Exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents over 800 Bauhaus objects

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Exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents over 800 Bauhaus objects
Installation view. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn.

ROTTERDAM.- ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus’, with over 800 Bauhaus objects, opens this weekend. It is the final major exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen before its renovation. On the opening day – Saturday, February 9 – admission to the museum is free for everyone.

Prior to the large-scale renovation of the museum building in Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is staging one last major exhibition in the 1500-square-metre space of the Bodon Gallery. In 2019 it is the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus, the legendary art and design school that still has a palpable influence on contemporary design and architecture. ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus – pioneers of a new world’ offers a unique insight into the inspiring interaction between the Netherlands and the Bauhaus. It lays bare the ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus’ network in a large-scale survey, with over 800 objects and works of art. The exhibition is accompanied by a volume of 20 essays about the ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus’ connections and an interactive digital tour. Bauhaus-related events are also being staged throughout Rotterdam. The exhibition will be opened by Said Kasmi, the City of Rotterdam’s Alderman for Culture, on the evening of Friday, 8 February. This is followed by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s open day on Saturday, 9 February, when besides ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus’, the exhibitions ‘When the Shutters Close: Highlights from the Collection’ and ‘Co Westerik: Everyday Wonder’ can be visited for free.

Mienke Simon Thomas, Curator of Applied Art and Design: “This exhibition about the influence of the Bauhaus is a great fit with Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and with Rotterdam: it exudes ambition, underscores the importance of cooperation and is distinctly colourful.”

The exhibition
Through works of art, furniture, ceramics, textiles, photographs, typography and architecture, ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus – pioneers of a new world’ reveals the influence of the Bauhaus in the Netherlands, and vice-versa. The school, which was established by Walter Gropius in 1919, immediately set itself apart with its urge for innovation, idealism, ambitions and creativity. Artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, László Moholy-Nagy and Oscar Schlemmer were members of the teaching staff, but Dutch pioneers such as Theo van Doesburg, J.J.P. Oud, Mart Stam, Paul Citroen and Piet Zwart contributed to the character of the Bauhaus as well. The Bauhaus was predicated on the ideal of bringing attractive and functional design within everyone’s reach. The radical formal idiom and innovative production techniques that came with this philosophy are still highly influential today. The Bauhaus body of thought was disseminated via a network of people, exhibitions, journals, conferences, education and workshops – not just in Germany but in the Netherlands as well, especially after the closure of the Bauhaus in 1933. An interactive tour of ‘netherlands ⇄ bauhaus’ is available on small tablets, so that visitors can discover the network of connections behind the exhibition.

Curator Mienke Simon Thomas: “It is incredible how effectively and swiftly these architects and artists of the 1920s and ’30s managed to keep in touch with each other without email or social media, without radio or television, and usually even without telephone.”

Bauhaus in Rotterdam
In the 1920s, Rotterdam was the most important city for the Nieuwe Bouwen style (the Dutch take on the International Style), and the city where modernism featured most prominently in its architecture and design. Social housing projects by Rotterdam’s City Architect J.J.P. Oud caught the attention of many German architects, including Walter Gropius. Cees van der Leeuw, director of the Van Nelle Factory, also became friends with the founder of the Bauhaus. Marcel Breuer, a former Bauhaus tutor, designed the Rotterdam branch of De Bijenkorf department store in 1957, a building that is emblematic of the city’s post-war reconstruction.

On a series of Sundays in March and April, a short lecture and guided tour of six exceptional architectural locations, including the Kiefhoek housing estate, the Parklaan apartments and the Sonneveld House city villa, serve to illustrate the relationship between Rotterdam and the Bauhaus. A shuttle bus will ride between the Museumpark and the Van Nelle Factory. The performing arts are represented by Scapino Ballet, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and others, in a collaborative fringe programme that includes mini lectures in the galleries, Bauhaus music and theatre, performances and workshops.

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