Preview: Bauhaus in London

© Makoto Yamawaki

First published in Scout London in May 2012.

At times, art can feel a little intimidating – especially for those without formal art education. The prospect of doing one’s homework before attending the latest must-see exhibition can be somewhat off-putting.

But the new exhibition at the Barbican, Bauhaus: Art As Life, will look at the history and innovation behind one of modern art’s biggest cultural movements in a way which goes beyond displaying the work.

The exhibition – the largest of its kind for 40 years – is a celebration of the diversity behind the 14-year life span of Bauhaus, with photography, sculptures, theatre and installations. Curator, Catherine Ince says that this multi-disciplinary aspect was what made Bauhaus so popular.

“What we tried to do with this exhibition was rather than paint a picture of the Bauhaus, we looked at the art school, what they made; what they worked on, the parties they had, the lifestyle, the relationships forged,” she tells Scout London.

“We weaved all the different things such as ceramics, furniture, photography and stagework together, because at the time, Bauhaus was a lifestyle.”

Staatliches Bauhaus was an art school in Germany, known for its marriage of fine art- and craft-work. After the German monarchy collapsed following the First World War, a new wave of expressionism grew from that which had formerly been suppressed. Young creatives, embracing radical aesthetics and new, exciting designs, rose to the forefront of architecture and art.

“People returned to appreciating art as a craft,” Ince explains. “And they appreciated the skill in the art.”

The exhibition will offer a unique insight into the Bauhaus lifestyle. Kite flying, for example, was incredibly popular and will be offered to Barbican visitors. There will also be costume parties, in recognition of the movement’s renown for flair and decadence.

“They were incredibly flamboyant,” says Ince. “But also thrifty; people would make a costume entirely out of plates and frying pans.

“We’re holding a costume workshop as part of the exhibit and Fred Butler, one of Lady Gaga’s designers, will be attending. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Bauhaus: Art As Life looks set to be an incredibly multi-dimensional exhibition; if you’re interested in discussions and talks, there are plenty on offer, with Peter Fischli offering an exciting insight into  his childhood with his father, Hans – a trained Bauhaus artist.

The movement’s cultural impact on London can be seen in a number of spots around London.. Notably, the Isokon Building on Lawn Road, Hampstead, which was built between 1933 and 1943 and is now considered one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the UK thanks to its Grade I Listed status. Premier crime novelist, Agatha Christie lived there during the 40s, apparently.

If you’d rather get out and see examples of the movement for yourself, the Social Housing and Bauhaus walk lets you see buildings inspired by Bauhaus throughout the city, specifically Golden Lane, Spa Green and the Finsbury Estates.

“I suppose it was the first modern artform,” says Ince. “They tried to unleash the individual’s creativity, and as constructivism gained ground, that started becoming more influential, too. Art aligned with industry, and in terms of creative education, Bauhaus was fundamental. People would go on to specialise their craft after learning about it.

“You could see it around you, you realise it’s influenced things around us like schools, buildings and furniture. It’s going to be a really exciting exhibit.”


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