Contemporary Artists Interpret the Bauhaus Lamp
THE WALTER SCHNEPEL COLLECTION
Curateur: Florin Ștefan
20.06 – 12.08.2019
The objects in the exhibition look familiar to the unaware viewer, and the shape which unites them all is indeed one that has entered popular iconography almost a century ago, even though its history may not be familiar to everyone. In time, it has become part of the collective imaginary. But while the underlying shape and the way it explores the circle in three embodiments, as a disk, a cylinder and a sphere, is indeed familiar, there is much more to see in each one of the artworks (or objects) on view: BIC pens, glass Mickey Mouse ears, interwoven rattan, a vintage tape player, an intricate embroidery-like structure, butterflies, various colors, words that may or may not make up sentences, a hat and many other items.
The history of this exhibition parallels the history of European culture and the rebellion of the industrial aesthetic against excessive decoration, and with it the search for streamlined and functional design.
In 1924, a man called Wilhelm Wagenfeld started working in a Bauhaus workshop in Weimar where he received a simple assignment from Laszlo Moholy-Nagy: to design a lamp. The result was the object known today simply as “the Bauhaus lamp” and which has become more than any other the embodiment of Bauhaus designs as defined by Gropius. The aesthetic of the lamp is directly connected the philosophy which re-thought every day items from a minimalist, functional perspective and eliminated all redundant details; in time, it also became a symbol of good taste and a collectible. It is ironic that the Bauhaus lamp which, like other Bauhaus objects, was programmatically intended to look industrial, and also to be industrially produced, turned out to be both too expensive to be mass produced as well as too revolutionary in terms of design to actually become popular.
When Walter Schnepel associated with Wagenfeld to re-issue the Bauhaus lamp in 1980, he also looked for a way to re-define the iconic form and anchor it in contemporary culture in a different way than as a historical artifact which was still relevant but had to be respected as such. Instead, he chose to initiate a chain reaction, inspired perhaps by his collection of Fluxus art: a performance event which gave the historical object a new and different lease on life by going against its intended function as an industrial product. He understood that any iconic object lives on as long as it is the subject to interpretations and, ultimately, debate, and decided to offer it to artists to alter it as they saw fit.
By the contribution of artists such as Jochen Fischer, Christian Gürtler, Richard Hamilton. Alison Knowles, Christiane Möbus, Aldo Mondino, Paul Renner and Florin Ştefan, the new Bauhaus lamps on view live now at the intersection of two worlds: one where the purity of form still exists and another one, where they are the first layer of a palimpsest, a metaphor of living history and of individuality.
About Walter Schnepel
Walter Schnepel has been collecting since the 1960s and during the years has amassed a significant body of Fluxus art (Joseph Beuys, Daniel Spoerri, Wulf Vostell, Arthur Köpcke, Takako Saito, Nam Jun Paik and many others). The collection which includes over 2,000 items has been exhibited in museums (most recently at the Ludwig Museum in 2017.
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