Unknown woman in tubular steel chair

Anastasia Dittmann
Portrait Nina Wiedemeyer

Ms. Wiedemeyer, 14 years of Bauhaus production and 100 years of Bauhaus reception. How can an exhibition resolve this discrepancy?

“original bauhaus” is interested in precisely this tension. The Bauhaus was first and foremost a school that developed radically new ideas for arranging and designing the environment and society. At that time, production was not the most important question. The best thing that can happen to a school is that its ideas are carried forward. And that’s exactly what happened in the case of the Bauhaus. “original bauhaus” traces these connections between idea and reception, original and reproduction.

You are putting on display more than 1,000 exhibits from the huge range of the Bauhaus archive. What did the works have to “bring to the table” to be included in the exhibition? What sparked the discussions about assembling the works?

The works all narrate something about the relationship between production and reproduction at the Bauhaus, such as Bauhaus postcards of the new school building in Dessau, which the Bauhaus members sent all over the world and made the Gropius building known. But that relationship might also be a faithful copy of Oskar Schlemmer’s famous Bauhaus staircase, which his brother Casca Schlemmer painted for the family in the 1950s. Or it could be a country house in Westphalia’s Siegerland, which resembles the Weimar Haus Am Horn like a fraternal twin and raises the question: if the architect took the Haus Am Horn as a model, why did he change it in crucial elements?

Can you tell us which forgotten Bauhaus original fascinates you the most in the context of “original bauhaus”?

There’s so much to learn from the pre-course exercises of the students at the Bauhaus, and it’s a great pleasure to look at them. We don’t just have abstract motion studies, paper folds or colour contrasts, as you might expect, but also precise animal studies in coal, form analyses of Old Masters and, for example, a Madonna’s head drawn by Gunta Stölzl, who later became known for her abstract patterned rugs. All that makes it clear how versatile the teaching was at the Bauhaus, and how much emphasis was placed on exercises, which were also in the sense of imitation, repetition and study.

The woman in the tubular steel chair is the best-known stranger of the Bauhaus and also plays a role. Who is the person behind the mask?

The woman in the tubular steel armchair has become something of a celebrity – and she has appeared in countless publications. The Bauhaus itself used a photo by Erich Consemüller to promote the school in a magazine. Even by today’s standards, that was a very good marketing strategy: by portraying a young woman in a short skirt and an enigmatic mask, Bauhaus showed both wit and chic. “original bauhaus” has put forward some suggestions on the woman who could be hiding behind the mask. And if you want to make sure, you can photograph yourself in the exhibition as a woman in a mask – so afterwards you will know exactly who the person behind the mask is!

Sitting with stage mask by Oskar Schlemmer in Marcel Breuer's tubular steel armchair, around 1926. Photo: Erich Consemüller, Bauhaus Archive Berlin
Dr. Stephan Consemüller
Sitting with stage mask by Oskar Schlemmer in Marcel Breuer's tubular steel armchair, around 1926. Photo: Erich Consemüller, Bauhaus Archive Berlin

Thank you for the interview, Ms. Wiedemeyer!

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