Bah to Bauhaus at the Barbican
Brian Sewell, the Evening Standard’s splenetic critic, reviewed the Bauhaus exhibitionyesterday and found it ‘the perfect blend of the instructive and the entertaining’. He also described the Barbican, where the exhibition was held, as ‘ London’s most grim accumulation of bleak and brutalist buildings, opened in March thirty years ago and now looking very seedy’ but said that its gallery is ‘one of the most accommodating in Britain’. Well, Brian, I know you are used to disagreement,. so I am happy to say I disagree on every count.My heart lifts every time I go to the Barbican. I love following the meandering route to reach the pool and hanging gardens at its heart. I love the solidity of the inside of the building, the hammered concrete, the wooden block floors, the brass handrails.
But I do not find the gallery particularly easy. particularly the upper level with its small spaces and dark ceiling. And I found the Bauhaus exhibition a disappointment. This school, despite lasting for only 14 years, through one of the most turbulent periods in German history, had an enormous influence, with staff including Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Paul Klee and Moholy Nagy. But although all the names were there, one didn’t get a real impression of the influence. And it was hard to understand whether work was by students or teachers.
There wasn’t much feeling of what it was like to study there (apart from parties – there were evidently a lot of parties), and it was hard to grasp the connection between the school and the commercial work. There was no connection to the political world outside, just an accidental mention of printing ’emergency currency’ in enormous numbers.
Some parts were fun – particularly the visual material relating to the building at Dessau, including a film of ‘modern’ domestic life, and it was great to see the furniture. But fundamentally the show was dull – which surely Bauhaus never was.