With the major exhibition “The Bauhaus #itsalldesign”, the Vitra Design Museum presents a comprehensive overview of the design of this legendary artistic movement. The exhibition encompasses a multiplicity of rare exhibits from the fields of design, architecture, art, film and photography. At the same time, it confronts the design of the Bauhaus with current trends and works by contemporary designers, artists and architects. In this way, it reveals the surprising present-day relevance of this legendary institution. HUGO BOSS is sponsoring the exhibition, which after its début in Weil am Rhein will be going on a worldwide tour. On the occasion of the opening, Sandra Hofmeister spoke with Mateo Kries, director of the Vitra Design Museum, about this exceptional project.
Almost 100 years after its inception, the Bauhaus has become a myth. How do you explore this myth in the exhibition?
We seek to discover its core and to interpret the design at the Bauhaus as a medium, which led to the construction of the myth. Today, we could say that the Bauhaus became a brand, and in the exhibition we take a detailed look at the individual facets of this brand creation. In doing so, we focus not only on objects that were produced in Weimar, Dessau or Berlin, but also on discovering the processes that lay behind them.
The design concept at the Bauhaus concerned itself with every area of daily life, from architecture to everyday objects and textile design. What conclusion do you draw from this?
The concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (translated as the total work of art or all-embracing art form) and the interplay between various different disciplines are fundamental to our understanding of the Modern. At the Bauhaus, one lived according to these principles; they were practised in everyday life. It is true that other groups of artists have discovered this independently for themselves, but it was only at the Bauhaus that the concept was implemented with such a wide-ranging scope and with such commensurable success in the 20th century;this is what makes the Bauhaus so fascinating today. Without this fundamental concept, the arrangement of everyday life, which is characteristic for contemporary design, would be inconceivable.
What influence does the Bauhaus have on the present day and on contemporary design?
Until now, we have spoken about Bauhaus style. The Bauhaus is sometimes reduced to a definite, aesthetic code, with attributes such as geometric, cool, ascetic or black and white. But design at the Bauhaus went far beyond this. For example, colour played an important role. The focus was also on intangibles; it was all about an approach and a belief that design can participate in the transformation of society. This relationship is highly topical and is very much a subject of discussion today.
Precisely what significance was given to fabrics and textiles at the Bauhaus?
Textiles were an integral element of the overall design concept, as they provided a canvass for integrating influences from figurative art, for example. Here, two-dimensional communication with new kinds of patterns and figurative textures had already been tried. Their patterns and colours could be easily transferred onto textiles and thus became a distinguishing feature of the avant-garde of the time.
At the Bauhaus, dresses or upholstery fabrics were often designed as patterns and templates for industry. What impact did this have? Regardless of how the textiles were produced, their patterns and surfaces had an enormous impact. The colours, textures and patterns of their designs quickly spread by means of pictures in publications and they caught on. Many textile designs take their inspiration from them to this very day. And even though they are not produced with the same materials or methods, the Bauhaus influence has remained recognisable.
So textile design at the Bauhaus has been formative in setting trends?
The influence of a phenomenon such as the Bauhaus must have a formative effect on style sooner or later. After all, style creates a kind of identification and brings design into our everyday lives. When designers set out to change people’s everyday lives, this can only work if they are artistically innovative in their designs. It is only in this way that they can make their own mark on style. I believe that it is important to preserve one’s essence in the process and to convey an attitude.
The exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum can be seen until 28/02/2016.