Rainier Lericolais, Toupie, 2012, lamp-black, glass, 64,5 x 45,5 cm / 25 3/8 x 17 7/8 in.
“Architects, sculptors, painters, we all must return to the crafts,” the architect Walter Gropius wrote in his Bauhaus manifesto. Founded in 1919 in Weimar and forced under Nazi pressure to close in Berlin in 1933, the Bauhaus was an art school that established itself as a major influence on 20th-century art. It was created by Gropius to improve our habitat and architecture through a synthesis of the arts, crafts and industry. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is paying tribute to the Bauhaus in this exhibition featuring more than nine hundred works – objects, furniture, textiles, drawings, models, paintings – all placed in the context of the school and illustrating the extraordinary wealth of its experimentation in all fields. The exhibition begins by showing the historic context and sources that brought the Bauhaus into existence, then takes us through all the stages of the student curriculum in its various workshops. It ends with an invitation to the artist Mathieu Mercier to highlight the work of contemporary artists, designers and fashion designers demonstrating the durability and vitality of the Bauhaus spirit.
The exhibition begins by exploring the Bauhaus’s sources, ranging from the organization of the construction of the cathedrals and the arts of Asia to the German avant-garde, the British Arts & Crafts movement and the Viennese utopias, including the Wiener Werkstätte. When he created the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar, Walter Gropius was pursuing Henry Van de Velde’s ambition to forge an alliance of industry, modernity and the aesthetics of the Deutscher Werkbund, (an association of architects and industrialists of which he and Peter Behrens were members).
This concept stemmed directly from the ideas forged by William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement, for whom art had to respond to the needs of society, and for whom the traditional distinction between the fine arts and craftsmanship was obsolete. In his manifesto, Gropius radicalized these ideas, making them the core of the school’s pedagogy because “there is no essential difference between artist and the artisan.” To fully illustrate this, emblematic objects by William Morris, Henry Van de Velde, Peter Behrens, and artists from the Wiener Werkstätte such as Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann, will be displayed alongside works produced by the Bauhaus.