The idea of Gesamtkunstwerk is alive and well and can be found at Klingelhöferstrasse 14 in Berlin, where the Bauhaus Archiv is currently hosting its final presentation of the permanent collection before the building closes for renovation. The special exhibition “100 New Objects,” which opened last Tuesday, is on view alongside the permanent exhibition, collectively spanning different periods in the history of one of the most avant-garde and influential architecture schools ever. Faced with the overwhelming variety of design mediums — montages, kinetic sculptures, metal objects, furniture inspired by primitive art, photography and ads, all housed in a building designed by Gropius — one is almost inclined to sum the exhibition up in one ernest, albeit unscholarly statement: “Boy, did these people have fun!”
Photos by Aurelio Schrey
For many years, the school, which functioned largely according to the Montessori principles of learning, has been the hotbed of creative thought and a place where students experimented with art, craftsmanship and mechanized production through the idea of “learning by doing.” It is only logical that its history is preserved in Berlin: Most of the Bauhaus early staff was comprised of, and influenced by, architects, artists, and events centered around the current German capital, where Mies, its last director, was forced to relocate the school in 1930. It is in Berlin that the school was ultimately closed in 1933.
Marianne-Brandt, Tea Infuser, photo by Gunter Lepkowski © VG-Bild-Kunst
The collection of works by prominent figures — László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Marianne Brandt, Mies van der Rohe, to name a few — has been enriched with an extensive exhibition of photography by Nathan Lerner, Gertrud Arndt, and Yasuhiro Ishimoto, along with Herbert Bayer-designed ads, a few furniture pieces, and a paper umbrella by Ferdinand Kramer, made from coated paper, plastic, wood and aluminum. The diversity of materials is even more recognizable in the permanent collection which showcases the subtle shifts in direction and influences throughout the school’s operation.
Meanwhile, the obvious influences of German Expressionism and Glasarchitektur are recognizable in Lyonel Feininger’s design of the cover of the “Bauhaus Manifesto and Programme” from April 1919. The manifesto itself was written by Gropius, the school’s founder and director until 1928; a model of his design for what became home of the Bauhaus between 1926 and 1930, dominates a large part of the exhibition space. This early example of the International Style, demonstrates Gropius’ three-dimensional spatial planning, use of steel-frame construction and asymmetrical pinwheel plans and unifies the exhibition by strengthening the awareness of the school’s predominant orientation towards standardization, mass-production, and Elementarism.
Lyonel Feininger, cover of the Bauhaus Manifesto of 1919
The use of Phileban solids, space-grids, steel, glass, and typography can be seen throughout the exhibition, infused by the eclectic yet methodical spirit of László Moholy-Nagy, who joined the school staff in 1923 as the person in charge of the school’s metal-working shop. His kinetic sculpture entitled “The Light Prop,” reveals the influences of Malevich’s suprematism and the Futurist obsession with movement and field theory.
Herbert Bayer, Cigarette Pavilion, 1924
Josef-Hartwig, Chess Set, 1923, photos by Fotostudio-Bartsch© VG-Bild-Kunst_Bonn
This latest exhibition is meant to entice the imagination of those interested in design and remind them of the extensive collection of items relating to Bauhaus housed in Berlin. The last presentation of the permanent collection in the existing building concludes on May 25, 2015, but visitors will have the opportunity to see special exhibitions during the renovation period. The Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung will also receive an additional facility on its site to be re-opened in 2019, meant to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of Bauhaus.
Oskar-Schlemmer, “Abstract Figure,” 1921. Photo by Gunter Lepkowski © VG-Bild-Kunst
The German federal government has decided to invest a total of €56.3 million toward the renovation of the existing and the construction of the new museum building. Another important reason for architects to visit the current exhibition is the fact that the design competition for the new structure is expected to be announced next year — all the more reason to keep your eyes open, and, if you’re anywhere close to Berlin, brush up on your knowledge of Bauhaus history.
Yasuhiro Ishimoto, ”Katsura-rikyu Kyoto”
Gertrud Arndt, “Maskenfoto”