Following months of anniversary exhibitions, performances and talks, the Bauhaus Archiv has finally opened the ‘official’ centenary show, Original Bauhaus, at the Berlinische Galerie.
This exhibition is the largest presentation of Bauhaus works in Berlin in its centenary year. Even though the Bauhaus School was only open for 14 years, the last of which in Berlin before closing in 1933, it had a huge impact on art and design. Still influential today, it is rightly celebrated here with over 1000 original Bauhaus objects from the official collection, ranging from teapots, carpets and coffee containers to collage, film and sculpture. Curated under 14 themes set by 14 key objects, the show also sets out to “confront the relevance of Bauhaus today”. Starting with its early years as a school focussed on exhibiting its products, posters and photos of these exhibitions alongside a timeline reveal the course of the travelling Bauhaus show around Europe. Another timeline charts one time director Walter Gropius’ prolific publishing output next to a fantastic collection of his personal slides. Displayed in a light box, hundreds of slides show not only Bauhaus architecture and design, but also historical buildings offering a fascinating insight into what influenced the ever-influential Bauhaus. Another highlight are a number of exquisite “rayographs” and “photograms” (a revolutionary technique for creating photographs without a camera) from the 1920s by Man Ray, El Lizitsky and Maholy-Nagy. On show in a section titled Reproduction, we are curiously told little of Man Ray or El Lizitsky’s Bauhaus connection, neither of whom were students or teachers. Alongside these works hangs a large scale digital take on photograms by contemporary artist Thomas Ruff, his 2013 composition “r.phg” sharing much aesthetically with his 20th century predecessors. Further rooms travel deep into the teaching techniques at Bauhaus, with an absorbing display of students’ drawing exercises set by teachers such as Josef Albers and Paul Klee. A selection of Hannah Höch’s collages originally intended for a show at the school in 1932 demonstrate its easy conversation with contemporaneous movements such as Dada. Picking out particular artists or designers, or providing a chronological journey would have probably been easier for the curators. However, while this exhibition comes at its topic from a jaunty angle, it nevertheless dutifully and creatively tells the story of the Bauhaus School, its teachers, students and all they produced.
Original Bauhaus | Berlinische Galerie, Kreuzberg. Through Jan 27.