The origins of festival culture and its designs explored in new MK&G retrospective

The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MK&G) presents ‘Ready To Party’, an exhibition focused entirely on the design of global celebrations and their ancient origins (until 25 August 2024)

MK&G Festival
Paffenholz family of float builders at the float hall of the Cologne Carnival, 2023 Film still from the essay series „FESTE FEIERN! “ Editorial: Dr Manuela van Rossem/MK&G
(Image credit: © dschungelfilm/Martin D'Costa)

MK&G (the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg) gets ready to party at its latest exhibition focused entirely on festivals. The retrospective (until 25 August 2024) centres on the origins of global celebrations, from festivals, ceremonies and parties, and how they play an essential role in anthropological history and the evolution of cultural exchanges. The Hamburg museum explores these celebrations looking at Greek and Roman antiquity, and how it has impacted contemporary festive culture.

MK&G presents 'Ready to Party'

Close up of an ancient vase

Exhibition view „FESTE FEIERN! “MK&G

(Image credit: Henning Rogge, Hamburg)

Aptly titled ‘Ready To Party’, the exhibition focuses on the four pillars of a successful ancient party; a procession, a ritual, a contest, and sharing food and drink. Through MK&G’s Collection of Ancient Arts and Antiquities, complemented by loans from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and the Capitoline Museums in Rome, among others, the wide collection spins a narrative through pictures and symbols on drinking cups, sculptures, objects and relics, creating a clear picture of an ancient get together.

Large gathering of people

Celebrating in the Schottenhamel festival tent at the Wiesn, Munich, 2023 Film still from the essay series „FESTE FEIERN! “ Editorial: Dr Manuela van Rossem/MK&G

(Image credit: © dschungelfilm/Martin D'Costa)

The central theme focuses on how ancient festivals mark the origin of present day festival culture. Wanting to showcase the parallels between ancient and modern culture, a contemporary film essay will be on show, which dives into the world of international festivals from the Munich Oktoberfest to the Heavy Metal Festival in Wacken. Other rituals show the dynamic nature of human culture, from a private funeral service in Hamburg to an Aramaic wedding taking place in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, Gütersloh and Herford.

Heavy metal festival

Metalfans at Wacken Open Air, 2023. Film still from the essay series „FESTE FEIERN! “ Editorial: Dr Manuela van Rossem/MK&G

(Image credit: © dschungelfilm/Martin D'Costa)

The exhibition is divided into four chapters. The first is named after the classical festival of Panathenaea, which illuminates the religious and political celebration held in ancient Athens, which honoured the goddess Athena. In the second chapter “Spectaculum Gladiatorum”, visitors will learn about the gladiatorial games often associated with violence and bloodshed. The chapter will show how the games evolved into a spectacle, when its origins lie in funerary tradition.

Ancient vases behind glass

Exhibition view „FESTE FEIERN! “MK&G

(Image credit: Henning Rogge, Hamburg)

‘Funeral and Burial Rites’ questions the rituals involved in the way we celebrate festivals including how religions competed with each other. The last chapter, “Secret Rites”, looks at the influence of the Mithras cult on the development of Christian festive culture.

MK&G 'Ready To Party' is on view until 25 August 2024

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz
20099 Hamburg

mkg-hamburg.de

Vase and three small figurines

Exhibition view „FESTE FEIERN! “MK&G

(Image credit: Henning Rogge, Hamburg)

small figurines

Exhibition view „FESTE FEIERN! “MK&G

(Image credit: Henning Rogge, Hamburg)

Tianna Williams is the Editorial Executive at Wallpaper*. Before joining the team in 2023, she has contributed to BBC Wales, Ford UK, SurfGirl Magazine, and Parisian Vibe, with work spanning from social media content creation to editorial. Now, her role covers writing across varying content pillars for Wallpaper*.