Interview by Christoph Ziegler

Danner Prize exhibition venue: Heiliggeistkirche Landshut, Germany.  Photo: © Danner-Stiftung / Eva Jünger.

The Danner Prize is one the world’s most prestigious awards for applied art and crafts. Dr. Stefan Kraus, director of KOLUMBA Museum in Cologne and Danner Prize jury member, tells SMCK Magazine of the award's significance and the criteria followed to select the nominees for the show opening on Thursday, October 12, in Landshut.

Established in 1920 in Munich, the Danner Foundation is among Europe’s most renowned organizations promoting handmade craftsmanship. Since 1984, every three years, the Danner Foundation awards artists, crafters, and designers living in Bavaria for their outstanding achievements.
The competition promotes new creative ideas and enhances further progress and developments in the applied art and crafts sector. It is under the auspices of the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy. A jury of international experts decides the nominations and the awards.
The Danner Prize promotes established artists and young talent while it also sets the sector's high standards and promotes Bavarian design globally.

Gunther Pfeffer was awarded the Danner Prize 2023 for his delicate modular showcase cabinet Raster made of fir wood. Honorary prizes go to Christiane Engelsberger’s headdress Fülle made of rye straw, Beate Leonard’s vase made of tombac, Nico Schipp’s ceramic installation Lined up, and Christoph Straube’s three-dimensional illusion of enamel brooches.

Danner Prize winner: Gunther Pfeffer, "Raster" - pine wood cabinet, 2022.  Photo: © Danner-Stiftung / Eva Jünger / SMCK Magazine.

SMCK: What quality characteristics make an entry interesting for the jury?

DR. STEFAN KRAUS: Already the quality level of the applications we receive makes the jury’s work interesting. This high level of the portfolios submitted should be credited to the continuous work of the Danner Foundation over the years. We are talking about top-class crafts. The quality characteristics are part of the criteria we use to decide the nominations. The first impression is indeed very important: is the work fascinating and what does it tell us exclusively through how it looks?

SMCK: Which criteria played a role for the award nominations this year?

DR. STEFAN KRAUS: Some of the criteria have been already articulated in the Open Call and in formulating the goal the Danner Foundation wishes to achieve by supporting artists. Other criteria must be discussed at the beginning of the jury meeting and take a definite form during the jury discussion, to reflect the variety of the submitted works.

Awardee: Christoph Straube, brooches, 2022. Stainless steel, painted enamel.  Photo: © Danner-Stiftung / Eva Jünger.

Part of the procedure is that one has to find the criteria that apply to every single work, such as an understanding of the material used, individuality and distinctiveness, as well as haptics and function. The innovation part looks very important to me. One can see in the work submitted the very long practice of the discipline, the repetitive exercising of the technique to attain perfection, but also the risk-taking for achieving something new.

SMCK: SMCK Magazine: What is the Danner Prize’s significance for winners’ and nominees’ careers?

DR. STEFAN KRAUS: It encourages them to continue on the path they had chosen and not to compromise the high quality of their work. The Danner Prize gives crafters and designers the opportunity to stand on equal foot with visual artists who usually attract more publicity than their colleagues of applied art. The Danner Foundation award is one of the best international references an artist working in the field of applied art can have.

LINKS: Dannerpreis Landshut | |  Instagram: dannerstiftung