German Design 1949–1989
Two Countries, One History

In the 1920s, German design attained worldwide relevance, thanks to the Bauhaus. Its development after 1945 was virtually unique: in the two parts of the divided country, pre-war tendencies continued to evolve under completely different conditions. While design in the Federal Republic of Germany became a motor of the »Made in Germany« export industry, design in the German Democratic Republic aimed to fuel the socialist planned economy and make its products affordable for broad segments of the population. So when German design in the post-war era is described as functional, pragmatic and timeless – which side is meant? This is the key question of the exhibition »German Design 1949–1989: Two Countries, One History«. For the first time, the development of design on both sides of the Wall is juxtaposed and examined in detail, identifying parallels, intersections, and differences. A focus is placed on leading protagonists, from Dieter Rams or Hans Gugelot in the West to Rudolf Horn or Margarete Jahny in the East, on preeminent institutions like Burg Giebichenstein in Halle or the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, and also on significant tendencies such as the continuation of Bauhaus thought, or manifestations of design as a form of protest in the 1980s. More than 30 years after the country’s reunification, this pioneering project reconstructs a common German design history. At the same time, the exhibition is a unique case study of the different roles of design under the divergent conditions of capitalism and socialism.

An exhibition by the Vitra Design Museum, the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Wüstenrot Foundation.

Supported by the Federal Foreign Office

600 – 1,200 m² / 6,000 – 12,000 sq ft

Erika Pinner, Vitra Design Museum
Klara Němečková, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Detailed information
Illustrated Concept
Exhibition Tour

Exhibition tour
20.03.2021 – 05.09.2021, Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany  
15.10.2021 – 20.02.2022, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany 

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