The Dream of Art and Life:
Utopia Matters at the Deutsche Guggenheim
The 50th exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim is dedicated to a central theme in the history of modern art—utopia as an inspiration for artistic creation and as a living model for artist collectives. But "Utopian Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus" is more than just a retrospective show. Exceptional works by artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, and Mondrian are supplemented by contemporary works of art.
||Back in the early 19th century, brotherhoods arose that were dedicated to the ideal of collective work; groups withdrew into artists’ colonies. These utopian movements had their heyday in the late 19th century, when an increasing number of artists, architects, and applied artists sought an alternative to the galloping developments of industrialization and the hectic pace of the city. Conversely, after the First World War, the avant-garde pursued the goal of an ideal harmony embodied in abstraction; these artists believed in the possibility of social renewal through art and design.
For a younger generation of artists and designers this vision of a social reform achieved through fine and applied arts is also highly relevant. For this reason, the current exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim, Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus, is accompanied by the Youtopic workshop. Together with professors Hans Höger and Dominik Harborth and designer Alin Köhler, students have developed interactive objects with which visitors to the exhibition can experiment. In addition, Chinese artist Cao Fei has created a multi-media installation for the Deutsche Guggenheim, andnd Luca Buvoli has installed a banner on the façade of the exhibition hall that combines the dynamism of the early avant-garde movements like Futurism and Constructivism with Buvoli’s love of flying. In its juxtaposition of current and historical works, the show opens up new perspectives for regarding the art movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Utopia Matters introduces a selection of international artist communities. The show, organized by Vivien Greene, curator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, spans the time between 1800 and 1933—the year the Bauhaus was closed and the National Socialists put an end to this pioneering project. A large number of rarely shown works demonstrate the development of utopian ideas in modern western art: the worlds of the Nazarenes and the Pre-Raphaelites, imbued with religiosity and medieval myth, are juxtaposed with the ornamental designs of the Arts and Crafts movement surrounding William Morris, works heavily influenced by socialist theory. The light-filled landscapes of the Neo-Impressionists are set against the reduced abstractions of De Stijl and Bauhaus, represented by masters like Mondrian, Kandinsky, and Albers. Vivien Greene has chosen works that correspond with one another across temporal distances and national borders. The exhibition visualizes how artists using the same medium arrived at very different results. In addition, the exhibition underscores the value of design and handicraft.
Utopia Matters provides an immediate experience of what an important role the social aspects of art, architecture, and design have played for modernism and its precursors. At the same time, the exhibition encourages us to view artistic utopias not only as historical legacy, but as an idea that should be continuously redeveloped and redefined.
Utopia Matters: From Brotherhoods to Bauhaus
January 23–April 11, 2010