara and Fritz Hellmuth Ehmcke, representatives of the Wiener Werkstatte such as Mela Kohler, Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, as well as influential advertising artists such as Lucian Bernhard and Julius Klinger. Together with all these personalities from the worlds of art, applied arts and architecture, Osthaus laid the foundations on which the Bauhaus was able to develop in the 1920s.

At the beginning of the 20th century, industrial mass production had also changed cultural life: On the “stages of everyday urban life”, goods appeared “in aesthetically staged shop windows and magnificent department stores”. Window shopping and shopping as a leisure activity became part of a developing consumer practice. Advertising characterised the culture of display in public spaces in the pulsating cities. Corporate identity and modern advertising strategies emerged. “The unique collection of the Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe”, says museum director Katia Baudin, “is a fascinating testimony to the innovative collaboration between designers and trade and industry over 100 years ago”. To this day, Osthaus’ collection forms the core of the museum’s collection, with the Werkbund idea reflected in it forming the basis for the current programme of the Kunstmuseen Krefeld, in which art, design and architecture meet at eye level. This is why the exhibition, curated by Dr Magdalena Holzhey and Dr Ina Ewers-Schultz, aims to provide inspiration for the present and future by taking a look at the past. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue published by Wienand-Verlag in German and English.

“The Grand Seduction. Karl Ernst Osthaus and the Beginnings of Consumer Culture”
24 November 2023 to 28 April 2024
Kaiser Wilhelm Museum
Joseph-Beuys-Platz 1
47798 Krefeld

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