Established around 100 years ago, Die Neue Sammlung is considered the world’s oldest design museum – regarded as such long before the word design acquired this meaning in German. Since then, Die Neue Sammlung has been making design history with its international acquisitions and stimulating exhibitions.
Today, with some 80,000 objects from the fields of industrial design, the applied arts, and graphic design, this state museum boasts, in its permanent collection, the world’s largest design collection and is one of the leading museums dealing with this subject for the 20th and 21st centuries.
In 1907 the German Werkbund was founded in Munich. Closely linked with the ideas behind this movement, a „modern collection of exemplary items“ began to be put in place. This became the core of the museum. From the very beginning the emphasis was on acquiring „modern“ everyday objects boasting an exemplary design, what we would nowadays refer to as design. In 1925 the museum was established as a state-run institution and has borne the characteristic name „Die Neue Sammlung“, with all the commitment that this involves, since 1929.
The word „neu/new“ in the museum’s name (The New Collection) clearly signaled its agenda: to distance itself from the arts and crafts museums of the time, to devote itself to the international scene and to look constantly for trailblazing quality design. These avant-garde objectives still characterize the museum today.
In 1928 the artist Kurt Schwitters admired the museum’s considerable inventory but complained about its inadequate, provisional premises. Shortly afterwards Die Neue Sammlung’s progressive exhibitions came under fire from Nazi politics. In 1934, it came under the management of the Bavarian National Museum. Closed from 1940 to 1946, Die Neue Sammlung reopened as an independent institution in 1947.
Although the collection continued to grow and to garner an international reputation, its premises did not allow for a permanent presentation. Nevertheless, special exhibitions that were groundbreaking and often trans-disciplinary – for instance, shows on Max Bill, Bernd and Hilla Becher, the Shakers, Arne Jacobsen, David Carson and Tomato – have drawn repeated international attention to the museum.
In 1990, the call for adequate premises was a major factor in the Free State of Bavaria’s decision to erect two new buildings over the following decade, in both of which Die Neue Sammlung is in charge of the design section: Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and Neues Museum in Nuremberg which, in defining itself in a totally new way, has since 2008 been closely interweaving the exhibition areas devoted to art and design.
Opened in 2002, Pinakothek der Moderne, with its trans-disciplinary concept makes it possible to show design in concert with other arts – art, design, architecture and graphics, all under one roof. Here, for the first time in the world, the general public has access to a comprehensive permanent exhibition that traces the multi-faceted history of design in the 20th and 21st centuries.