Citizens of Frankfurt founded the Mitteldeutscher Kunstgewerbeverein - Middle German Arts and Crafts Association - on March 25th, 1877. In 1878, it was incorporated into the circle of the Polytechnic Society as an independent institute. It set itself the task of stimulating creative design of industrial products, as well as transmitting permanent values to society by using the examples of past cultures to foster community spirit.
The Arts and Crafts Museum was opened in the Neue Mainzer Strasse in 1881. The Middle German Arts and Crafts Association maintained the museum, library and arts college here for more than four decades. The city administration took over the establishment in 1921, as the association had lost its entire fortune as a consequence of the First World War. It was renamed as the Museum of Arts and Crafts in 1936. Fortunately, its collections were evacuated in good time during the Second World War and thereby survived the buildings’ collapse in 1944.
After the currency reform, the Arts and Crafts Association also was revived again. The homeless museum with its large treasures moved several times before it finally found a suitable property in 1961. The Arts and Crafts Association campaigned strongly for the purchase of the former residence of the Metzler family at Schaumainkai 15. On the 25th April 1985, the museum finally obtained its own building designed by the New York architect Richard Meier. The Arts and Crafts Association raised over one million Deutschmarks for the opening.
In May 2000, in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the opening, the former Museum of Arts and Crafts reopened under the new name of ‘Museum of Applied Arts Frankfurt’. With the support of both national and international partners, the collection was presented anew and subsequently expanded. This included the world-famous Collection Geyger of early Japanese color woodcuts. Here, too, the Arts and Crafts Association strongly campaigned in its capacity as society of ‘Friends and Patrons of the Museum’.
The History of the Polytechnic Society
In 1816, dedicated citizens of Frankfurt joined forces and founded the Polytechnic Society for the ‘advancement of useful arts and the sciences that refine them’. Shortly afterwards, they established their financial basis in the form of a banking subsidiary ‘Frankfurter Sparkasse von 1822’. The support of artisan craftwork was also integrated into the cultural program of the society. After the constricting guild constitution was abolished and free enterprise introduced in 1864, it finally became possible to consider the advancement of trade in what was then still a free city. In the summer of the same year, the first exhibition of artisan and industrial products from Frankfurt was held in the Saalbau. The items displayed had originated during the guild period, but strongly elucidated the zeitgeist.
The founding of the German Reich and the accompanying stimulation of the economy were fertile grounds for the Polytechnic Society to present the significance of artisan craftwork in a large exhibition, thereby helping to set a style for industry and trade. The proposition met with approval and the heir to the throne, Princess of Thurn and Taxis, made her palace on the Grosse Eschenheimer Gasse (image) available for the exhibition between August and October 1875. The success was overwhelming and even Emperor William 1st and Empress Augusta honored the exhibition with their presence.
The president of the society at that time, Dr. Johann David Sauerlaender (DOD 1896), a lawyer from Frankfurt, sought out ways to ensure a permanent establishment, especially since the organizers had been loaned some 50 exhibits for a still-to-be-founded arts and crafts museum. For the purpose of institutionalization, an arts and crafts association was to be founded. In order to cover the art and trade landscape between Munich and Berlin and to accommodate most of the lenders to the exhibition of 1875, he called the association ‘Middle German Arts and Crafts Association’.