Kunsthalle Bielefeld

Partners in Design

25 Mar - 23 Jul 2017

Josef Hartwig, Schachspiel, Modell Nr. XVI, 1924
Birnbaumholz, unbehandelt und gebeizt, Produziert vom Bauhaus, Weimar, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, geschenkt von Alfred H. Barr Jr.
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
© 2017. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florenz
Partners in Design
25 March – 23 July 2017

Curator and catalogue editor: David A. Hanks, Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design

From March 25 through July 23, 2017, the Kunsthalle Bielefeld will show the exhibition Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson. Bauhaus Pioneers in America. The show was developed in cooperation with the Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It focuses on the effective collaboration and friendship between Alfred H. Barr Jr., the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), and Philip Johnson, the first curator of architecture at the MoMA, and examines their shared role as the most influential proponents of the Bauhaus in America.

The idea behind this show is that the Bauhaus in Dessau was the basis for Alfred Barr’s vision, as well as his role model in the conception and founding of the MoMA in 1929. The main evidence of this is the fact that, from the start, the MoMA had a department of architecture and design that was on an equal footing with the fine arts. Besides exhibitions of modern art, the MoMA presented two groundbreaking shows in its early years: Modern Architecture (1932) and Machine Art (1934). Philip Johnson curated these two exhibitions in close collaboration with Alfred Barr. After closing at the MoMA, both shows traveled to many other stations in the United States, as did the next exhibition Useful Objects. The goal, which could almost be called a mission, was to help make the citizens of the United States conscious of good, modern design.

In 2018 the Kunsthalle Bielefeld will look back on its fifty years’ of existence. The Kunsthalle Bielefeld opened just twelve days after Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie, on September 27, 1968. From the moment it was commissioned, Philip Johnson intended for it to be a contemporary piece of architecture housing a museum for modern art (unlike the Neue Nationalgalerie). It is Johnson’s only museum in Europe and one of Germany’s earliest examples of modern museum architecture. So it made sense to bring the exhibition Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson to Bielefeld. Preceding the Kunsthalle Bielefeld’s anniversary in 2018—and keeping in mind the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the Bauhaus in 2019—this exhibition and its catalogue make an important contribution to the introduction of Philip Johnson as a trailblazing curator, as well as to the process of raising awareness of how the Bauhaus spread modernist architecture and design.

Giulia Foscari of UNA designed the exhibition Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. und Philip Johnson. Bauhaus Pioneers in America for the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in cooperation with Hannah Demmin, Barbara Materia and Daniel Springer. In cooperation with the Kunsthalle, she has integrated into the show other works from the Kunsthalle Bielefeld’s collection, by artists such as Anni Albers, Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and László Moholy-Nagy.

Tags: Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Philip Johnson, Alfred H. Barr Jr., Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee