Sotheby’s Magazine

Celebrating 100 Years of Bauhaus, the Most Influential School of the 20th Century

By Sotheby's

I n just 14 years, one design school in Germany pioneered a new way of living. The Bauhaus – founded by Prussian architect Walter Gropius – shattered long-held distinctions between craft and art, and celebrated modern ideals of efficiency, industry and the purity of raw materials. This year European museums are marking the school’s 100th anniversary by exploring its legacy.

chess pieces from Josef Hartwig's chess set in their box
Josef Hartwig with graphic design by Joost Schmidt, chess set, model XVI, 1923–24, Bauhaus Weimar. Photo: Die Neue Sammlung — The Design Museum, A. Laurenzo.
Bauhaus-style chess set with wooden pieces atop of chess board
Josef Hartwig, Joost Schmidt (graphic), chess set, model XVI, 1923–24, Bauhaus Weimar. Photograph: Die Neue Sammlung — The Design Museum, A. Laurenzo

“Bauhaus means modernity,” say Angelika Nollert, Josef Straßer and Xenia Riemann-Tyroller, the curatorial team behind Reflex Bauhaus. 40 Objects – 5 Conversations at Die Neue Sammlung in Munich. The exhibition displays works from the gallery's own collection – textiles, toys and metalworks by Anni Albers, Gunta Stölzl, Otto Rittweger and others – alongside responses by five contemporary artists. Among them, Japanese composer Junya Oikawa has created a performative sound installation inspired by Josef Hartwig's chess set, an abstract work that reduced each piece to the pure forms of line, circle or square. This creative juxtaposition joins others by Indian architect Anupama Kundoo and German author Barbara Köhler to reveal the revolutionary spirit of the school.

Marcel Breuer, four side tables, circa 1926. Photo courtesy of Collection Büscher, Cologne.

In Rotterdam, The Netherlands – Bauhaus: Pioneers of a New World at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen features 800 objects that show the mutual influence of Bauhaus and Dutch design. Though the school was only active for 14 years, its avant-garde artistic practice united artists, architects and designers to shape the development of Modern art throughout Europe and America. After Nazi pressure forced the school to close in 1933, some 30 students and teachers fled to the Netherlands and brought with them Bauhaus ideals. This survey, the museum's last before a major renovation, presents some never-before-seen objects from its collection alongside nearly 600 loans from the Netherlands and beyond.

Postcard of the exterior of the Bauhaus in Weimar
Postcard of the Bauhaus in Weimar, written by Theo van Doesburg and sent to his friend Antony Kok, 21 September 1921. RKD – Netherlands Institute fo Art History, The Hague (Archive of Theo and Nelly van Doesburg).
a marcel breuer armchair with stripe cloth seat and backing
Marcel Breuer, ti 1a armchair, 1923. Courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photograph by Tom Haartsen.

Elsewhere, two museum openings pay tribute to the school's origins. The new Bauhaus Museum Weimar, home to the world’s oldest Bauhaus collection, opened on 6 April. Designed by architect Heike Hanada, the impressive cube building sits atop a concrete base, and presents a variety of objects across its five floors, including chairs by Marcel Breuer, paintings by Paul Klee and furniture by Mies van der Rohe. Over in Dessau, the Bauhaus Museum Dessau opens on 8 September. Floating inside a glass shell, the second-storey steel structure will provide a controlled environment for some of the more delicate holdings, many made out of paper, while the spacious ground floor will host temporary exhibitions and act as meeting place and cultural venue.

Reflex Bauhaus. 40 Objects – 5 Conversations, Die Neue Sammlung, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, through–31 December; The Netherlands – Bauhaus: Pioneers of a New World, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, through–26 May.

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