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May 09 2012

Tate announce 2013 programme

Art lovers will be able to enjoy a major retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein's work and find out how LS Lowry was influenced by the French, as the Tate galleries reveal next year's programmes

Comic strips, matchstick men and David Bowie will hit the Tate in 2013, along with Marc Chagall, Gary Hume and Paul Klee. The four galleries – Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate St Ives and Tate Liverpool – have announced their programmes for next year, which include the first major retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein's work for 20 years and a show that will demonstrate how LS Lowry was influenced by French painting.

Lichtenstein, whose comic-strip-style paintings made him one of the forefathers of pop art, will be shown at London's Tate Modern from February. The exhibition will include landmark works including Whaam!, his famous 1963 picture of a fighter plane being shot by another, and Drowning Girl, both appropriated from contemporary comics, as well as the Artist's Studio series which saw him bring his graphic, pop style to his own surroundings and other real-life art works. It will also display lesser known late work including a series of female nudes and Chinese landscapes.

The gallery's autumn show will be dedicated to Klee, a pivotal figure in 20th century art, who taught at the Bauhaus school and whose intense, radiant paintings, replete with symbolism and references to the unconscious, draw on cubism, surrealism and primitive art. It will be the first Klee exhibition to take place in the UK for more than 10 years.

The Lowry show will take place at London's Tate Britain from next June, the first of its kind since the artist's death in 1976. Last year, the actor Ian McKellen accused the Tate of neglecting the artist, after claiming that it had shown only one of the 23 Lowry works it owns – a claim the Tate denies. Though Lowry's images of matchstick-style workers in industrial landscapes are some of the most famous in British art, the exhibition promises to reveal how he was influenced by 19th-century French painters such as Camille Pissarro and Maurice Utrillo.

Tate Britain promises to unveil its refurbished galleries in early summer next year, including a re-hang that has already aroused some controversy, with Burlington magazine claiming that it was prioritising modern works over pre-20th century ones. It will also stage an exhibition of work by Hume alongside that of Patrick Caulfield, who died in 2005.

Tate Liverpool will approach another aspect of popular British art with its show Glam! The Performance and Style, which promises to demonstrate the influence of the glam rock era, from 1971 to 1975, on other art forms in Europe and America. The gallery will also host Chagall: A Modern Master, the first exhibition of the Russian artist's work for 15 years.


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May 02 2012

Bauhaus: Art as Life – review

Barbican, London
In pictures: Bauhaus: Art as Life

Tracing the trajectory of the radical German art and design school from its founding in Dessau by Walter Gropius in 1919 to its closure in Berlin in 1933, the exhibition Bauhaus: Art as Life is superb. It is filled with fascinating and often beautiful things, from table lamps to ceramic pots, glove puppets to advertising posters for Nivea, school party invitations, dresses, photographic portraiture, gorgeous weaving and much besides.

The Bauhaus tried to encompass both old and emerging technologies and bring a new approach to everything – from stained glass to advertising, theatre design to packaging, furniture to painting and sculpture. It was the last thoroughgoing attempt to apply a consistent idea to modern living, and we still live with and among its ideas and artefacts. At the time, everyone involved was feeling the way forward. There is a sense here of the genuinely exploratory.

What also strikes me is not the uniformity or rationality of the Bauhaus aesthetic but its richness and diversity, its humour and playfulness, whether actual children's toys were being designed (who would have thought the spinning top would be worthy of Bauhaus attention), or chess sets and coffee machines. But the Bauhaus was not without its zealots and excessiveness, its cranks and quirks.

"Play becomes celebration; celebration becomes work; work becomes play," wrote Johannes Itten, Bauhaus teacher, colour theorist and nightmare person. Itten, something of a fanatic, aggressively encouraged students to follow his new age mishmash of Hindu and Christian ideas, which involved shaving your head, strong laxatives and fasts, the wearing of monastic robes and the eating of large quantities of garlic – the pervasive smell of which many, including Gropius, complained against.

Of such things the modern table lamp was not born. But it did lead Paul Citroën to produce a ribald drawing of followers of Itten's Mazdaznan hocus pocus vomiting and defecating across the page. That said, Itten's lithographs and painted colour wheels and charts are extremely lovely and, in their way, useful things.

A whole chapter of the catalogue is devoted to the dietary habits of Bauhaus members, especially focusing on Ittens and Paul Klee. Klee liked nothing better than offal – particularly a nice lung ragout. Times were hard, but at the Bauhaus even the minutiae of the everyday was worthy of examination. But life wasn't all rigour and regularity, and the sense of play is particularly evident in photographs of the Bauhaus parties – which became so popular they were even written about in the press. Encounters with the individuals who came together at the Bauhaus are among the strengths of the show. You get a real sense of time and place – sometimes through a haircut, a party dress, a picture of a terrace lunch, or a snapshot of a studio.

Seriousness and fun, study and play, innovation and infighting, charismatic – sometimes mad – teachers, and cohorts of lively students made the Bauhaus a model for later art schools. Dadaists and constructivists, hard line geometry and expressionism, photomontage and crazy drawing, the rational and the loopy all had their place. Among the terrific period photographs of staff and students – the serious, besuited teachers and tousle-haired students who wouldn't look out of place alongside today's Dalston or Brooklyn hipsters – one feels a sense of optimism but also disquiet of a whole world about to be dismantled.

Innovation and pleasure went hand in hand at the Bauhaus. Klee's paintings, and the glove puppets he made for his son Felix, are a delight. So too are the weavings, particularly by Gunta Stölzl. Anni Albers's wall hangings, and Josef Albers's vibrant sandblasted glass abstractions, could have been made yesterday (or tomorrow). They are a visual and technical jolt, electric and dazzling. There were inklings, too, of where the world was headed. Citroën went on to make the monumental collaged cityscape that directly influenced Fritz Lang's nightmarish film Metropolis, and a late Kandinsky painting shows a grim, brown world encroaching on the light-filled Bauhaus utopia.

Not only do we follow the rise and fall of the school against a backdrop of Germany's hyperinflation and the rise of Nazism but it is also a reminder what art schools could be like. There is a lesson here about much contemporary art education: the lack of common purpose, the overweening bureaucracy, the disillusionment and grasping for fees, the box-ticking lostness of so much of it. The Bauhaus had a sense of common purpose and shared ideas, of arguments that meant something, of making things up as you go along. And so much that it gave us was practical, and a delight to the eye. No wonder the National Socialists wanted it closed. Go see, and never mind the garlic.

Rating: 4/5


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April 13 2012

Bauhaus: a blueprint for the future

On the eve of a Barbican retrospective, Rowan Moore explores the enduring appeal and influence of the Bauhaus school

Not much united Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist dictator of East Germany for two decades, and Tom Wolfe, celebrant of the splendours and follies of American capitalist excess. Not much, except a loathing of the Bauhaus and the style of design it inspired. Ulbricht called it "an expression of cosmopolitan building" that was "hostile to the people" and to "the national architectural heritage". Wolfe called it "an architecture whose tenets prohibit every manifestation of exuberance, power, empire, grandeur or even high spirits and playfulness".

For Ulbricht it was alien to Germany, for Wolfe it was alien to America. Both agreed that it was placeless, soulless and indifferent to ordinary people's needs. And if the Bauhaus attracted such consistent forms of hostility, that is due to the power and coherence of the image it presented to the world, of disciplined and monochrome modernist simplicity, usually involving steel and glass. Given that it was actually a short-lived and semi-nomadic school of design and art with the usual riot of individualists, visionaries, eccentrics, schemers and geniuses that such places attract, this appearance of unity was an achievement.

From May the Barbican is staging an exhibition of 400 of the Bauhaus's works, the first in Britain on this scale for 44 years. It will stress the breadth of its output, including paintings by Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy, furniture by Marcel Breuer, textiles by Gunta Stölzl, architecture by Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, photography, film, ceramics, theatre, graphics and product design. It promises to portray the central ideal of the Bauhaus, "to change society in the aftermath of the first world war", as the Barbican puts it, and "to find a new way of living".

When Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1919 it was with these aspirations for a new life, and for a multiplicity of creative disciplines, together with a stress on the importance of making things as opposed to just theorising about them. But there was not yet a distinct form or direction to these ideas, and almost anything could be considered as a route to a better future, including new spiritualist religions and a strict vegetarian diet which had to be livened up with plenty of garlic. According to Gropius's spectacular wife Alma, whose other husbands and lovers included Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka and the writer Franz Werfel, the most distinctive feature of the Bauhaus in its early days was garlic on the breath.

Certain questions were unresolved and intensely debated. Was craft or mass production more important? Could art and manufacturing be reconciled? Did individual expression impede service to society? In 1925 the school moved to Dessau, between Berlin and Leipzig. At the time it was an industrial boom town, the base of the Junkers aeroplane company. The harder-edged, more technocratic arguments started to prevail. The young Marcel Breuer started collaborating with Junkers on making tubular steel furniture of a kind that would eventually become commonplace in boardrooms and forward-thinking homes. Greater attention was paid to the commercial development and marketing of Bauhaus-designed objects.

In Dessau they built, in the extraordinarily short time of one year, the Gropius-designed building that became as famous as the institution it served. With its glass curtain walls and spare rectilinear forms, it crystallised what would become the dominant type of modernist architecture. It was one of the most prodigiously influential buildings of all time, a prototype that would be followed by office buildings, hotels, schools and hospitals in almost any country you can think of. In Dessau, Gropius and his followers could also try out other architectural ideas on the row of houses built for Bauhaus masters, and on 300 low-cost houses built for industrial workers on the Dessau-Torten estate.

In 1932, however, the school moved on again, to Berlin. The next year it fell victim to the National Socialists – another movement that, after the catastrophic trauma of the first world war, sought a new order and expressed itself through memorable visual imagery. Junkers started making Stuka divebombers, not Breuer chairs, and Dessau was all but flattened by bombing in 1945. The Bauhaus building was severely damaged, and only recently has been fully restored. But its influence spread. The Bauhausler diaspora, of ex-students and teachers building in the style they had learned, extended to Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Gropius migrated via London to the United States, where he became a professor at Harvard and designed the Pan Am building above New York's Grand Central station, much disliked for the way it imposed on the view down Park Avenue. He also designed the Playboy Club in London, prompting a new generation of radicals to denounce him for selling out.

To visit the Bauhaus building now is to be struck again by the extraordinary way in which a single construction in a provincial town could have had so much effect. It is also to see nuances that, inevitably, imitators lost. For years the Bauhaus building was known to the wider world mostly through a few black-and-white photographs that stress its more easily copied details, but miss the point that it was a framework for the creative energy of the school. Its stairs, workshops and balconies were places of display as well as function, and its glass walls made a spectacle of its internal activities. One of the key spaces was an auditorium whose stage is connected to the communal canteen, thereby bringing together performance and life. It also has a subtle colour scheme, contrary to Wolfe's assertions that the Bauhaus was only interested in black, white and grey. If it looked like a factory it also had properties of a commune, a cult centre and a theatre.

Although it was founded by Gropius, architecture was not at first the main point of the Bauhaus, and its vast legacy extends from graphics through product design to art. But architecture came to dominate the public image of the place, and the style of the building proved easier to record than the events that happened there. What Wolfe and Ulbricht railed against was its impact on the built environment. Which, if you only look at its form and not at its content, does indeed look sterile. Hopefully, the Barbican show will put this misconception right.

As for Alma, she tired of the work ethic of her husband and his school. At least if Tom Lehrer is to believed. As "Alma", his tribute to her, has it:

But he would work late at the Bauhaus,

And only came home now and then.

She said, "What am I running? A chow house?

It's time to change partners again."


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August 17 2011

10 of the best museums in Berlin

Berlin resident and travel writer Rory MacLean chooses some of the city's most impressive museums, whether you want to taste life in the former DDR or admire works by world famous artists

• As featured in our Berlin city guide

Käthe Kollwitz Museum

Of all Berlin's artists, no one captured the pain suffered in and exported from this place more than Käthe Kollwitz. The intense intimacy of her work revealed residents' hopes and horrors, as well as the unspoken pains of the poor, in images and forms which – 60 years after her death – still appear to burst from the artist's heart. This privately owned museum, just off the Ku'damm, includes hundreds of her finest drawings, etchings and sculptures. A passageway connects the museum to the neighbouring Literaturhaus, with one of the city's most civilised cafes.
• Fasanenstrasse 24, +49 30 882 5210, kaethe-kollwitz.de, adults €6, concessions €3. Open daily 11am-6pm

Neues Museum

Over the last decade the Neues Museum, a bombed-out ruin since 1945, has been repaired and rebuilt by British starchitect David Chipperfield. His recreation is a striking building which can be read like a book, telling – through its original walls, surviving textural details, all-but-lost classical frescos and soaring new spaces – the story of man's ability to create, destroy and preserve. It is the perfect museum for Berlin. The collection, which includes a Neanderthal skull, the bust of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and Heinrich Schliemann's Trojan antiquities, isn't half bad either.
• Bodestrasse 1, +49 30 2664 24242, neues-museum.de, adults €10, concessions €5, under-19s free. Open Mon-Wed, Sun 10am-6pm, Thur-Sat 10am-8pm

Bauhaus Archives – Museum of Design

Berlin has long been a capital of creativity but unlike London, Paris and New York the radiance of its arts shines brightest against the darkness in its past. The city is the spiritual home of the Bauhaus, the most influential school of architecture, design and art in the 20th century. Its Archive – or Museum of Design – houses a sensational collection of sculptures, ceramics, furniture and architectural models by Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, Klee, Kandinsky and the many others who – with the Nazis' rise to power – fled Germany and carried modernism to the New World. A free guided tour runs every Sunday at 3pm.
Klingelhöferstrasse 14, +49 30 254 0020, bauhaus.de. Open Wed-Mon 10am-5pm (closed Tuesday), adults €7, concessions €4

Museum Berggruen

Heinz Berggruen bought his first painting in 1940 for $100 – a watercolour by Paul Klee. Half a century later, he gave to Berlin the bulk of his fabulous collection, then valued at $450m and including 165 masterpieces by Braque, Matisse, Klee and Giacometti. This intimate gallery, situated opposite the Schloss Charlottenburg, also has more than 100 works by Picasso from early student sketches to the blue and rose period through his cubist years and up to the year before his death in April 1973. Guided tours for children are offered on most Saturdays (paper and crayons provided).
• Schlossstrasse 1, +49 30 2664 24242, smb.museum, adults €6, concessions €4. Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm

Topography of Terror

That Germany is open and dynamic today is a consequence of taking responsibility for its history. In a courageous, humane and moving manner, the country is subjecting itself to a national psychoanalysis. This Freudian idea, that the repressed (or at least unspoken) will fester like a canker unless it is brought to the light, can be seen in Daniel Libeskind's tortured Jewish Museum, at the Holocaust Memorial and, above all, at the Topography of Terror. Be aware that this outdoor museum, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, is not for the fainthearted.
• Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, +49 30 2545 0950, topographie.de. Open daily 10am-8pm, free

Jewish Museum

At the start of the 20th century, Berlin was the largest Jewish city in the world. One third of the 100 richest Prussians were Jews. By 1945 Hitler had destroyed Germany's rich diversity, making it both poorer and more homogeneous. Berlin's Jewish Museum – with its extension by Daniel Libeskind – explores two millennia of German Jewish history. But far from being locked in the past, the museum looks forward with child-friendly tours, weekend workshops and special shows including a histories of Jewish football and radical Jewish music in New York.
• Lindenstrasse 9-14, +49 30 2599 3300, jmberlin.de. Open Mon 10am-10pm, Tue-Sun 10am-8pm, adults €5, concessions €2.50, under-6s free

Allied Museum

At the end of the second world war, the victorious Allies divided Berlin into four sectors. Stalin's secret intention was to draw Berlin – and then the whole of Germany – into the Communist orbit. In 1948 he blockaded the city as a means of driving the Americans out of Europe, but the Allies retaliated by launching the Berlin airlift to sustain its freedom. The cold war heated up and in 1961 the Soviets built the Wall to completely encircle the western sectors. The Allied Museum tells the story of those years. Displays include the guardhouse from Checkpoint Charlie, an RAF Hastings, as well as a section of the Berlin spy tunnel, the largest ever SIS/CIA operation.
• Clayallee 135, +49 30 818 1990, alliiertenmuseum.de. Open Mon, Tue, Thur-Sun 10am–6pm, free

The Berlin Wall Memorial

Bernauer Strasse witnessed some of the most tragic scenes when the city was divided in 1961: East Berliners jumped from apartment windows, vaulted over barbed wire, tunnelled beneath the streets in an attempt to reach freedom. The Berlin Wall Memorial – which includes the city's only unadorned stretch of border fortifications and a superb museum – marks the iniquity, compliance and heroism of East and West Berliners during those tragic years. A must.
• Bernauer Strasse 111/119, +49 30 4679 866 66, berliner-mauer-gedenkstaette.de. Open April–October, Tue-Sun 9.30am-7pm, November-March, Tue-Sun 9.30am-6pm, free

DDR Museum

Trabants, hidden microphones, beach volleyball nudists and Spreewald pickles: Ostalgie (or nostalgia for life in former East) might worry parts of country (a recent survey found half of 16-year-olds believed East Germany was never a dictatorship), but at the DDR Museum visitors can safely experience life in under communism – at least for their 90-minute visit. Watch TV in the authentic East Berlin living room, spy on your neighbours, join the FDJ pioneers or march in the May Day parade. The museum is located on the river Spree opposite Berlin cathedral.
• Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 1, +49 30 847 123 731, ddr-museum.de. Open Mon-Fri, Sun 10am-8pm, Sat 10am-10pm, adults €6, concessions €4

Currywurst Museum

The currywurst is as much a part of Berlin as the Brandenburg Gate, with more than 70,000,000 curried sausages scoffed in the city every year. No surprise then that Berliners should celebrate their civic dish with a feel-good museum. Uncover the story of fast food through the ages, learn about the "currywurst war", lie back on the Sausage Sofa and discover why Volkswagen is one of Germany's largest sausage makers. Entrance is far from cheap but the souvenirs are among the best in Berlin (for non-vegetarians) and the complimentary "Currywurst in a Cup" has the tastiest, fruitiest sauce I've found anywhere in town.
• Schützenstrasse 70, +49 30 8871 8647, currywurstmuseum.de. Open daily 10am-10pm, adults €11, concessions €8.50, children €7, under-6s free

Rory MacLean's book on Berlin will be published in 2012. He writes a weekly Berlin blog for the Goethe Institut


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