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Neshan 43

Face To Face-II

Face To Face With Angelika Nollert; Super Contemporary

Jens Mueller

The “Die Neue Sammlung” was established in 1925 and proudly names itself the world’s first design museum. Its roots go back to the foundation of the “Deutscher Werkbund”, an association created in 1907 to connect and promote commercially working artists, architects and entrepreneurs. Long before the term “design” was established, the Munich-based museum began collecting prototypes: ideal examples from graphic, furniture, product design and even jewelry. Today this collection spans over 100,000 objects and is considered to be one of the world’s largest and most important collections of design. From early mobile telephones to Bauhaus-furniture to 1960’s Japanese posters– the inventory of “Die neue Sammlung” has much to offer. In addition, the museum’s numerous special exhibitions make it a highly visible and relevant institution in Europe’s design scene. In the field of graphic design, international masters such as Raymond Savignac, Armin Hofmann or Ikko Tanaka were honored with solo shows. Special exhibitions on local phenomenon, such as Swiss book design or Korean poster art have also been showcased. 
 

The “Die Neue Sammlung” was established in 1925 and proudly names itself the world’s first design museum. Its roots go back to the foundation of the “Deutscher Werkbund”, an association created in 1907 to connect and promote commercially working artists, architects and entrepreneurs. Long before the term “design” was established, the Munich-based museum began collecting prototypes: ideal examples from graphic, furniture, product design and even jewelry. Today this collection spans over 100,000 objects and is considered to be one of the world’s largest and most important collections of design. From early mobile telephones to Bauhaus-furniture to 1960’s Japanese posters– the inventory of “Die neue Sammlung” has much to offer. In addition, the museum’s numerous special exhibitions make it a highly visible and relevant institution in Europe’s design scene. In the field of graphic design, international masters such as Raymond Savignac, Armin Hofmann or Ikko Tanaka were honored with solo shows. Special exhibitions on local phenomenon, such as Swiss book design or Korean poster art have also been showcased. 
For many decades the museum has been part of the Bavarian National Museum. In 2002 the “Neue Sammlung” moved into the newly build “Pinakothek der Moderne”, a unique building of 12,000 square meters in the heart of Munich. As one of the world’s largest art museums this complex is also the home for works of Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Jeff Sessions. Through their diverse collection and dynamic juxatopsitions, the perennial conversation over what is art and what is design is omnipresent at the “Neue Sammlung”. This question frames our conversation with Dr. Angelika Nollert, Director of “Die Neue Sammlung” since 2014.

Dr. Nollert, you have studied art history, completed a dissertation on a Dutch landscape painter and worked in the field of fine arts for about ten years. Today, as the director of “Die Neue Sammlung” your subjects are furniture, poster graphics and automobile design. How do you personally define the distinction or the relationship between art and design?
As most academics or curators of design museums I have studied art history. This major was and is the foundation of working in museums of art, decorative arts or design. For the past ten years I held leading positions in the design field. For me it is very important to see the bigger picture. You can understand disciplines such as art, design, architecture, music or literature better if you think of them as related fields. They are all cultural expressions of a certain time. Design is always functional. Design shapes our life. Our daily routine is dominated by designed objects, next to this, work methods and cognitive processes can be designed. Design can instantly make the world better by creating products that assist people and their environment. Design is in the service of people, while the fine arts are looking for recipients without demanding usefulness. Fine arts convey a message, while design is essentially solution-orientated.

It is my impression, that everyday objects, when shown in the context of a museum, almost automatically receive the appeal of art objects. Do you share this observation? 
A design museum is exhibiting objects known from daily life. Thonet chairs, a Bauhaus cupboard, the VW Beetle, the Apple computer, a robot or a drone have specific functions which they lose when they are presented as an exhibit in the museum. They are shown in a new, distanced context. This presentation in fact is an approximation to the way we look at art objects. Because the design objects are put on a pedestal, into cabinets and not allowed to be touched, they are—of course– perceived in a different way. Visitors focus on the formal qualities, a concept with which they are familiar from the art world. We are trying to address this dilemma. Right now, we are showing an exhibition titled “Beyond the New”. The show features an installation by Hella Jongerius and Louise Schouwenberg, that hopefully sparks a conversation between how a museum interior can alter perception.

Your museum collects objects from over twenty different sectors – from industrial design to jewelry. Some designs become instant classics, some only become iconic after many years. What is the selection and acquisition strategy of “Die Neue Sammlung”?
Considering our large range of topics, the growing amount of new designs and our limited budgets we cannot collect comprehensively.The objects we select fulfill certain criteria including, innovation, present relevance, significance for the future, and good design. Big names are not crucial. We also own design objects of less known designers and so called “anonymous design”, where we don’t even know the designer’s name.

The latest special exhibition of “Die Neue Sammlung” was focused on contemporary design. Other design museums focus on themes from the past. Is the concentration on contemporary design a characteristic of your museum?
When our house was founded as a museum for applied arts in 1925, the collection was only recently established and had to concentrate on the present. This focus became programmatic and hasn’t changed much over the years. We don’t do exhibitions on bygone eras. There are a few exceptions when the historic topic complements the mission of the museum. For the upcoming Bauhaus-jubilee we are planning a new space to showcase some special pieces from Weimar and Dessau because our first director bought exhibits directly from the Bauhaus in the 1920s.

The digitalization of everyday life is increasing. How do you handle the challenge that products such as game consoles or smartphones are not physical objects that can be collected in the traditional way. How do you approach the collection of digital artifacts/examples of design?
We are acutely aware of this difficulty. Many of these objects unfortunately lose their inner workings and can be experienced by their outside design only. A completely preservation of the full software would be impossible for a museum such as ours. Even if we could do it, the playability would be a huge problem after a while. What we plan to do at “Die Neue Sammlung” is to create a sound library based on the items of our collection. Visitors could then experience the original sound of certain objects. We do believe that the conjunction of a design object and its sounds are vitally important for its perception. Unfortunately, some very old objects have lost their original sounds already.

For many years “Die Neue Sammlung” has enjoyed a special reputation in the design scene, not only for its exhibitions but also for its outstanding advertising graphics. Some of the exhibition posters created by the late graphic designer Pierre Mendell have become global icons of graphic design. In 2016 Bureau Mirko Borsche created a new corporate identity for your museums. Can you talk about the current design concept?
Yes, the posters of Pierre Mendell are legendary. And also Mirko Borsche did an amazing visual identity for “Die Neue Sammlung”. We wanted something fresh and confident, also very noticeable and of highest quality. The printed matter is extremely distinctive. Our Logo appears in white on a red ground and combines the title of the special exhibition in green and white. For every poster a new typeface is selected, often a very playful and humorous one. The color characteristics, the typical construction and the “Die Neue Sammlung” logo can be recognized from a distance. The new identity has already received several design awards.

Can you let us know which projects and themes can be seen at your galleries in the near future?
We’ll be showcasing one of the world’s most famous early plastic houses, the so called “FUTURO” by Matti Suuronen from 1968. Its UFO-like appearance makes it an icon of space-age design. In 2018 we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “1st International Silver Jewelry Symposium Jablonec”. For the first time, the original creations will be on view, revealing this exceptional moment in the history of jewelry design. Another exhibition will highlight the context and the narrative of designed objects. The visitors will be able to explore how the process of design and the impact of design on humans.

Mrs. Nollert, many thanks for the conversation.

dnstdm.de

Jens Mueller

Born in Koblenz/Germany, 1982. Apprenticeship in advertising agency and printery. Diploma and Master-Degree in graphic design from University of Applied Sciences Dusseldorf. Since 2007 Designer of stamps for German Ministry of Finance. 2009-2012 partner of „müller,weiland“ design studio. 2013 Winner of international design w „Kieler Woche“, with Karen Weiland. Since 2009 editor of „A5“ book series about graphic design history. Since 2012 Creative Director of "optik" design studio in Düsseldorf. Winner of national and international design awards. Author of several articles and books on graphic design history. jens@optik-studios.de

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