The toy designer from Judenbach

In the »Designer hall« toys designed by Baumgarten are presented.

In the so-called Designer Hall of the museum the visitor can experience Ali Kurt Baumgarten as a toy designer. Toys designed by him are displayed in 54 showcases.»There is probably hardly any child in the former GDR who did not grow up with animals from wood or plastics designed by my grandfather«, says his grandson Mike Baumgarten. He donated most part of the toys for the museum to the Foundation Judenbach.

Already his first drafts for the local toy production – the wooden wheeled animals at the end of the 1940s – stood out from the then common serial production. The painter and graphic artist, who had successfully passed his examination for master craftsman in toy production in 1952, realised very soon the creative potential of plastics for application in the toy industry. With his excellent ideas he gave new perspectives and a new face to the companies in the GDR.

The toy designer Baumgarten: The wooden donkey was the beginning of everything after the war.

Examples are displayed in a big showcase in the entrance area of the museum where mainly serial products of the PGH »Koppelhund« Judenbach (later VEB Spielwarenkombinat »Sonni« in Sonneberg) are presented. Ali Kurt Baumgarten was the designer of these toys.

The then Central Institute of Design – later General Office of Industrial Design – even selected special toys by Baumgarten for international exhibitions, for example, in Moscow in 1969 and in London in 1970. »With the design of an African baby doll he even created a brilliant masterpiece of expressive doll design«, says Bernd Havenstein, expert for GDR toys. »Hence, he joins the ranks of the rare gild of men/artists, such as Max Kruse, Igor von Jakimow or Arthur Lewin-Funcke, who created timelessly beautiful dolls«.

Expressive doll design: African baby.

In the middle of the 1970s, Ali Kurt Baumgarten mainly stopped making designs for toys. Particularly highlighted should be his large playground objects from glass-reinforced plastic hemispheric and egg-shaped elements. They caused a sensation at the 7th Art Exhibition of the GDR in Dresden from 5 October 1972 till 25 March 1973. Thanks to the donation by the art collector Dr. Philipp Zollmann from Jena, two of the objects are featured as exhibits in the outdoor area of the museum.

With the presented and well-designed toys by Ali Kurt Baumgarten, which are still amazingly modern, a gap in the East German history of design is closed. It is no coincidence that the museum just emerged from an industrial wasteland in the street Alte Handelstraße 83 in Judenbach: Toys from the PGH »Koppelhund« were once produced here – by Ali Kurt Baumgarten.

Friedhelm Berger

Entrance area of the museum with playground objects by Ali Kurt Baumgarten from the 1970s.