Art as life

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It has been 40 years since a Bauhaus exhibition has been on show in the UK and its opening at the Barbican cannot have been more timely.The year 2012 means the Olympics to Britain and the spirit of unity which lies at the heart of these historical games bears many similarities to  the most defining  art and design school of the modern age.

From its avant-garde arts and crafts origins in Weimar, Germany, the school expanded its vision to embrace the concept of learning by unifying technology and art. In the aftermath of the second world war, it became a driving force for modernity, seeking  to change society through experimentation and creativity to find a new way  of living.

The exhibition traces the school’s history –  from its original founder, architect Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919 – and charts its move from its expressionist-influenced roots to the embrace of its art and industry focus. The school moved to Dessau in 1925 under the directorship of Gropius and then Hannes Meyer and then briefly to Berlin, led by Mies van der Rohe, where it was forced to close in 1933 due to pressure from the National  Socialist Party.

The school was home to many – Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Lena Meyer-Bergner to name but a few –  and the exhibition, as well as taking us on an impressive and awe-inspiring journey through the wealth of work created by students and teachers alike, also seeks to show everyday life at the school, displaying party and festival invitations, handmade gifts and costumes created especially for celebrations.Teachers and students worked and socialised together, this creative ideal was captured in black and white photographs which are woven into the exhibition.

Rare contributions to this extensive and wide-ranging exhibition are unparalleled – with works provided by Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin as well as Centre Georges Pompidou, the Museum of Modern Art New York, Zentrum Paul Klee, the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation alongside more personal contributions from the artists’ families.

In 2013, it will be 80 years since this revolutionary school as forced to close – its famous sons and daughters fleeing to Paris, London and New York, where they continued to practise the ideals of Bauhaus and pave the way for art, modernity and industry. Its physical  life was relatively short, but the revolutionary ideals of the school will continue to exert a huge influence over all areas of life, for many more years to come.

by Marie-Louise von Haselberg

Bauhaus: Art as Life is at the Barbican Art Gallery, Silk St, City of London,  EC2Y 8DS
From May 3 – August 12,  2012
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