Interview with Lydia Yee, co-curator of Bauhaus: Art as Life at the Barbican Art Gallery
The biggest Bauhaus exhibition in the UK in over 40 years presents the modern world’s most famous art school. From expressionist beginnings to a pioneering model uniting art and technology, this London exhibition presents the Bauhaus’ utopian vision to change society in the aftermath of the First World War. Bauhaus: Art as Life explores the diverse artistic production that made up its turbulent fourteen-year history and delves into the subjects at the heart of the school: art, culture, life, politics and society, and the changing technology of the age.
Curator Lydia Yee chatted to The Upcoming about the challenges and triumphs of staging the exhibition.
It’s the biggest Bauhaus exhibition in the UK for over 40 years. Why now?
The climate is right to look at this again. Today, there’s a new interest in abstraction and the important central role that the Bauhaus art school played in society.
What’s special about the Bauhaus?
They had an amazing collection of teachers and it was a very important time in the German history of World War I, creating a new vision of art.
Which personalities really shine out?
Walter Gropius, the founder of the school was key in getting together the teachers and keeping together this diverse group of personalities. He also kept strong the school’s concepts of experimentation and play.
Looking around the buildings in London, can you see the Bauhaus effect on any of them?
There’s a strong influence on the aesthetic, the clean lines, primary colours and the box-like windows. They introduced clarity into everyday needs.
What do you think people who have never heard of the Bauhaus will take away from the exhibition?
I think people will be surprised to see very familiar shapes and pieces of furniture that they would see in Conran shops and other designer shops. Also in the way people dressed, the Bauhaus artists were ahead of their time. The women had the most amazing haircuts!
If you had to describe the Bauhaus art movement to an alien, how would you do this?
It was a school that promoted innovative ways of thinking. It pushed students to use different materials and art forms.
Did you find this was a difficult show to curate?
There was such a wealth of objects. It was a challenge to have the great iconic pieces with the new discoveries and items that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the Bauhaus. I could have organised five other shows, we were really spoilt for choice.
Do think this exhibition will open people’s eyes to the German art school?
Definitely. In another seven years it will be the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus. It’s a period rife for re-interpretation.
Bauhaus: Art as Life will be on at the Barbican Art Gallery from 3 May 2012-12 August 2012.