Door handles, cups, plates – every day, we encounter objects whose shapes are so familiar that we take them for granted. Yet, everyday objects such as furniture, dishes and bicycles are designed products that bear witness to their time. Breakfast knives, for example, can be simple or ornate, made of silver or merely silver-plated or even made of aluminium, as they were, for example, in East Germany, under conditions of economic scarcity.
Objects, then – the materials they are made of and the form they take – give us exciting information about the time in which they were produced. This of course holds for the 60,000 objects held by the Dresden Kunstgewerbemuseum. It is a collection that gives insight into the history of design spanning five centuries: Pieces from the Middle Ages to the present, from Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland, but also Asia and South America are assembled here, ranging from pieces of furniture and textiles to musical instruments and vessels all the way to clocks and clock-faces.
Housed in the Schloss Pillnitz, a baroque palace approximately ten kilometres from the city centre of Dresden, the collection is being gradually reconceptualised: In the Wasserpalais, a part of the permanent exhibition is devoted to an exploration of the materials of objects such as metal, fabric or enamel. Other spaces are used for special exhibitions on contemporary design or to highlight exciting positions in the history of design.
The permanent exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum finds its continuation in the Bergpalais opposite the palace. One special feature of the exhibition is the visible storage gallery with numerous pieces from the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau, a manufacturing business that has been producing furniture near Dresden since 1900.
In addition to presenting their holdings, the museum also works to expand the collection with contemporary pieces and to have a meaningful presence in the international design discourse. Special exhibitions also bring the collection to the city centre of Dresden on a regular basis. The idyllic location in Pillnitz draws visitors to the ensemble – conceived as a summer residence – from May to October. For reasons of conservation, the museum in Pillnitz is closed over the winter.