Danner Preis 2020. The Most Proficient Forces are to be Distinguished by the Foundation

Published: 08.06.2021
Sabine Tröger
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Bettina Dittlmann. Brooch: Wohin, 2019. Iron, solder, enamel, garnets, pyrite, neodymium magnetic disk.. Photo by: Eva Jünger. Awarded at: Danner Prize 2020. Disassembled view.. Bettina Dittlmann
Brooch: Wohin, 2019
Iron, solder, enamel, garnets, pyrite, neodymium magnetic disk.
Photo by: Eva Jünger
Awarded at: Danner Prize 2020

Disassembled view.

© By the author. Read Copyright.

The following article by Sabine Tröger is published in the book Danner Prize 2020. 100 Years of Support to Bavaria's Outstanding Arts and Crafts by the Danner Foundation.

As artistic craftsmanship itself stands out as a noble trade from the mass of the remaining crafts, so in turn, are the most proficient forces to be distinguished by the foundation.(1) Founded in Munich in 1920, the Danner-Stiftung is one of the most well-respected institutions for the promotion of arts and crafts in Europe and has been presenting the internationally renowned Danner Prize since 1984.
The Establishment of the Danner Foundation
By notarial deed dated 9 June 1920, Therese Danner (1861–1934) set up in remembrance of her late husband, Benno Danner (1857–1917), the Benno und Therese Danner’sche Kunstgewerbestiftung.
Like her husband, who had established a foundation in favour of the Königliches Central-Blinden-Institut (Royal Central Institute of the Blind), the childless widow wished to pledge the fortune acquired by the couple through the sale and lease of property in Neuhausen to charitable purposes – among others, to artistic craftsmanship. The court goldsmith and later professor of fine arts Karl Rothmüller (1860–1930) – a friend of the family and a leading exponent of artistic jewellery in Munich in circa 1900 – had managed to persuade her to bequeath the considerable assets (2) to a single institution, and indeed a foundation for artistic craftsmanship, since "artistic craftsmanship is worth such energetic furtherance in every respect". (3)

On 9 May 1921 the State Ministries for Education and Cultural Affairs approved the establishment of the Foundation, and in accordance with the statutes one representative from the State Ministry for Commerce, Industry and Trade (simultaneously Chairman), one board member of the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein, one board member of the Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechselbank, court goldsmith Karl Rothmüller, one member of the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein and one member of the Münchner Bund were appointed to the Foundation’s board. (4)

The composition of the board and patronages was attested on the occasion of the Foundation’s formal establishment on 16 June 1921 by representatives from politics, artisanal crafts associations, arts colleges, museums, academies, the world of finance, and the press. This demonstrates that in the face of the difficult economic situation after the First World War, a broad alliance in support of artisanal craftsmanship was in existence. The establishment of the Danner Foundation was viewed as "a rare point of light in a dark time of material and mental and spiritual need" (5) and Munich’s deputy mayor, Dr. Hans Küfner, deemed it "a favourable omen" that the Foundation had been "called into life on the eve of the 1922 Munich Trade Show". (6)

This comment is interesting since a lot of institutions and personalities from throughout Germany participated in the preparation and holding of the Trade Show – all board members of the Danner Foundation and numerous of the Foundation’s patrons also among them.(7) The event, planned since 1919, was regarded as a symbol of Germany’s rebuilding (8), and with that in mind, albeit with a focus on Bavaria, it was Therese Danner’s intention that her Foundation ‘should help Bavarian arts and crafts through the difficult period and enable them to participate in the rebuilding of economic life. (9)

Early Awards and Competitions
Therese Danner placed particular value on allocating the funds to the ‘really gifted’ and having them understood not as support, but as a distinction. (10) According to the deed of foundation, therefore, provision was made to hand out Danner commemorative medals in gold, silver, and bronze at an annual ceremony on 16 June, St Benno’s Day.

The first prize-giving took place on the foundation’s anniversary on 16 June 1922 in the hall of the Kunstgewerbeverein, and at the express wish of Therese Danner, Karl Rothmüller received the first Danner honorary plaquette in gold for his services to the Foundation. (11) For the best works exhibited in the Kunstgewerbeverein, five further gold medals were awarded, along with four silver medals for particular achievements and a bronze one in commendation. In addition, "a small exhibition of works by the prize-winners [was] set up in the association’s bar". (12) In the ensuing years the Foundation honoured, among others, Theodor Heiden (1923) and Adolf von Mayrhofer (1923), Karl Leipfinger (1927), Julius Schneider (1927), and Heinrich Pössenbacher (1930) with the Danner gold medal. A Danner medal (in silver) was awarded for the final time in 1932, to an employee of Franz Mayer of Munich. (13)

Alongside the important funding in the form of bursaries, acquisitions of designs and executed works, and grants for the production of works, the Foundation regarded competitions as being suitable for distinguishing the best works made by a circle of outstanding artistic artisans. Therefore, in 1930, the board resolved to hold a closed competition "for the obtainment of high-quality works of artistic craftsmanship for the 1930 Glaspalast exhibition". To that end, it made some Reichsmarks (RM) available and tasked the Academies of Applied Arts in Munich and Augsburg, the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein, the Münchner Bund, and the German Society for Christian Art in Munich with proposing suitable personalities and talented pupils (a maximum of five) for the competition. (14) According to the Danner Foundation’s chronicle, seventeen artistic artisans received monies worth a total of 4,730 RM for the execution of arts and crafts works for the 1930 Glaspalast exhibition, among them the goldsmiths Karl Riepl, Franz Valentin, and Johann Michael Wilm, the glass engraver Hans Mauder, and the designer Anna Kurreck-Hagn.

To mark the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany, in 1935 the board again initiated a closed competition, this time "for the obtainment of designs for athletics awards". (15) The first prize of the Olympic competition, amounting to 300 RM, went to Karl Riepl’s design for a ring comprised of five Olympic rings/continents; the second (200 RM) went to F. H. Wandinger for a ring featuring a rider, and the third was awarded to Lorenz Durner for an Olympic messenger (100 RM). Furthermore, six (16) designs were acquired at 50 RM each and ten commendations were pronounced. Approximately 2,500 RM were subsequently made available by the board in order to have seventeen of the designs executed too, and an exhibition of the submitted designs and of the executed works was planned in the Kunstgewerbeverein for November 1935. (17)

The proposal to advertise a competition for the 1940 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (later cancelled due to the start of the war) was rejected by the board. (18) The competition still in the planning in early 1940 – for the attainment of outstanding designs and models for light fixtures, smokers’ sets, and ink utensils, to be manufactured chiefly out of wood, ceramic, or glass, on account of the prohibition on production and sale concerning metals – was likewise withdrawn in November 1940. (19) In the years 1941 through 1945, while the Foundation continued to acquire arts and crafts objects, no competitions were planned. (20)

Post-War Period
Despite the Foundation’s economically poor situation – the Foundation’s cash assets and securities had become almost worthless after the war –, in 1946 the board consented to prize monies amounting to 3,500 RM for a closed competition for the obtainment of high-quality designs and productions. (21) However, there is no indication to be found in the records of whether and when this was organised, and by the time of the 1948 currency reform, when cash assets were further devalued, (22) it was no longer possible to advertise any competitions for a considerable period afterward. (23)

The most important basis of the fortune was constituted initially by the leased parcels of land, and in the 1960s the Foundation’s financial situation had considerably improved. (24) Now as before, competitions were regarded as a suitable means of promoting artistic craftsmanship, and contact was therefore taken up with the state skilled trades custodian Dr. Herbert Hofmann. (25) Ultimately, in 1966, a closed competition for an arts and craft object to be set up outside the college building of the Upper Bavarian Chamber of Crafts was advertised. The competition was not held, however. (26)

It was not until 1968, in collaboration with the skilled trades custodianship in Bavaria, that a competition was advertised for the "Gold and Silversmiths" sector, which absolutely can be regarded as the predecessor of the later Danner Prize call for entries. (27) Eligible for submission were a bracelet or bangle in silver or gold; the works were required to be self-designed and executed and to exhibit new design ideas. (28) The jury, which sat on 23.10.1968, (29) also comprised alongside its chairmen – Dr. Rolf von Sivers, Ministerial Advisor Eberhard Kuchtner, Karl Rothmüller and Professor Josef HillerbrandDr. Herbert Hofmann, Professor Franz Rickert and Karl Schöttle. Out of forty-one works by thirty-five participants, the jury determined three prize-winners in the goldsmithing category (2,000 DM/1,000 DM/500 DM), as well as two in silver craftsmanship (no first prize/1,000 DM/500 DM), and four of the participants, received a commendation (150 DM). The prize-giving took place at the Galerie Handwerk during a small ceremony in November.

The idea that had already arisen in 1966, to organise a contest for the manufacture of tasteful travel souvenirs to mark the 1972 Olympics in Munich, (30) was reprised by the board in 1969. Once again, Dr. Herbert Hofmann was enlisted and the competition "Souvenir München 1972" was advertised. (31) Thirty-five works were submitted, but the jury members (three Foundation board members, Mr. Müller from the Olympic Committee, Wend Fischer from Die Neue Sammlung, Senior Master Roth from the Kerschensteiner Gewerbeschule, Dr. Hans Wichmann from the Werkbund Bayern, Dr. Herbert Hofmann) could not bring themselves to award a prize because no work fulfilled the conditions "new idea" and "Munich and/or Olympia reference". Therefore, merely five accolades were pronounced on account of good ideas, of which three were awarded monetary prizes (1,000 DM, 300 DM, 400 DM). (32) The disappointing result evidently had the outcome that the competition concept was not pursued further for the time being.

Now the board drew on the tradition of the annual prize-giving and, from 1972 to 1977, awarded – also in order to satisfy the statutes – annual prizes for outstanding works exhibited at the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein. The distinctions, which were described as ‘Danner Prize’, consisted in 1972 of two and in 1973 of three prizes at 1,000 DM each and, from 1974 until 1977, of three prizes at 1,500 DM each. Additionally, the prize-winners received a certificate and a small celebration was held on the premises of the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein. (33)

The First Danner Prize
Regrettably, the board did not succeed in generating any considerable press response to the annual prizes. (34) Therefore, in 1980, it passed the far-reaching resolution to advertise a competition once again and to hand out a prize for artistic craftsmanship in Bavaria, the Danner Prize. (35) The objective was to stimulate stronger public interest in artistic craftsmanship and to widely promote the latter by this means. The concept of the skilled crafts custodian Viktor Zelger comprised the stipulation that the competition should provide ‘an incentive to develop new ideas in the designing crafts’ and "spur creative forces on to continued development". The aim of the "Danner Prize 1981" was to distinguish works that "are exemplary in contouring and artisanal execution". (36)

On account of the absence due to the illness of Viktor Zelger, the Danner Prize competition was not first held in 1981, but board member Dr. Heino Maedebach declared himself willing to organise the Danner Prize in 1982. (37) However, he had difficulties in finding suitable exhibition premises, and so the decision was taken in November 1982 not to organise the first Danner Prize competition, worth 15,000 DM, until 1984. (38) Out of more than 160 candidatures, sixty-five artistic craftswomen and artistic craftsmen were invited to take part in the exhibition, which took place in the Glass Hall of the Deutsches Museum from 14 April until 3 June 1984 and was visited by around 7,500 interested parties. (39)

From the beginning, the board had been planning to repeat the Prize in two or three-year rotation, and so the agreement was made in July 1985 to organise the next Danner Prize competition in 1987 and to hold the exhibition on the premises of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. (40) The foundation stone for the competition, held in three-year rotation since then, was therefore laid.

Advertisement and Adjudication
Eligible for the competition in the meantime – following two changes in the call for entries (41) – are artistic craftswomen and artistic craftsmen of all trades, whose profession extends to an arts and crafts activity (so no hobby artists), who hold German nationality and have also had their place of residence and/or workshop in Bavaria for five years. In addition, entitled to participate are German nationals who have completed their vocational training in Bavaria, lived in Bavaria for at least five years, or who have been teaching in Bavaria for at least five years.
Adjudication is performed in a two-step process – the jury appraises first a photo and then the physical object –, from which the prize-winner, as well as the honorary prize-winner, emerges. Additionally, the jury selects further works, which are shown in the Danner Prize exhibition and – like the prize-winning works – included in the catalogue.

The Danner Prize 1984–2020
In 1984 the competition’s patron expressed the hope that the ‘Danner Prize’ might develop into a universally recognised concept in arts and crafts. (42) The rising number of participants from 167 in 1984 (43) up to record the year 1996 with 383 candidates, but also the continuous tally of some 200 participants in the years after that, confirm that the Danner Prize has since established itself as one of the few high distinctions for arts and crafts in the German-speaking region. Simultaneously, it has become apparent, since 2002, that the number of works selected for the exhibition has been located at around 20 % of all competing works – a sign of the high quality of the submitted objects.
The alternating exhibition locations in Munich and other Bavarian cities have also contributed to the cross-regional importance of the Danner Prize. The first exhibition at the Deutsches Museum in Munich was succeeded by the second, in 1987, at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. The event in 1990, to mark the Foundation’s 70th anniversary, turned out to be more large-scale, since, at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum visitors, were not only able to view the Danner Prize exhibition comprising contemporary artistic craftsmanship from all trades but simultaneously historical jewellery ("Münchner Jewellery, 1900–1940") along with a small selection of contemporary jewellery from the Danner Foundation collection. (44)

After the prize-giving and exhibition of the Danner Prize in 1993 at the Neue Residenz in Bamberg, the offering in 1994 was a retrospective on the "broad spectrum of competitions and the highly diverse trends and movements in artisanal creativity", (45) under the title "10 Jahre Danner-Preis" at the Galerie für Angewandte Kunst of the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein. The prize-winning works reflected the link between skilled virtuosity and innovative ideas from the beginning, though it was evident that, since the first Danner Prize, "the lines between applied and liberal art’ had become ‘increasingly continuous". (46) In 1996 and 1999 – the exhibition venues were Die Neue Sammlung in Munich and the Galerie Leerer Beutel in Regensburg – this conversation was taken up both by the catalogue titles "Beauty, Function and Art" (1996) and "Beautiful and Provocative" (1999) and by corresponding written articles. The same applies for the 2002 Danner Prize with the catalogue title "Vivid & Timeless", which additionally represents a peculiarity, because the selected works were first presented at the Veste Coburg and subsequently at the Museum of Decorative Arts u(p)m in Prague. This is a further indicator of the cross-regional interest in the competition.

To mark the 20th anniversary, the Foundation intended to highlight the artistic evolution of the Danner Prize-winners hitherto and therefore organised, in partnership with the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbeverein, the exhibition "20 Jahre Danner-Preis". From early May until mid-June 2004, more recent works from the prize-winner's circle were exhibited at the Galerie für Angewandte Kunst in Munich. (47)

From 2005 – prize-giving and exhibition once again took place at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich – the Danner Prize competition was given a new corporate design,(48) which was also retained in variations for the subsequent calls for entries and catalogues at the H2-Zentrum für Gegenwartskunst in Augsburg (2008), at the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich (2011, 2017) and at the Schlossmuseum Aschaffenburg (2014).
Back in 2011, one of the jury members observed that artistic craftsmanship ‘these days [meant] more than just good handiwork or arts and crafts skills’ because it also tells a story, is associated with a concept. (49) The now thirteenth Danner Prize in 2020 clearly reveals this development in artistic craftsmanship, which is also reflected in the redesigned catalogue. At the invitation of Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum, this year’s Danner Prize was awarded at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. In collaboration with Die Neue Sammlung, an exhibition has been designed in which the competing works are complemented by pieces from both the historical and contemporary collection of the Danner Foundation.

This year, too, the handsome endowment, the adjudication by renowned experts, and the professionally designed exhibition and the elaborate catalogue underline the significance and value attached by the Foundation to the competition and the participating artistic craftswomen and artistic craftsmen, since "the most proficient forces are to be distinguished by the Foundation".

(1) From the speech by the board chairman Dr Georg Schmidt at the founding ceremony on 16 June 1922. Cited after Almut Andreae: 75 Jahre Danner-Stiftung: Auch in Zukunft Kunsthandwerk, in: Reizstoffe – Positionen zum zeitgenössischen Kunsthandwerk, Stuttgart 1995, p. 13.
(2) According to the deed of foundation, securities valued at 1,000,000 marks, properties worth 675,000 marks, and mortgages worth 25,000 marks.
(3) Hans Rothmüller: Zum 10-jährigen Bestehen der Benno und Therese Danner’schen Kunstgewerbe-Stiftung, in: Kunst und Handwerk 1930, 80th yr., number 6, p. 102.
(4) Cf. Chronicle of the Danner Foundation, no location, no year.
(5)  Kunst und Handwerk 1921, 71st yr., number 2, p. 30.
(6) Kunst und Handwerk 1921, 71st yr., number 2, p. 31.
(7)  Cf. Official report on the Deutsche Gewerbeschau München 1922, in: form 1922, 1st yr., number 1, p. 15, p. 29 and news from the Deutsche Gewerbeschau München 1922, enclosure in: form 1922, 1st yr. number 1, pp. 3–7, p. 10, pp. 14f.
(8) On the Deutsche Gewerbeschau München 1922 cf. among others Official report on the Deutsche Gewerbeschau München 1922, in: form 1922, 1st yr., number 1, pp. 15f. – Wolfgang Urbanczik: Die Drei – Das Plakat zur Deutschen Gewerbeschau München 1922 and Michaela Braesel: Rokoko-Tendenzen in der angewandten Kunst Münchens der zwanziger Jahre, both essays in: Felix Billeter/Antja Günther/Steffen Krämer (eds.): Münchner Moderne – Kunst und Architektur der zwanziger Jahre, Munich/Berlin 2002.
(9) Chronicle of the Danner Foundation (purpose and declaration of intent annexed to the copy of the deed of foundation), no place, no year.
(10) Cf. Chronicle of the Danner Foundation (purpose and declaration of intent annexed to the copy of the deed of foundation), no place, no year.
(11) Cf. Chronicle of the Danner Foundation, no place, no year.
(12) Kunst und Handwerk 1922, 72nd yr., number 3, p. 48.
(13) Cf. Chronicle of the Danner Foundation no place, no year. No prizes were awarded in 1924 owing to ‘difficult times’ (inflation). In 1925, in lieu of prizes, the Foundation handed out travel cost subsidies to the exhibition of the decorative arts in Paris. The anniversaries were cancelled in 1926 and 1928 (cf. board minutes of 14.5.1924 and 5.6.1928). There are no award ceremonies recorded in the chronicle in 1929 and 1931 and there are no indications in the board minutes.
(14) Cf. board minutes dated 28.11.1929 and meeting minutes dated 22.5.1930.
(15) Board minutes dated 26.2.1935.
(16) Only four were acquired according to the chronicle of the Danner Foundation.
(17) Cf. Chronicle of the Danner Foundation, no place, no year, meeting of the prize adjudicators on 9.5.1935 and the board minutes dated 13.5.1935 and 18.10.1935.
(18) Cf. board minutes dated 5.7.1939.
(19) Cf. board minutes dated 3.4.1940 and 16.11.1940.
(20) Cf. board minutes dated 17.4.1941 and priority notice dated 22.7.1942. There are no board minutes in existence in the years 1943 and 1944.
(21) Cf. circular resolution dated 15.4.1946.
(22) Cf. board minutes and financial statement dated 2.9.1949.
(23) In the years 1950 until 1956 the distribution of monies for foundation purposes was partially shelved or only low sums were distributed. Cf. board minutes dated 13.10.1950, 22.1.1952, 26.10.1953, 21.1.1955 and 12.6.1956. The board minutes from 1957 through to 1959 are missing. Sums of up to 50,000 DM for the fulfilment of the Foundation’s purpose were available again (cf. budgets for 1960, 1961, 1962 and the itemisation on the asset statement dated 31.12.1965) and in 1963 the Foundation had just under 100,000 DM and just under 150,000 DM already in 1964 available for distribution (cf. budgets for 1963, 1964 and the itemisation on the asset statement dated 31.12.1965).
(24) Cf. asset statement dated 31.12.1965.
(25) Cf. board minutes dated 16.10.1964 and 1.4.1965.
(26) A grant for a ceramic wall design in the advancement of crafts headquarters was awarded instead. Cf. board minutes dated 14.10.1966, 21.3.1967 and 18.10.1967.
(27) Cf. board minutes dated 18.10.1967 (initially, the competition was also to be advertised for the ‘Ceramics’ category), 16.3.1968 and 4.11.1968 (with call for entries).
(28) Cf. advertisement annexed to the board minutes dated 4.11.1968.
(29) On the jury session, the prize-winners, and the award ceremony cf. Danner Foundation Munich. Acitvity report, Freising 1990, p. 16 and board minutes dated 4.11.1968.
(30) Cf. board minutes dated 14.10.1966.
(31) Cf. board minutes dated 4.11.1968.
(32) Cf. jury session ‘Souvenir München 1972’ dated 20.10.1970 and board minutes dated 3.11.1970.
(33) Cf. board minutes dated 3.11.1971, 14.11.1972, 15.10.1973, 29.11.1974, 14.10.1975, 16.11.1976 (distribution proposal) and 7.10.1977 (distribution proposal).
(34) Cf. board minutes dated 17.4.1975.
(35) Cf. board minutes dated 17.4.1975, 14.2.1980, and 26.6.1980.
(36) Cf. initial concept for the Danner Prize dated 13.5.1980 by skilled crafts custodian Viktor Zelger and board minutes dated 26.6.1980.
(37) Cf. board minutes dated 5.2.1981 and 24.6.1981.
(38) Cf. board minutes dated 17.2.1982, 28.6.1982, 8.11.1982, and 24.2.1983.
(39) Cf. remarks on ‘Danner-Preis ’84’, enclosed with the invitation to the board meeting on der 5.7.1984.
(40) Cf. board minutes dated 10.7.1985.
(41) Autodidacts have also been admitted since 1987. Cf. Danner Foundation Munich. Acitvity report, Munich 1985, p. 16. Candidates who have completed their professional training in Bavaria or have lived in Bavaria for at least five years or have been teaching in Bavaria for at least five years are also permitted to participate in the competition since 2005. Cf. Danner Foundation Munich. Acitvity report, Karlsruhe 2005, p. 18.
(42) Cf. Anton Jaumann: Word of Welcome, in: [] Danner-Preis ’84, Freising 1984, p. 3.
(43) Cf. board minutes dated 5.7.1984.
(44) Cf. [] Danner-Preis ’90, Freising 1990, p. 5 and in the ‘Danner-Preis 1990’ archive under ‘Korrespondenzen’.
(45) Preface by Dr. Herbert Rüth, in: 10 Jahre Danner-Preis. Galerie für Angewandte Kunst München, in: Schriftenreihe des Bayerischen Kunstgewerbe-Vereins, vol. 9, Munich 1994, p. 5.
(46) Dr. Herbert Rüth, Vorwort, in: [] Danner-Preis ’96, Stuttgart 1996, p. 11.
(47) Cf. chronicle of the exhibitions of the Bayerischer Kunstgewerbe-Verein 2001–2005, in: Schriftenreihe des Bayerischen Kunstgewerbe-Vereins e. V., vol. 42, Munich 2006, p. 46ff.
(48) Cf.
(49) Cf. Chequita Nahar: Die Gestaltung der Zukunft durch das Kunsthandwerk, in: [] Danner-Preis 2011, Berlin/Munich 2011, p. 46.


About the author

Sabine Tröger
completed an apprenticeship as a lithographer and studied art history at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (M.A.). She was employed by the art magazine Weltkunst as a media designer. Since 2018 she is working for the Danner Foundation in Munich.