The spirit of Bauhaus at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Until 26 February 2017, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is hosting the groundbreaking exhibition “The Spirit of Bauhaus”. A must-see event that we had the pleasure of discovering recently and that allowed us to better understand the history of the Bauhaus school
The Bauhaus is all the rage these days and yet the history of the school, its teachers and its students is not always well known. So what is the Bauhaus? In 1914, Henry Van de Velde, then director of the Institute of Decorative and Industrial Arts in Weimar, resigned from his position. Walter Gropius succeeded him and became the new director of the art school. He transformed the institute, named it Bauhaus and gave it an objective: to bring life to the home and to architecture through the plastic arts, crafts and industry. Much more than a school, the Bauhaus is a place of sharing and exchange, a utopian community life where apprentices, journeymen and masters live together. Friendships and even couples were formed; children were born from these unions at the school!
Construction was central to the teaching scheme. The first year at the school was dedicated to the preliminary course. The following years depended on the workshop chosen by the student: ceramics, weaving, photography, printing, typography, advertising, mural painting, carpentry, sculpture or even theatre. Following this, the student took a final exam in order to obtain a diploma and/or become a journeyman. It was not uncommon for students to become assistants or teachers at the Bauhausschool.
The Bauhaus faced strong criticism and attacks, to which the school responded through a magazine and events such as the 1923 exhibition. The communication around their work was simply to demonstrate the interest and honesty of their approach. In 1930, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was appointed director of theBauhaus school, which had been located in Dessau since 1925. Two years later, the Nazis demanded the closure of the school, which quickly moved to Berlin. In 1933, the Guestapo attacked the Bauhaus and demanded Kandinsky’s immediate dismissal. Mies van der Rohe opposed this demand and the school was immediately closed by the Nazis.
Many of the school’s teachers and students emigrated to the four corners of the world, particularly to the United States. They left behind them an indelible mark: Marcel Breuer designed the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (1953), Hannes Meyer – director of the school from 1928 to 1930 – directed the Institute of Urbanism and Planning in Mexico City, Arieh Sharon opened his own practice in Tel Aviv in 1930… Examples of this fabulous heritage are numerous!
As the exhibition unfolds, it quickly becomes clear why the Bauhaus had such a profound impact on the history of design. The 700 works on display (objects, furniture, textiles, paintings, etc.) allow us to grasp something essential: the school laid the foundations for thinking about modern architecture and Modernism. The Bauhaus influences generations of artists and designers every day!
Museum of Decorative Arts
107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris