Review: Bauhaus, Art As Life @ The Barbican

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 72 months ago
Review: Bauhaus, Art As Life @ The Barbican
Josef Albers, Factory A, 1925–26
Josef Albers, Factory A, 1925–26
Iwao Yamawaki, Bauhaus building, 1930–32
Iwao Yamawaki, Bauhaus building, 1930–32
Erich Consemüller, Lis Beyer or Ise Gropius sitting on the B3 club chair by Marcel Breuer and wearing a mask by Oskar Schlemmer and dress fabric by Lis Beyer, c. 1927
Erich Consemüller, Lis Beyer or Ise Gropius sitting on the B3 club chair by Marcel Breuer and wearing a mask by Oskar Schlemmer and dress fabric by Lis Beyer, c. 1927
Walter Gropius, diagram of the Bauhaus curriculum, 1922
Walter Gropius, diagram of the Bauhaus curriculum, 1922
Paul Klee, Tomb in Three Parts, 1923
Paul Klee, Tomb in Three Parts, 1923
Josef Albers, set of stacking tables, c. 1927
Josef Albers, set of stacking tables, c. 1927

Though operational for a relatively brief period, emerging from a chaotic post-WW1 Germany in 1919 and surviving until its Nazi-mandated closure in 1933, Germany's Bauhaus stands as arguably the most influential and mythologised art and design school of the 20th century. This major new exhibition at the Barbican, the first on this scale since a Royal Academy retrospective in the 1960s, examines what made it so important.

The assembled collection of Bauhaus alumni work, including material from key artists and practitioners who taught at the school such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, is impressive and detailed, but what sets the exhibition apart is the decision to fashion the show around the experience of living and studying at the school. The emphasis, dictated by founder Walter Gropius, was on a kind of professional playfulness, with students engaging in cross-discipline work and encouraged to experiment. What they produced was usually irreverent, often plain silly, and, occasionally, mould-breaking. In revealing the humanity behind what is often seen as an archly serious, cerebral movement, the show succeeds.

The Bauhaus was forced from its purpose-built Dessau campus in 1933 and, after a year in Berlin, it was closed for good, with many of the teachers and academics fleeing to Britain and the United States. The Bauhaus legend and influence grew from that point, but that's not the focus of this show, which is far more interesting in bringing to life the quotidian concerns and playful spirit of life spent in this hothouse of idea and invention.

Bauhaus: Art As Life is at the Barbican Art Gallery from 3 May until 10 August. Tickets £10 online / £12 on the door, cheaper for concessions.

Last Updated 03 May 2012

Julie Shrive

One of best exhibitions have ever seen  as it  involves fine arts and the crafts , education & history & Olympics  . No wonder there is timed entrance you could have heard a pin drop. Unfortunately though concessionary prices as disabled, pensioner & Member only are for  the art gallery only result on £2  off the film  which doesn't seem fair . Over £10 tickets for Concessions are outrageous when theme is  linked to  the art gallery .

Once the Barbican  was one of last bastions of decency  like V&A , British Museum & the Tates now since they have become call centres, taking it in turn to be the Manager ,the decency has gone down the pan starting at the car park & online & booking offices They seem to not like the oldies & disabled . 

Yet another London site that will have egg on its face come the Olympics ??!!Oh dear ??!!