In an odd bit of serendipitous timing, two separate retail exhibitions on German industrial design are being held this month in New York. The first—at Kiosk, a small Soho shop—collects vernacular products from across the country; the other, Destination: Berlin, at the Museum of Modern Art’s Design Store, focuses on pieces by young Berliners. Taken together, the collections show a slice of German life that goes deeper than rote images of autobahn severity or Bavarian kitsch.
Many of Kiosk’s products are tied to the past. Owner and curator Alisa Grifo scoured hardware stores, grocery shops, and a Baroque town for commonplace items: a speckled enamel soap dish, a cuckoo clock from the Black Forest, a Bakelite pencil sharpener. “If they have a nostalgic presence, they really speak of the place they’re from,” Grifo says.
MoMA looks to Germany’s metropolitan heart as a center of a new internationalism. A trivet in the shape of nunchakus, inspired by Bruce Lee, is typical. The Berlin TV tower on the Alexanderplatz, a once feared symbol of the German Democratic Republic, adorns T-shirts and necklaces. According to Markus Müller of the Kunst-Werke Institute of Contemporary Art, which collaborated with MoMA on the project, since the Berlin Wall fell the city’s young artists have created a place where borders are blurred. “We are showing tiny little bits and pieces of an international future,” Müller says. “It’s almost the fledgling German identity that one could hope for.”