The Museum of Modern Art presents Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity from November 8, 2009, to 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. The effects are still felt in our contemporary visual world. The exhibition brings together over 400 works that reflect the extraordinarily broad range of the school’s production, 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
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.
Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity opens 80 years after the founding of MoMA, and 90 years after the establishment of the Bauhaus. It brings together a rich group of approximately 150 rarely seen works of art from the three German Bauhaus collections—Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau, and Klassik Stiftung Weimar—and 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, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle; the Harvard Art Museum/Busch-Reisinger Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and numerous other public and private collections in the United States and Europe.
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 designed by former Bauhaus student and instructor Herbert Bayer. 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 1938 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.
Among the many other objects in the exhibition are rare textiles by Anni Albers woven in the Bauhaus period (most seen today are rewoven later) and others by Gunta Stölzl; important paintings by Vasily Kandinsky (including On White II and Black Form, both from 1923), Paul Klee (such as Fire in the Evening and Highway and Byroads, both from 1929), and Oskar Schlemmer (Bauhaus Stairway, from 1932); graphic designs by Herbert Bayer and Joost Schmidt; a superb range of photographs, including a selection of Lucia Moholy's close-up photographic portraits; stained glass windows by Josef Albers; a tea set by Marianne Brandt; and marionettes by Kurt Schmidt from the 1923 Bauhaus production of The Adventures of the Little Hunchback directed by Schlemmer.
Also included is Marcel Breuer’s ―African‖ Chair (1921), created in collaboration with the weaver Gunta Stölzl. Made of painted wood with a colorful woven textile, 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 exhibition was organized in cooperation with Bauhaus-Archiv/Museum für Gestaltung, Berlin; Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau; Klassik Stiftung Weimar; and the German Federal Cultural Foundation. A version of the show was presented at 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.