Tomorrow sees the opening of the ‘Bauhaus - Art as Life’ exhibition at the Barbican centre in London, which - along with showing rare, and previously unseen Bauhaus products and images in the UK - offers a presentation of designs ranging from furniture to paintings, and also encompasses film events, talks, and workshops. We asked the curators of the exhibition, Lydia Yee and Catherine Ince to talk us through their top five most prolific and representational images on display…
Catherine Ince: This collage by Paul Citroen influenced Fritz Lang and the film, Metropolis.
Lydia Yee: He was actually influenced by outside things - Dada, and collage. Collage in this work and throughout the exhibition comes up again and again, not just in photo montage type pieces but many of the artists made gifts for each other and exchanged work that they built up from little bits of materials left over from the workshops.
Catherine Ince: They even used things that are not necessarily thought of as being part of the Bauhaus aesthetic, such as lace doilles, which go against the expected. This collage also gives you a really intense feeling of the momentum of change and the shifts that were going on in cities at this particular moment.
Lydia Yee: And also how the architecture of the skyscraper was entering the imagination.
Lydia Yee: Prior to joining the Bauhaus, Kandinsky’s work was very expressionistic but the influences of constructivism had a great effect on him. It also merges with the impulses that were going on at the Bauhaus at the time – 1922/23 was an important turning point in Bauhaus history, both because of internal dynamics, but also of outside influence. So this painting is really quite emblematic of the shifts that were going on at the Bauhaus, and the move away from expressionism to a more geometric, or formal technique. We decided to install it on a black wall because Kandinski, when he moved, his living room was black!
Catherine Ince: And when you get up close to it, you can see all the little compass points from the circles he painted.
Catherine Ince: This is a tiny, tiny photograph, but it has an immense power to it! It is of Marcel Breuer, the furniture designer and architect with three fellow students. It’s just really fresh, like you could encounter these students down the road at Central St Martins. It encapsulates a lot of the energy and spirit of the school that we are trying to pull out a little bit. The camaraderie and the community – the anarchism of the students!
Catherine Ince: It’s great to include an iconic piece of furniture everyone knows. Marcel Breuer was the first person to experiment with tubular steel in furniture. He was cycling around exploring the city and started to think about the structure of his bicycle and the capacity for the steel to hold weight. He started thinking about the potential for using the material for a completely different purpose, so he produced a lot of furniture for the school. The little stools that were used in the canteen, and of course the club chair that is now so iconic.
Catherine Ince: This is a magnificent weaving about 2m long, made by Gunta Stolzl, the first female master. She led the weaving workshop from 1927 onwards and was really a great educator, creating new processes. It’s incredibly beautifully emblematic of the geometric language of the school.
Lydia Yee: Stolzl is also an interesting figure because she was a student at the Bauhaus who took it upon herself to go and learn more about the processes. She brought knowledge back to the Bauhaus. She became the one and only junior female master and was always thinking of how to make the workshop more productive.
'Bauhaus: Art as Life' is at the Barbican from May 3rd, 2012