By: Jenna Curry
During its relatively short life, the Bauhaus school was the site of thousands of conversations and experiments in which artists, designers and architects came together to collectively decide what contemporary art should be.
Instructors and students were asking questions such as, “What should art be in the new age of technology, in the new age of mass media, in the new age of mass production and in the wake of a terrible war?” says Leah Dickerman, cocurator ofBauhaus 1919–33: Workshops for Modernity at the Museum of Modern Art. “You can understand the objects that were produced at the Bauhaus as a series of propositions; essentially, the school functioned like a cultural think tank where people were thinking collectively about what art would be relevant in that moment.”
This is the second Bauhaus exhibition that MoMA has mounted. The first opened in 1938, five years after the Nazis shut the school down. Its organizers, Walter Gropius, the school’s founder and first director, and Herbert Bayer, a student and instructor, didn’t show any work that was done under the auspices of directors Hannes Meyer (1928–30) and Mies van der Rohe (1930–33). “Gropius and Bayer were telling their own story, in a very charged political context,” Dickerman explains.
MoMA’s current Bauhaus show, on view Nov. 8–Jan. 25, spans the whole existence of the school. It includes more than 200 works by famous faculty members and students such as Josef and Anni Albers, Marcel Breuer, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer and Vasily Kandinsky (see page 90). The exhibition will focus on each of the three cities in which the school was located—from its founding in Weimar in 1919 to Dessau in 1925 and finally to Berlin in 1932.
At the Bauhaus, key roles for modernist artists were defined. “This is where the role of the graphic designer got imagined,” says Dickerman. “Before the Bauhaus there were two print worlds: one of artists—those who made fine art portfolios, beautiful etchings and lithographs in limited editions—and one of commercial printers.”