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"The African Chair: Marcel Breuer and Gunta Stölzl with Works by Bauhaus Artists"
2004-06-15 until 2004-10-24
Bauhaus Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung
A work from the early years of the Bauhaus, presumed lost for the past 80 years, has been recovered: the African Chair, created by Marcel Breuer in collaboration with the weaver Gunta Stölzl. The only previously known documentation of this throne-like piece of furniture was a contemporary black-and-white photograph. Made of painted wood with a colourful textile weave, this chair embodies the spirit of the early Bauhaus like no other object. It is the first work by Marcel Breuer, who later went on to write design history with his tubular steel furniture. With the support of the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, it was possible to secure this legendary and unique work for the collection of the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin.
Even today, the colourfully painted and upholstered oak chair evokes visual associations that are linked to its title; however, this provides no information about the original purpose of the chair. A wide range of hypothetical uses at the time of its inception are possible: the chair could have served as a 'throne' for the Bauhaus director, who defined his role as master of a building lodge in accordance with the self-image of the early Bauhaus. The throne-like construction could also refer to the understanding of architecture as the mother of all arts in classical architectural theory, with the architect as leader and organiser - a role with which Walter Gropius identified all of his life. Equally conceivable is the interpretation of this piece of furniture as a symbolic wedding chair, giving expression to the close relationship between Marcel Breuer and Gunta Stölzl at the time. All of these attempted explanations are filtered from the many ideas and theories that were circulating simultaneously in the early years of the Bauhaus; neither then nor later were any specific comments made regarding the chair. With the emergence of the Bauhaus maxim Art and Technology - A New Unity beginning in 1923, it became a symbol for an era of Bauhaus history that had come to an end. Accordingly, it is a peerless physical manifestation of the complex conceptual universe of the early Bauhaus.
The Bauhaus Archive is presenting this chair within the context of additional works from the early Bauhaus which emphasise its unique significance. The exhibition also includes a representation of Marcel Breuer's Bauhaus Film, which was published in 1926 and attempts to demonstrate the development of furniture design at the Bauhaus - from the African Chair to tubular steel furniture.