“Bauhaus Imaginista”: Bauhaus exhibition in the House of Cultures

“Bauhaus Imaginista”
:When Gropius tried to think Chinese

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    Nicholas Bernau

Nandalal Bose: Instructions for mural painting, nD (1929/30).

Nandalal Bose: Instructions for mural painting, nD (1929/30), fresco on cement wall, about 80 x 100 cm, Kala Bhavana, Santiniketan, India.


Arnab Ghosal

The Bauhaus Manifesto of 1919 with the expressionistically jagged image of a Gothic church on it; Paul Klee’s drawing of a city in the form of a North African carpet pattern from 1927; Marcel Breuer’s collage “bauhaus film” from 1926; Kurt Schmidtfeger’s color reflector from 1922 – is it possible to make four objects into an exhibition on the worldwide impact of the Bauhaus? It works. Now seen in the House of World Cultures as the “Bauhaus Imaginista”, curated by Marion von Osten and Grand Watson.

The audioguide performs best through the “Bauhaus Imaginista” exhibition

Both are not Bauhaus experts, at least not at the beginning of the project four years ago. But this curious approach, based on rational and accurate research from the archives, is the recipe for success of the project. From Sao Paolo to Kyoto, Hangzhou to New Delhi, Moscow, Casablanca and Lagos, Beijing, Rabat and Tokyo, the research is sufficient. It is striking that Chicago and Harvard as American daughters of the Bauhaus hardly play a role. New York is missing – as well as Tel Aviv; At the same time, one could have explored the commercialization of the Bauhaus so beautifully there. One does not want to take away the butter of other exhibitions in the Bauhaus year, explains these gaps from the East.

Arieh Sharon, Eldar Sharon, Harold Rubin: University of Ife, Nigeria.

Arieh Sharon, Eldar Sharon, Harold Rubin: University of Ife, Nigeria.


Arieh Sharon digital archive

Four halls can be seen in Berlin, where it flickers and shimmers, real works of art, copies, photographs and text copies, models, furniture, books and installations. Jerky slide devices bring the sound of craftsmanship into the smooth digital age, concise texts try to explain extremely complex theses. The best way to take an audio guide, because the didactic processing of the rich material is, lousy, sorry.

The Bauhaus style found imitators everywhere

In order to make the threads stretched here into a net, one would need knowledge of the history of the Bauhaus, of colonialism, of India and Africa enthusiasm, of Stalinism, of German exile history etc. Also the view into the newly published book of Magdalena Droste to the Bauhaus (Taschen-Verlag, Cologne, 15 euros) is a good preparation. But even so prepared, one often only marvels: one of the first Bauhaus exhibitions took place in Calcutta, in 1922 already. In general, India was very open to German teaching experiments, but they seemed to show a way away from the strictly naturalistic art academies of the British colonial power. Conversely, Rabindranath Tagore, with his idea of art as a means of personal development, reminiscent of German idealism, was also extremely popular at the Bauhaus.

In Japan, a national Bauhaus successor was born, in Nigeria, the Israeli Bauhaus pupil Ari Sharon planned an art school, which takes African patterns. The Americans Charles and Ray Eames encouraged the founding of a modern art school in Ahmedabad, India, where crafts and high art were to be combined at the Bauhaus. Walter Gropius and his Chinese student IM Pei made parallel designs for a Chinese university in the early 1950s. The rationalist Gropius proposed light pavilions, narrow corridors, and delicately composed gardens. Pei, on the other hand, wanted to place the students in cloistered modernist learning castles on the model of the elite colleges on the American East Coast. Was Gropius overwhelmed by the Chinese experience – or did Pei submit to the West?

“Bauhaus Imaginista” takes a lot of time – but it’s worth it

Such irritations, transverse views and new perspectives are what make the exhibition exciting. The Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi was a heroine of the early modern South American. She came from Italy, created with the IAC an art school that explicitly cited the model of Bauhaus didactics. And yet with her open eyes for the folk art of the black and white poor in the northeast of the country, even for those of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon a completely new way to the modern tried – you immediately the arrogant criticism of the German Bauhaus successor Max Bill admitted that so much joy and momentum did not work. The current dispute in the design community, whether one may use traditional patterns for modern fabrics, Bardi would have seemed rather abstruse – but just showed the adoption of such forms the profoundly anti-colonial impetus of their work.

That Hannes Meyer’s transition to the Soviet Union in 1932 also meant subjugation to Stalinism and that the mass buildings of that time also served to subjugate renouncing peasants by the Communists, one would have liked to see more debate. There are also gaps in a project that the three Bauhaus museums in Berlin, Dessau and Weimar would never have been able to do without the help of the Goethe-Instituts and the Kulturstiftung des Bundes. And many questions: is the new Bauhaus Museum in Fuyang near Hangzhou just one ingredient of the Communist Party’s nationalistically inflated 2,000-year design tradition in China, or a revolutionary act against the stubborn academic teaching that still reigns at this art school? ?

Get into the House of World Cultures – and plan your time. It’s an exhibition that’s worth it.