Inspired by Crafts

26 August 2020

[Translate to English:] Handwerk 1

The Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) possess an archive of knowledge combining 500 years of artistic and scientific insights, experience and techniques. Crafts are an omnipresent feature of that archive, not least because most of the art treasures in the museum network’s collections are themselves the result of outstanding craftsmanship. Time and again, the SKD’s vast holdings have been the inspiration behind the work of tradespeople, craftspeople and artists alike.

  • DATES 05/09/2020—21/02/2021
  • Opening Hours currently closed

[Translate to English:] Handwerk 2

Even the SKD in its original form – the Kunstkammer – was a place of both exhibition and production. Founded by Prince-Elector Augustus I in 1560, it was used to display and manufacture not just handicrafts and fine art, but also scientific and mathematical instruments. In addition, records indicate that Augustus lent tools, books and materials to regional craftspeople for the purpose of experimentation and production. As such, the Kunstkammer was not simply a place to impress guests of the court, but also an institution that drove progress in the fields of the arts, crafts and engineering. In keeping with this tradition, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden has always regarded the provision of inspiration that fosters innovation and creativity as one of its most important areas of responsibility.

From a modern perspective, what is the value of works produced by hand in a fast-moving, digital world that appears to be pushing voyages of haptic and creative exploration further and further into the background? What does the production of tangible things tell us about ourselves and the society we live in? What relationships exist between trades, the arts and handicrafts? These and other questions are set to be explored by the special exhibition “Inspired by Crafts”, which opens at the Japanisches Palais on 4 September 2020.

Taking over 100 exhibits selected from throughout the SKD’s collections as its basis, the exhibition focuses on handicrafts that range from the regional to the international and the traditional to the contemporary. It places special emphasis on the preservation and passing on of the skills required, and examines the materials involved. Atmospheric exhibition spaces on the first floor of the Japanisches Palais are used to not only present prominent examples of regional handicrafts such as indigo blue-dyeing, weaving and the manufacture of artificial flowers, but also demonstrate the passion, creativity, experience and knowledge that are intrinsic to the works produced by those handicrafts.

Specially created for the project, the photographic installations contributed by Donata Wenders (*1965) under the title „ODE AN DAS HANDWERK“ (ode to handicrafts) are a special highlight of the exhibition. They represent the first four audio-visual works in an expanding series that sees the artist examine the issue of esteem for traditional handicrafts whose societal importance is diminishing as a result of increasing mechanisation. Placing the spotlight on handicrafts and the materials they involve, Donata Wenders invites visitors to place their fingers on the pulse of a different time. Her unmistakable visual language kindles a fascination for the beauty and quality of techniques that are in danger of disappearing forever, and, in turn, inspires visitors themselves to get creative.

On the ground floor of the Japanisches Palais the focus shifts to contemporary handicrafts. An Arts and Crafts Sustainability Shop that offers a platform for the next generation of handicrafters is set to open alongside a Fair Fashion Factory where old clothes can be upcycled to create new items. In keeping with the museum’s historical leitmotif of “Museum Usui Publico Patens” (“open public useful museum”), some sections of the building are also to be turned into temporary studios. Talented up-and-coming artists in the fields of the arts, crafts and design are invited to take this opportunity to engage in exchange with one another and allow new works that transcend the boundaries of genres and techniques to take shape.

The exhibition will be flanked by an extensive programme of events that invites visitors to explore a variety of handicrafts, test sustainable innovations and take part in discussions on the role played by handicrafts in modern society.

Current information on opening times, exhibitions, events and visiting rules is available on the SKD website at

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