“The Bauhaus was inspiring not just because of the extraordinary group of brilliant, visionary people who worked and made art there, but because it was fuelled by an idealism and a commitment to creativity and experiment that remains even more relevant today.” (Kate Bush, Head of Art Galleries, Barbican Centre)
Opening today, Bauhaus: Art as Life is the latest grand exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery. Co-curated by Barbican curators Catherine Ince and Lydia Yee, it has been designed by the architectural studio Carmody Groarke and the graphic design agency APFEL (A Practice For Everyday Life).
An impressive range of works – more than 400 – is on display, responding to the difficult task of showcasing the incredibly polymorphic world produced in the Bauhaus schools from 1919 to 1933. With the space of the gallery redesigned following Bauhaus principles – for instance, painted walls in the primary colours on the top floor, structures of black and grey (to the frames of the very items) on the lower floors, your visit will truly be an immersion.
The plurality of media, so typical of the utopian goals of the Bauhaus school, is perfectly conveyed: you will find furniture, paintings, architectural models, photographs, scenographies, photomontages, books, toys, kinetic sculpture, etc. – with, of course, everything in between. Some of the most touching works are photographs by a teacher of another teacher’s – or student’s – work, linking separate media in a Modernist attempt at a Gesamtkunstwerk. The architecture becomes photography, design turns into theatre, puppets into art and so on.
The blurring of media, due to the collaboration and the educative scope of the movement, could create confusion in the museography. Yet, the ten spaces (1. new beginnings, 2. a return to the crafts, 3. salute to the square, 4. instruments of communication – Weimar, 5. young people come to the bauhaus! 6. our play, our party, our work 7. stage, space, architecture 8. designing the modern world, 9. the new vision – Dessau, 10. the final years – Berlin) that were designed for the top and lower floors are subdivided in coherent, if not utterly chronological, themes. They establish the places, the people, the events, to the extent of making the works strangely alive.
Perhaps it was the discussions in German one could overhear through the whole space, perhaps it was the focus given to ephemeral events, like the Bauhaus parties, as well as ‘pure’ works of art, or perhaps the effort made by the English institution to offer a series of events aiming at recreating a Bauhaus atmosphere for the summer 2012: fact is there was no room for nostalgia, and the temporal distance with the artistic movement seemed irrelevant.
The metaphor for the whole exhibition could then be the rotating metallic figure from Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadische Ballet, a dance prop/character made in the early 20s that is still running impertinently and proves that not all modernist ideals are dead.
After the impressive, yet contested OMA/AMO exhibition, the Barbican Centre has produced another exhibition that is worth more than a visit, both because of the richness of the collection (with loans from the three Bauhaus institutes in Germany, but also other prestigious institutions such as the MoMA, the Zentrum Paul Klee or the Pompidou Centre) and the simple, yet striking beauty of the overall design.
With works by Josef Albers, Lyonel Feininger, Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Adolf Meyer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Schlemmer and many others, Bauhaus: Art as Life is a show not to be missed.
Bauhaus: Art as Life, 3 May 2012 – 12 August 2012, Barbican Art Gallery, London
Daily 11am-8pm, Wed 11am-6pm, every Thurs late until 10pm; tickets: standard £10/£12, concessions £7/£8
Thanks to Ann Berni and Jess Hookway
Photos Isa Jakob3 May 2012 Leave a Comment