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Zeughausmesse, Foto: Marcel Schwickerath

Zeughausmesse, Foto: Marcel Schwickerath

Zeughausmesse | Modern Craft

Have you ever heard of ’art you can touch’? By looking at objects of daily use at Zeughausmesse the visitor can see for themselves that art can be touched and used. Here they find out that art does not always have to be expensive and in a museum. At the fair practitioners of Modern Craft sell usable art objects.

Zeughausmesse self-image: Hub of Modern Craft in Berlin

Zeughausmesse sees itself as a hub of Modern Craft in Berlin. It offers an opportunity for the wider public to meet practitioners of Modern Craft and to buy high quality objects of daily use. For the audience, as well as for the artists it continually opens up new insights into the combination of control over the material and aesthetic perfection that is so vital to the making of Modern Craft objects. When selecting the fair’s participants, the focus is always on their ability to combine traditional as well as contemporary and unconventional techniques, materials and ideas. The technical and artistic quality of their work inspires and stimulates conversation. Modern Craft exhibitions and fairs therefore were and are places of lively encounters. The focus of interest is on function and potential of the branch of visual arts currently known as ‘Modern Craft’. As a suitable place for reflection the Zeughausmesse sees its role well into the future as that of mediator between art and public.

Modern Craft: the usable art object

The joy of experimentation and innovation characterise the work of the practitioners of Modern Craft who are presenting their Modern Craft objects at the fair. The main characteristic of a Modern Craft object is that it goes beyond a purely utilitarian function. It differs from the objects manufactured in pre-industrial times because it is not necessary for survival. Freed from the doctrine of pure utilitarianism after the end of the industrial revolution artisans had to dedicate themselves to the object’s aesthetic and conceptual design. In a sense this enhanced the hand-made object of daily use; it became an art object, art that was meant to be used. At Zeughausmesse practitioners of Modern Craft sell objects of art for daily use that impress due to their aesthetic and conceptual quality. Designed to be used, they are art that can be experienced in a haptic manner. As with all objects, Modern Craft objects are telling the story of their creation which is far more complex than those that industrially manufactured objects could ever tell.

Usable art and digital world

Nowadays everyday life is dominated by tapping keyboards, mouse clicks and wiping homogenous surfaces. At the same time digital techniques open up a large variety of creative visual and auditory opportunities and impressions. Concrete physicality can be better experienced via analogue objects of daily use. Practitioners of Modern Craft make usable objects which enable us to experience skill and artistic quality passed down the generations in a sensual, and moreover haptic fashion. Zeughausmesse also satisfies the desire currently growing in the digital context for art that is tangible in the truest sense, that can be experienced haptically. It thus throws fresh light onto the potential of Modern Craft.

The history of Zeughaushausmesse

From 2004 onwards Zeughausmesse has taken place in Berlin annually in December as a Modern Craft exhibition and sales fair. It was initiated by the Berufsverband Angewandte Kunst e.V. (AKKB) (Professional Association of Modern Craft) Berlin – Brandenburg in collaboration with the Berlin German Historical Museum. The fair’s location under the glass canopy of the Zeughaus’ inner court yard is imbued with calm spaciousness. As the venue for the first ‘Allgemeine Deutsche Gewerbeausstellung’ (general German trade exhibition) in 1844 the Zeughaus is firmly centred in the tradition of arts and crafts exhibitions in Berlin. The Professional Association AKKB emerged 2003 from the fusion of two enterprises: The Westberliner Verein Kunsthandwerk Berlin e.V (West Berlin Association of Arts and Crafts) and a group of Brandenburg artists which, during the DDR era, was organised as a Modern Craft branch in the Vereinigung Brandenburger Verband Bildender Künstler (Brandenburg Association of Visual Artists).

The AKKB: Forum of Arts and Crafts in Berlin und Brandenburg

In 2002 the Foundation ‘Stadtmuseum Berlin’ celebrated the anniversary of the Verein Deutsches Gewerbe-Museum zu Berlin (Association of the German Trade Museum in Berlin) in the Museum Ephraim Palais with an exhibition: ‘Echt - 125 Jahre Kunsthandwerk in Berlin ‘(Genuine – 125 Years of Arts and Crafts in Berlin). In the framework of the anniversary exhibition a lively exchange arose between representatives of and those interested in Modern Craft. Here the desire to create a shared forum for Berlin and Brandenburg was first expressed, particularly since after the closure of the venue of the association Kunsthandwerk e.V. in der Pariser Strasse 12 in 1992, the artists working and exhibiting in Berlin and surrounding area lacked a presentation space. The foundation of AKKB, the regular event of Zeughausmesse and many other AKKB initiatives followed. In the course of the last twelve years Zeughausmesse established itself in the city’s conscience as well as nationally and internationally, as a hub of Modern Craft.

Text: Maja Peltzer