The Bauhaus in Dessau

This is the last week you’ll be reading about the Bauhaus this year (on this site, anyway)—we promise.

In Germany and beyond, it’s safe to say that art and design history enthusiasts are feeling a little Bauhaus fatigue after 2019’s flurry of centenary celebrations—and the countless exhibitions, symposia, and new publications tethered to the influential art and design school. We’ve heard a lot about how the Bauhaus ushered in a modern way of thinking about arts and crafts, developed a new model of design pedagogy, and left a tremendous impact on urbanism and the concept of the union of form and function.

At Eye on Design, we’ve published quite a few stories about the Bauhaus ourselves this year—especially when it comes to the school’s approach to graphics and typography. And although we’re feeling our own sense of fatigue, we’ve decided to throw one last Bauhaus bash on the site before the year is over, because it’s probably going to be a while before we get to write about Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, Anni Albers, and the rest of the gang again. To say goodbye, this week we’re republishing our Bauhaus highlights, taking one last look at the best exhibitions, monographs, and features about the school.

Research in Development of Universal Type by Herbert Bayer, 1927. Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

The Bauhaus was also very much at the forefront of our minds while putting together our latest Eye on Design magazine, which is themed “Utopias.” In our Utopias issue, we look back at the movement before we look forward, and ask the question, “Do singular, idealistic visions of modern design still have a place in our world?” We start our online Bauhaus Week today with an opinion piece that asks a similar question. In a time when the school’s founding philosophies have been flattened into aesthetic tropes, is the Bauhaus spirit rendered at best irrelevant, or at worst completely expired?

We also take a deep dive into the history of the school itself—a look at five examples of graphic design from the Harvard Art Museums’ digital archive. You can explore more objects yourself in the museum’s online resource, which launched in 2016 and provides access to the 32,000+ Bauhaus-related works in the collection. 200 of these works were shown between February and July of this year at Harvard Art Museums exhibition, The Bauhaus and Harvard

2019’s year of Bauhaus mania has also seen the release of numerous books and monographs dedicated to students and teachers from the famous art school. The Anni Albers retrospective and catalog were especially long overdue, the latter containing essays and reproductions of the Bauhaus master’s most important weavings, materials, sketches, and textile designs. Tomorrow, we take a look at some of these works, exploring what makes Albers a “designer’s artist” with insights from Priyesh Mistry, one of the curators of the London Tate Modern’s vast 2019 retrospective of the textile artist. We also feature a review of the 2019 catalog Moholy-Nagy and the New Typography, which highlights the importance of the Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy’s surprisingly little-known 1929 exhibition on the history of typography.

‘Moholy-Nagy and the New Typography: A-Z’ catalog, 2019

Several publications from the past year have also surfaced untold stories of Bauhaus women left out from most history books, including Bauhaus Women: A Global Perspective by Elizabeth Otto and Patrick Rössler. MIT Press’s Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics, also written by Otto, similarly traces how unsung stories from marginalised groups have haunted the Bauhaus’ history. Tomorrow on Eye on Design, we’re republishing our own previously unknown history of a former Bauhaus student named Söre Popitz, the only woman to have pursued a career in graphics after her brief stint studying at the Bauhaus.

Haunted Bauhaus by Elizabeth Otto, MIT Press 2019

Throughout the year, the travelling bauhaus imaginista programme has been the most ambitious re-telling of the legacy of the Bauhaus, moving beyond the framework of the Bauhaus in Germany and exploring the school’s international reach. As part of the programme, symposia and exhibitions were hosted in Berlin, New Delhi, Lagos, Tokyo, São Paulo, and beyond. The Bauhaus was in contact with other institutions across the globe, and so the extensive research project explores the Bauhaus’ transnational relations and the school’s narratives of migration. In looking far beyond the years that the Bauhaus was active, the ongoing bauhaus imaginsta project traces the school’s chronology of experiments with new technologies all the way to the New Bauhaus in Chicago and the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies and Media Lab at MIT. It also explores the translation of Bauhaus concepts into different political and geographical contexts, including India, Japan, China, Russia, and Brazil.

Poster of Bauhaus Imaginista, an exhibition that explores Bauhaus influence around the world with partners in eight countries

On Wednesday this week, we take our own look at the Bauhaus’s extensions beyond interwar Germany, with a lens on graphic design education specifically. We explore the school’s relationship with the Seikatsu Kōsei Kenkyūsho (Research Institute for Life Configurations) in Japan, and we take a look at the design pedagogy of the Vkhutemas (or the Higher Art and Technical Institute) in the Soviet Union, another “laboratory of modernity” developed at the same time as the Bauhaus. We also look at the Bauhaus’ connections with the Nation Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, which trained India’s first specialist design educators in the 1960s and produced some of the country’s most ubiquitous mid-century branding.

On Thursday, we explore the legacy of the Bauhaus’ technological experiments with an oral history that traces how computer code became a modern design medium, followed by a visit to MIT’s Visual Language Workshop archive and a deep dive into how Murial Cooper’s tech-focused design lab rapidly gained a reputation as a space for experimental design. For those interested in more on the multiple histories and migrating connections stemming beyond the Bauhaus, we also recommend Spector Books’ Dust & Data: Traces of the bauhaus across 100 years.

Bear with us one more week, stock up on the aforementioned publications missing from your book shelves, and then on Friday you can join us in bidding farewell to the Bauhaus (for now). See you next centennial. 👋