Herbert Bayer, Design for a cinema. 1924-25, Gouache, cut-and-pasted photomechanical and print elements, ink, and pencil on paper. 18 x 24”, Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum. Gift of the artist, Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College, © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
Walter Gropius, Törten housing estate, Dessau. 1926-28, Row houses, isometric. 1926-28, Ink, spatter paint, and gouache, on paperboard. 34 15/16 x 42 1/4”, Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum. Gift of Walter Gropius, Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College, © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
Marcel Breuer, Wassily Chair, 1927 28, 28-1/4 x 30-3/4 x 28", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Herbert Bayer.
Paul Klee, Fire in the Evening, 1929, 13-3/8 x 13-1/4", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mr. and Mrs. Joachim Jean Aberbach Fund, © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
Eberhard Schrammen, Maskottchen (Mascot). c. 1924, Oak and miscellaneous exotic woods, turned, coated in places with colored and gold lacquer, Height: 14-9/16”, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Photo: Gunter Lepkowski, © Estate Eberhard Schrammen.
Oskar Schlemmer, Bauhaus Stairway, 1932, 63-7/8 x 45", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Philip Johnson.
Anni Albers, Wall hanging. 1926, Silk (three-ply weave). 70-3/8 x 46-3/8", Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum. Association Fund, Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College, © 2009 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Gallery, sixth floor
Workshops for Modernity
November 8, 2009-January 25, 2010
The Bauhaus school in Germany — the most famous and influential school of avant-garde art in the twentieth century — brought together artists, architects, and designers in an extraordinary conversation about the nature of art in the modern age. Aiming to rethink the very form of contemporary life, the students and faculty of the Bauhaus made the school the venue for a dazzling array of experiments in the visual arts that had a transformative effect on the 1920s and 1930s and profoundly shaped our contemporary visual world. The exhibition brings together over 400 works that reflect the extraordinarily broad range of the school’s productions, including industrial design, furniture, architecture, graphics, photography, textiles, ceramics, theater and costume design, painting, and sculpture. It includes works by famous faculty members and well-known students including Anni Albers, Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Marianne Brandt, Marcel Breuer, Lyonel Feininger, Walter Gropius, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, Lucia Moholy, Lilly Reich, Oskar Schlemmer, and Gunta Stölzl, as well as less well-known, but equally innovative, artists.
The exhibition is organized by Barry Bergdoll, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, and Leah Dickerman, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, in collaboration with a cross-departmental group of MoMA colleagues, in the spirit of the Bauhaus. It is also organized in collaboration with a consortium of the three Bauhaus collections in Germany: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, and Klassik Stiftung Weimar, a partnership that has only been possible since the reunification of Germany. A version of the show was presented at The Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin from July 22 to October 4, 2009. The New York and Berlin exhibitions share a core group of loans, but have distinct curatorial perspectives. In New York, a rich group of approximately 150 rarely seen works of art from the three German Bauhaus collections join over 80 works from MoMA’s own collection to form the foundation of the exhibition. In addition, major loans come from The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation; the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle; the Harvard Art Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and numerous other public and private collections in the United States and Europe.
Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity opens 80 years after the founding of MoMA, and 90 years after the establishment of the Bauhaus. This exhibition is the first comprehensive treatment by MoMA of the Bauhaus since 1938. That early exhibition, titled Bauhaus 1919-1928, was organized by the founder and first director of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius, and was designed by former Bauhaus student and instructor Herbert Bayer, and it excluded the final five years of the school under Gropius’s successors, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. For many years, the exhibition’s catalogue was the vehicle by which Americans learned about the Bauhaus. No museum was more influenced by the Bauhaus than The Museum of Modern Art itself, whose collections were organized to include an unprecedented range of mediums in both art and design. "I regard the three days which I spent at the Bauhaus in 1928 as one of the most important incidents in my own education," recalled MoMA founding director Alfred Barr, Jr. in a letter to Gropius.
MoMA’s second major Bauhaus exhibition offers an extraordinary opportunity for a new generational perspective on this influential school. In popular discussion, the Bauhaus is often used as shorthand for a timeless style of international modernism. In contrast, Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity looks at the Bauhaus in its historical moment from 1919 to 1933 — the exact years of the tumultuous tenure of the Weimar Republic — and considers it as a vibrant school rather than as an artistic movement. The school was led by three different directors — Walter Gropius (1919-1928), Hannes Meyer (1928-1930), and Mies van der Rohe (1930-1933) — each the century’s most important architectural minds, but each quite different in outlook and philosophy. The school also occupied homes in three cities with distinct cultural and political climates: founded in 1919 in Weimar, the birthplace of Goethe and Friedrich von Schiller, the school was later forced by local political opposition to depart for the industrialized city of Dessau in 1925, where it moved into the internationally acclaimed buildings Gropius designed for the school. In 1932, after the Nazis closed the school in Dessau, a small core of students and faculty tried to hold on in an abandoned telephone factory in Berlin, but the institution was closed in less than a year.
A full range of historical work is presented in the exhibition, including such Bauhaus icons as Marcel Breuer’s tubular steel furniture and László Moholy-Nagy’s oblique angle photographs, as well as works that counter expectations, like Lothar Schreyer’s design for a coffin (1920) or Kurt Kranz’s project for an abstract cinema (c. 1930). Also included is the "African" Chair (1921), created by Marcel Breuer in collaboration with the weaver Gunta Stölzl. Made of painted wood with a colorful textile weave, this chair embodies the spirit of the early Bauhaus in its romantic experimentalism. The chair was presumed lost for the past 80 years — the only documentation available was a black-and-white photograph — until 2004, when its owners offered the chair to the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin. This is the chair’s first appearance outside of Germany. This historical grounding demonstrates the degree to which the school functioned as a cultural think tank for trying times; its diverse faculty of prominent artists, designs, and architecture engaged in a 14-year conversation about the nature of art in the age of technology, industrial production, and global communication.
Bauhaus 1919-1933: Workshops for Modernity is accompanied by a major publication. Featuring over 400 full-color plates, richly complemented by documentary images, it includes two essays by curators Barry Bergdoll and Leah Dickerman that offer new critical perspectives on the Bauhaus. Thirty shorter essays by over 20 leading scholars discuss specific objects in the exhibition. An illustrated narrative chronology provides a lively glimpse of the Bauhaus’s history, and guides readers though important events, exhibitions, and publications.
The exhibition also is accompanied by a series of workshops, lectures, a music program, and a scholarly symposium. Bauhaus Lab, an interactive classroom space in the Museum’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, offers audiences of all ages the opportunity to participate in hands-on workshops on color theory, graphic design, photography, drawing, and other creative processes that were integral to Bauhaus practice. Ati Gropius Johansen, daughter of Walter Gropius and disciple of Josef Albers, conducts two special workshops on January 14 and 15 using Albers’ color and 3-D curriculum. A series of three evening lectures (November 18, December 9, and January 13) highlights the contributions of some of the women artists who worked at the Bauhaus, including Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Lilly Reich, and Alma Siedhoff-Buscher. The interdisciplinary innovations in design, movement, and performance at the Bauhaus had a great impact on the era’s musical vanguard. Several significant composers had ties to the Bauhaus and many others were represented in Bauhaus performances, forging a new language that meshed with the Bauhaus ethos. A concert on December 1 at MoMA features pieces by George Antheil, Ferrucio Busoni, Paul Hindemith, Ernst Krenek, Arnold Schoenberg, and Oskar Schlemmer. On January 22, 2010, a closing symposium brings important scholars to MoMA and offers new perspectives on the international legacy of the Bauhaus. An additional symposium dedicated to Hungarians at the Bauhaus organized by Juliet Kinchin and Barry Bergdoll of MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design in collaboration with the Hungarian Cultural Center is a part of the 2009 Extremely Hungary festival on November 20, 2009.
Oskar Schlemmer, Study for The Triadic Ballet (Das Triadische Ballett), c. 1924, 22-5/8 x 14-5/8", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Lily Auchincloss.
Herbert Bayer, Wall-painting design for the stairwell of the Weimar Bauhaus building on the occasion of the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition. 1923, Gouache, pencil, and cut paper on paper. 22-7/8 x 10-3/8", Collection Merrill C. Berman. Photo: Jim Frank, © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
László Moholy Nagy, Nickel Construction, 1921, 14-1/8 x 6-7/8 x 9-3/8", The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mrs. Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.