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Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision

16 October, 2015


In its exhibition entitled “Art Nouveau. The Great Utopian Vision”, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG), accompanied by a newly designed presentation of its existing Art Nouveau Collection, retraces an era which produced so much more than whimsically playful ornamentation. Art Nouveau defined itself via reform movements, visions and Utopian dreams aimed at renewing society.

The special exhibition throws light on this cultural and historical background and development, drawing together the ideas linking Karl Marx‘s “Das Kapital” and Peter Behrens’s salon grand piano with symbols quoted from Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra”. It shows reform movement robes, a solar bath for sun-worshippers, photographs of nudists playing sports in the open air or Loïe Fuller’s celebrated light dances.

The arts take up the revolutionary changes affecting the private and social life of modern man, sketch new models for living and experiment with technical innovations. Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch and Alfons Mucha reflect the many-facetted perceptions projected onto women. Ferdinand Hodler, Paula Modersohn-Becker focus on the child. And a constantly recurring source of inspiration is nature, especially in the applied arts. Art Nouveau also marks a hiatus for the museums of arts and crafts, which had up to then only shown examples from history.

This is the period when they also begin to collect contemporary art. The new design of the Art Nouveau collection of the MKG, today almost unparalleled, takes its cue from the first presentation which its founder Justus Brinckmann compiled in 1900 with the objects he had purchased at the Paris World Exhibition. In addition, with furniture and room ensembles by, among others, Henry van de Velde, Richard Riemerschmid, Charles Rennie Mackintosh or Carlo Bugatti, it illustrates the wide spectrum of aesthetic conceptions and formal language at the beginning of the 20th century.

The project shows more than 350 works in all, including painting, sculpture, prints, photography, drawings, ceramics, glass art, book art, fashion, textile art, posters, historical films, scientific and medical-technical apparatus and models.

Peter Behrens, Salon grand from house Behrens, Darmstadt, around 1901, Execution: J. P. Schiedmayer, Intarsienwerkstatt G. Wölfel & Kiessling, H.99 cm, B.150 cm, T.192 cm, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Köln, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln
Rudolph Dührkoop, Head with Halo, 1908, platinotype , 21 x 16 cm, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, © Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Paul Gauguin, vase with self-portrait, 1889, stoneware, engobe, copper and oxblood glaze, H.19,5 cm, D.12 cm, Designmuseum Danmark, Kopenhagen, photo: Pernille Klemp
Eugène Grasset, exhibition poster for his own exhibition at Salon des Cents, 1894, print: G. de Malherbe, stencilled, 60 x 40 cm, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, © Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Gabriel Charles Rossetti, Helen of Troy, 1863, oil on mahogany, H. 32,8 cm, B. 27,7 cm, Hamburger Kunsthalle, © bpk, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Foto | photo: Elke Walford
George Méliès (director), Le Voyage dans la Lune (Voyage to the Moon), France, 1902, 16 Min., © BFI National Archive


16 October, 2015
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Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Hamburg, 20099 Germany
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