10 May 2013

Museum of Applied Art Frankfurt

I arrived at the Museum of Applied Art almost by accident. I had crossed the bridge from the old town knowing that there were a clutch of museums there but not knowing which ones.

I skipped the Bible Museum and another dull looking one and opted for the iconic modern building of white and glass. The car outside is part of one of the exhibitions.

The building was as light and spacious inside as the outside promised with exhibition spaces on three floors. There were a mix of exhibitions in these spaces with no obvious connection between them. I liked that as it made it all the more surprising.

 One carefully shaded room had a collection of old Japanese prints. I had seen some of these in the Saatchi Gallery the previous year and had liked them then too.

The things I liked about them were the clarity of the lines and the subject matter with its deeply cultural significance. Even without the writing it is clear that this is from the Far East.

At that time I was taking pictures surreptitiously, having been scolded in a museum in Hannover, and it was only when I moved on to the next exhibition and I saw other people freely taking photos in full view of the guards that my camera came out and stayed out.

The Japanese prints were on display on the top floor which also held a cute cafe that proved to be the ideal place to have a coffee and cake. I think it is a universal law of museums and galleries that coffee and cake must be consumed; I'll keep doing that anyway just to be safe.

Another room, in one of the main spaces where daylight was encouraged in, had a collection of household objects. I had not expected chairs, lamps and bowls to be so interesting, but they were.



One of the main exhibitions was on Korean design, hence the Hyundai car outside and the Kia car inside.

There was strange collection of Korean things on show such as two large photos of a boy and of a girl in their bedrooms stuffed with blue/pink things, bizarre advertisements, take-away meal boxes that turn in to models, and a loop of short film extracts (not helped, but not hindered either, by being completely unintelligible).

What struck me about most of the exhibits was how un-Eastern then looked, so unlike the Japanese prints. Most of the Korean designs could easily have been mistaken for western ones with only the writing and the faces giving the game away.

What stole the show for me though was a series of posters by 601BISANG.

They looked great from a distance but were even cuter when looked at close up when the black blobs became fractal frogs. A wonderful idea superbly executed.



 Next door to the Korean display was something completely different.

Using a fake shipwreck as the pretext and theme, the exhibition brought together things from the year 1607 from across the world, hence using a trading ship as the thread.

The year 1607 was chosen because of the changes that were going on at the time. It was a snapshot of an era.

The ship had accumulated an eclectic mix of things which made it had to pick one as a representative, so I went for this navigation tool because it looked something like a smartphone.

My favourite of the exhibitions was in one room on the ground floor and covered design in Frankfurt from 1925 to 1985, which included the creation of Braun.

There was a refreshing amount of typography and drawing on display from magazines and posters etc. and, as with the historical museum in Hannover (and elsewhere) that is what I spent most time looking at.

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My two favourites were both to do with cars and Mercedes-Benz just edged it in front of Opel.

I thoroughly loved the museum because, like all good museums, it got me interested in things that I am not interested in. For example, I may have chosen not to go in if I knew that it was on stuff from Japan, Korea and 1607 but I did go in and I liked all of it.

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