Does the Bauhaus belong in the Museum?
The historic Bauhaus Collection
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Weimar has been collecting “Bauhaus” since 1919. The first object that the “Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen” (“State Art Collections”) recorded for the school in the Bauhaus’ founding year was the Bauhaus journal “Der Austausch” (“The Exchange”). The student representatives presented it to the new museum director Wilhelm Kohler who included it in the museum’s collection and even took out a subscription for the library. He was very interested in the art of modernism and tried to get the Weimar public interested too. The Bauhaus was thus a multiplier.
When the Bauhaus had to leave Weimar in 1925, the museum director Wilhelm Kohler suggested transferring Bauhaus objects to the art collections. What is more, printed materials and photographs were to be preserved in a ‘Bauhaus archive’ within the art collections and were to be made accessible ‘to all enquiries and investigations … on the internal history of the Bauhaus’. A critical view of the Bauhaus had already been planned for when the collection was started, as Kohler wanted to safeguard both accomplishments as well as examples of the ‘aberrations of the workshops and the management’.
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Together Walter Gropius and Kohler chose around 170 works from the workshops for the museum. Thus they also determined what kind of image of the Bauhaus in Weimar would be conveyed to posterity. The thus established collection is the oldest museum collection that was also authorised by Gropius. While the Third Reich’s Imperial Chamber of Fine Arts confiscated works, amongst others, by Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Gerhard Marcks in 1937, the collection survived the period of the ‘Third Reich’ almost without any losses. Unopened and hidden away in a side room of the city palace, it was only inventoried in the 1950s. It survived in its entirety and is now being presented as the museum’s centrepiece. Thus Gropius clearly answers the question if the Bauhaus belongs in the museum in the affirmative.
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