In 1949 Edgar Kaufmann Jr. the, then, Director of the Industrial Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, reflected, not uncritically, that “as more and more new chairs become available to the buying public, the problem of selection begins to be bewildering.” A truism that has lost nothing in contemporaneousness over the decades; and also a very nice eyewitness observation from the early days of the rise of the post 1939-45 War American furniture design industry. And of its associated, parasitic, mimics.

“Is it true”, Kaufmann asks, in context of his reflections, “that our needs are so varied?”1

Just one of a great many questions of chairs, seats, sitting and sitters A Chair and You at the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, encourages, empowers, you to reflect upon…….

A Chair and You, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Badekarren in Katwijk by Wilhelm Gutmann, 1908 (Image Public Domain, courtesy of Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main)

A living room design by Gertrud Lincke featuring two Arbeitskojen, Work Bunks/Berths, on the left and right, home office à la the 1920s (undated, but before 1927, possibly 1925)

An (early) interior (and possibly early furniture) by Dr Josef Frank, undated, but before 1915

Chairs by Elisabeth von Baczko realised by Korbmacher Kapsch, Bremen

After several years of preparation, and a lot of, at times (very) heated, discussion, this past March saw the staging of the inaugural Grassimesse Leipzig in the city’s Rathaus.

Instigated by Dr. Richard Graul, Director of the Leipzig Kunstgewerbemuseum by way of a response to, an answer to, the increasing concerns amongst many professional creatives regarding the quality of contemporary objects of daily use presented at the bi-annual Leipzig Fair, for all the quality of the novel machine produced goods of contemporary industry, the Grassimesse intends to be not only a platform for presenting the highest quality of contemporary craft, applied art and design, but also to be a platform for exchange and mediation between creatives and industry and commerce, and thereby seeks to help to stimulate an increase in the quality, usefulness, beauty and value for money of the everyday goods of contemporary life.

An important part of the Grassimesse concept is that only works selected by a jury are admitted. Or more accurately, works selected by juries: potential exhibitors at the inaugural Grassimesse were first required to submit their work to a regional jury who, based on the prevailing requirements, made their recommendations to the principle jury who had the final say on who was to be admitted. A principle jury headed by Dr. Graul and including in its number both creatives such as, and amongst others, Peter Behrens, Walter Gropius, Josef Hoffmann or Bernhard Pankok and also representatives of manufacturers and dealers including, for example, Rosenthal porcelain, Selb, Rabe & Co, Bremen, Bruckmann & Söhne, Heilbronn or the Plauen based textile manufacturer Alfred Schönfeld.1 And thus a jury which tends to underscore not only the support Dr. Graul’s initiative has, but also the Grassimesse’s relevance, arguably importance, in context of the contemporary debates of our post-War 1920s.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll bring you some of our thoughts and reflections on some of those selected exhibitors, and of and from Grassimesse 1920 in general.

And for all crafters, applied artists and designers interested in being part of the Grassimesse, in contributing to its (hi)story, and in helping it develop further from its original aims and intentions, helping it remain a relevant and informative and entertaining platform for discussions and discourse on contemporary craft, applied art and design, applications for the 2024 edition can be submitted until Wednesday May 15th.

Whereby, the jury selection process for 2024 is much, much simpler than it was for 1920. If no less strict and demanding and rigorous. And no less important.

Full details, including details of the six Grassi Prizes up for grabs, a sextet that features the €2,500 smow-Designpreis, can be found at www.grassimesse.de

Good Luck!!!

grassimesse leipzig 1920

As Europe begins to ardently shake of the last remnants of winter and the first green and blue and yellow and white specks appear in parks and gardens, as the chance that summer might just arrive becomes tangible…. October can seem a mighty long way away. Unimaginable. But it is approaching.

As is the 2024 Grassimesse.

The path thereto has been laid and until Wednesday May 15th are all called upon to apply…….

Grassimesse 2024

For all that as a species we like to think that we are in control of the wider universe, like to think that our mastery of physics and mathematics has put us in charge, little underscores the fallacy of that position as neatly as the Gregorian calendar, an apparently flawless invention, one that defines our lives, where everything sits so snugly…. until every four years we have to add an extra day to stop it all going haywire. Unless that is the year is exactly divisible by 100, but not by 400, then it isn’t a leap year. The Gregorian calendar doesn’t really work, it is a rough approximation, has an inherent inaccuracy we’re aware of, we understand…… but don’t know how to fix beyond pretending its all normal and adding an extra day every four years. Or not, if its 1800, 1900, or 2100.

Other animals don’t need an extra day every four years, their worlds’ progress in keeping with the seasons. Plants don’t need an extra day. Why do humans?

The inaccuracy of the Gregorian calendar does however mean we all have an extra day in 2024 to do something meaningful, something truly worthwhile…. like visit an architecture and/or design exhibition.

Our suggestions for those meaningful, worthwhile exploits for the 29 days of February 2024, and beyond, takes us to Leipzig, Malmö, Katowice, Oslo and Jyväskylä…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for February 2024

Born in Coburg, Franken, in 1961 Cornelius Réer took his first steps in the world of glass via an apprenticeship at Glashütte Süßmuth, Immenhausen, near Kassel, followed by periods working in Austria and Sweden and a nine month course at Brierley Hill Glass Center in Dudley, England, before returning to Franken and establishing his own studio in Fürth in 1992. If a return to Franken punctuated by long absences: the next 11 years seeing Cornelius lead an, essentially, nomadic life, travelling Europe and realising his collections in numerous glass studios and presenting/selling them at trade fairs such as Ambiente Frankfurt. Collections whose focus is very much serial production, not the one-offs so often associated with glass; rather serially reproducible forms, albeit series which on account of their artisanal production, Cornelius creating each individual piece himself, means that every object is unique.

In 2003 Cornelius’s nomadicity ended, at least professionally, with a return, full-time, to Fürth, before in 2008 moving his studio down the road Nürnberg, where today he creates series such as, and amongst many others, the Crunch glass collection, one of his longest running series, and, in many regards, his breakthrough series; the InsideOut range, a family of objects composed of a variety of forms that can exist individually or as collective; or the LUMEN2 lantern, Cornelius’s re-imagining and re-working of a late 1950s lantern design by Egon Eiermann. Works defined, and at the risk of summarising more than is prudent, by their colour, by their interplay with light, by their material efficiency and by a functionality that is often simultaneously as playful as it is utilitarian, and as physical as it is immaterial.

And works which since 2023 have also been defined by rising gas prices: a glass studio is dependent on a lot of ovens, a lot of very hot ovens, ovens you can’t turn off, and thus the gas price rises of 2023 saw Cornelius switch from wooden moulds to steel moulds, an alternative production process that not only reduces the energy demand of the production process, but very much defines the character of works such as, for example, the Pool beakers and carafes, or the O.V.A. and MODUL vases. Works that, on account of their genesis in Cornelius’s response to the challenges of rising gas prices, are as much the result of design thinking as of craft thinking, and works which saw Cornelius Réer co-awarded the inaugural smow-Designpreis at Grassimesse 2023 alongside Budapest based design studio Line and Round, I O.

Alongside his own collections Cornelius is also co-author with Laura Jungmann of the project/brand SameSame, a project that began as a component of Laura’s Diploma thesis at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe, but which has since become autonomous; a project in which industrial glass objects, primarily, wine, beer and water bottles, are upcycled by Cornelius into craft objects that belie their industrial background, and which sees the intended re-use via recycling replaced with re-use via an infinite lifecycle. And just one of several cooperations undertaken over the years by Cornelius with students and professional product designers.

Following his success in Leipzig we met up with Cornelius in his studio in Nürnberg to discuss his work, his approaches, the realities of life as independent glassmaker and glass as a material, but we began asking why glass, why the decision for the glassmakers profession…….

Cornelius Réer at work in his Nürnberg studio (Photo courtesy and © Cornelius Réer)

3D printed ceramics by Babette Wiezorek, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule Halle - Faserland oder 8mm und 100% Bio, Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

The H2L lounge chair by Studio Machwerk, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Adobe by Ralf Stauss / Papier Langackerhäusl, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Andreas Möller - Weberei Hamburg & Flying8, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

New Sources by Matthias Gschwendtner, as seen at Grassimesse 2023, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be smow if it followed the rules and did that which you’d expected it to.

Thus it should have come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that the inaugural Grassimesse smow-Designpreis produced not the expected one, but two, joint, co-winners: Budapest based designer Annabella Hevesi and her studio Line and Round I O and Nürnberg based glassmaker Cornelius Réer…….

smow co-founder Martina Stadler reads the laudatio for Cornelius Réer (m) Annabella Hevesi / Line and Round IO (l, represented by Gabor Bella) at the opening of the 2023 Grassimesse Leipzig

While in many regards being selected to participate at the Grassimesse can be considered an accolade in itself, the event also awards a number of prizes: some specific, others general, all well worth winning.

Ahead of the opening of the 2023 edition the winners of the seven Grassi Prizes were announced on Thursday evening in the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig.

Selected by the 2023 Grassmesse jury from the 80+ exhibitors, the victorious seven are…….

Grassimesse 2023 Grassipreis Winners

For all that the annual Leipzig Grassimesse is and always has been as a sales fair, a place to peruse, discourse with and purchase, contemporary craft, applied art and design, and thereby an opportunity to support contemporary craft, applied art and design practitioners, or perhaps more accurately an opportunity to support those practitioners whose practice you most enjoy, it has also always been a platform for creative schools and their students to present their works and approaches and positions; the inaugural Grassimesse in 1920 featuring students from the Staatliche Kunstschule für Textilindustrie Plauen, the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the Kunstgewerbeschule Magdeburg, the Kunstgewerbeschule Nürnberg and the Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule Halle, the latter an institution who in their various guises since 1920 have been more or less ever presents at the Grassimesse.

And will be present at the 2023 Grassimesse where, as Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule, Halle, they will present current projects alongside students from the Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin, the Universität der Künste Berlin, HAWK Hildesheim, the Hochschule Wismar, the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart and the Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School, Florence.

Yet for all that schools have always been a pillar on which the Grassimesse stands, they are one that can be all too easily overlooked amidst the perusing, discoursing and purchasing. Thus ahead of the 2023 edition by way of helping reinforce that the Grassimesse is more than the selected exhibitors and their works, we thought we’d take a brief moment to reflect on some of those schools who’ve graced the halls of the Grassi Museum, and thereby allow for reflections on both the (hi)story of creative education and also on the Grassimesse as a platform for schools and a coming generation of creatives as much as one for those creatives currently practising…….

A selection of projects by design schools as presented at the Grassimesse Leipzig between 1920 and 1941

Unlike a great many international craft, applied art and design fairs, entry to the annual Grassimesse Leipzig is strictly by jury selection. And has been since the first edition in 1920. ’twas, in many regards, one of the pillars on which the event established its reputation. And one which helps it maintain that reputation.

The 2023 Grassimesse jury recently convened to review the abundance of applications for this year’s edition, up some 33% on 2022, and, and perhaps more satisfyingly, featuring applications from creatives in 13 countries, an indication of the event’s ongoing international appeal and relevance, from whom they selected 82 exhibitors representing a wide spectrum of craft, applied art and design genres, from jewellery to furniture, from glass to toys, from millinery to ceramics and beyond; including 18 international exhibitors from Italy, Sweden, Hungary, Austria and the Netherlands.

All 82 of whom will assemble in the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, in late October.

And all 82 of whom are in with an equal chance of picking up the €2,500 Grassimesse smow-Designpreis.

Who that is, who will go down in history as the inaugural winner of the Grassimesse smow-Designpreis, will be decided by the international jury on Thursday October 19th.

Watch this space!!!

Until then you can peruse the exhibitors/candidates at www.grassimesse.de and select your favourite, and/or find your new favourite creative. Or perchance find several convincing arguments to enjoy a late October weekend in Leipzig yourself…….

grassimesse smow-designpreis

Although the Grassimesse has been staged, with readily understandable pauses, since 1920, the Grassimesse smow-Designpreis is being staged for the first time in 2023.

Which means a highly impressive roster of innovative, intelligent, imaginative, informative, designers from back in the day can’t win it. Have, if one so will, missed out

But you can win it and the associated €2,500.

Or can if your reading this before Friday May 12th Sunday May 21st, the new extended, deadline for entries.

Otherwise you’ve also missed out.

You’ve now missed out.

Putting you in an illustrious, if very unfortunate, group along with the likes of…….

A selection of works that did, or could have appeared at the Grassimesse between 1920 and 1941, and could have won the smow-Designpreis, had it existed.......

The 2023 edition of the Grassimesse Leipzig will see the inaugural awarding of the €2,500 smow-Designpreis. The first dedicated design prize in the institution’s long (hi)story. Entries are were open until Friday May 12th.

But what if that first Grassimesse smow-Designpreis had been awarded not in 2023, but 1923?

Who might have won?

Who would the 1923 Grassimesse jury have selected from the many possible candidates?

????

A smow Blog fantasy final four…….

The Grassimesse smow-Designpreis 1923: A Fantasy Shortlist

For the first time in its long and illustrious history Leipzig’s Grassimesse will award a dedicated design prize at its 2023 edition.

More specifically, will award the €2,500 smow-Designpreis.

The call for entries is now open, and you are all cordially invited closed…….

grassimesse smow-designpreis

Upholstered furniture is called upholstered furniture for a reason, yet how often do we consider the upholstery rather than the furniture; or more accurately, how often do we consider the upholstery that makes furniture upholstered furniture? How often do we consider the upholstery that makes upholstered furniture such a singular genre of furniture? How often do we consider the upholstery that bequeaths upholstered furniture such a singular status?

With the exhibition Deep-seated. The Secret Art of Upholstery the Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig, invite you to do just that…….

Deep-seated. The Secret Art of Upholstery, Grassi Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Leipzig

We published our first monthly list of exhibition recommendations on November 1st 2013, one of those short, superficial, posts we used to compose, having as we did back then endless time on our hands; and an intervening nine years that means that with this list for November 2022 we are entering our tenth year of helping you advance your cultural education.

While being very much aware that the vast majority of you have never visited a single one of the circa 450 new exhibitions we’ve carefully and conscientiously selected for your delectation, nor indeed have the vast majority of you visited any architecture or design exhibition in the past nine years: that the vast majority of you have chosen to neglect your cultural education. However, one of the joys of the museum exhibition as a format for elucidation, exploration, energising and entertainment, the reason we don’t give up on you all, is that, the next opportunity is always approaching.

Thus, while that which you have missed is gone for ever, and you’ll just have to try to catch up as best you can; that which is still to come is an opportunity waiting to be grasped. And in November 2022 there is an unusually large and varied amount of opportunities to grasp; the global architecture and design museum community unleashing a plethora of diverse new showcases.

And a plethora of new exhibitions opening in November 2022 that we were simply unable to narrow down to five. It would also have felt unjust given how many new showcases there are.

Our five six new opportunities to advance your cultural education in November 2022 can be found in Leipzig, Edinburgh, Winterthur, Berlin, New York and Vienna…….

5 New Architecture & Design Exhibitions for November 2022

Following smow Turin’s thoroughly unexpected, if in no way undeserved, victory in the 2021 smow Song Contest, it’s off to Piemonte for the 2022 edition.

A 2022 smow Song Contest being held very much in context of events 20 years previous…….

smow song contest 2022 smowblog