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Cracow: “More than Bauhaus” exhibition

International Cultural Centre
May 08,2021 - August 01,2021
Yva (Elsa Neuländer-Simon), Beach outfit, Berlin ca. 1932. Stiftung F.C. Gundlach

May 8, 2021 August 1, 2021

Yva (Elsa Neuländer-Simon), Beach outfit, Berlin ca. 1932. Stiftung F.C. Gundlach

Yva (Elsa Neuländer-Simon), Beach outfit, Berlin ca. 1932. Stiftung F.C. Gundlach


The turbulent years of the Weimar Republic and the photographic medium on the brink of its global expansion are showcased at the exhibition More than Bauhaus. German photography between the wars and Polish parallels with which the International Cultural Centre in Krakow is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

When the post-war world was reinventing itself, photography became, next to film, a modern medium of artistic expres-sion, communication and documentation. It accompanied its era in its development, showing it from various perspectives.It underwent numerous thematic and aesthetic transformations, and supported by innovative film and printing techniques,it gained unique quality and impact. The photographic image was becoming not only as significant as the word, but, moreimportantly, it became a mass medium.

More than Bauhaus. German photography between the wars and Polish parallels is an exhibition that tells a story about anoverwhelming longing for normality and the golden years of the 1920s, when Europe could take relief from the nightmaresof war. On the other hand, it also depicts a society of the defeated, the experience of the economic crisis, and the growingtensions that helped Adolf Hitler rise to power. This story is complemented by examples of Polish photography of thatperiod, which, provoking a dialogue with German counterparts, foster comparisons, exposing differences and similaritiesbetween the two countries’ respective political and social experiences between the wars, as well as illustrates the searchfor a new language of photography. The exhibition introduces the cultural context of the interwar period but also tells astory about photography in its various dimensions: artistic, experimental, but also focused on the „here and now” – used forreportage, documentary, advertising or fashion.

The show follows in the footsteps of exhibitions on the architecture of independence in Central Europe (2018–2019) andthe Central European avant-garde (2019), presented at the ICC Gallery, which focused on the culture of countries thatemerged after the Great War in this part of the continent. – The programming of our institution focuses on the reflectionon the concept of cultural heritage and on the phenomenon of memory, which is particularly interesting in Central Europe,a region whose history in the 20th century was exceptionally turbulent. It is therefore not surprising that German art andarchitecture are on our agenda. Notably, the first exhibition at the ICC Gallery was the presentation of prints by the outstand-ing German artist Georg Baselitz (in cooperation with the International Printmaking Triennial). This event, together with thepresent exhibition, binds together the thirty years of efforts to promote the most interesting artists and cultural phenomenaof Central Europe at Rynek Główny 25 in Krakow – says Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, director of the ICC. The historical contextis also marked by the thirtieth anniversary of the ratification of the border treaty on the Oder and Neisse, which closed anextremely complicated problem in the 20th-century relations between Poland and united Germany.

The exhibition is a modified version of the Photography in the Weimar Republic (2019–2020) exhibition, presented at theLVR-LandesMuseum in Bonn, supplemented with works from Poland. German curators, inspired by Aby Warburg’s Mne-mosyne Atlas, defined fourteen leading thematic areas to show the most important events, social trends, and above all,the aesthetic tendencies and visual phenomena of that time. Nine of them: revolution and the birth of the republic, dance,portrait, fashion and photography, work, New Vision, sports, glamour and misery, and epilogue, will be shown at the ICCGallery.

The historical frame of the German part is set in the years 1919–1933, from the Weimar Republic emerging on the ruinsof the German Empire, to the dark epilogue, which announced the coming of another global conflict. The group of Polishworks involves exhibits from a later period as well, which is dictated by the universal nature of the phenomena presentedand the dynamics of the development of photography in Poland, with was different from its German counterpart. – It is akind of atlas of images that bring us closer to this period filled with contrasts. Photographs by artists such as Martin Munkácsi,Albert Renger-Patzsch, Martin Badekow, Hugo Erfurth or Lotte Jacobi are juxtaposed with Polish parallels from the interwarperiod. This additional context allows – despite seemingly different experiences – to show the universal nature of emergingtrends, but also to look at Polish-German tropes through the lens of micro-history, specific places and people. The interwarperiod is a world of images – says the Polish curator of the exhibition, Natalia Żak.

For avant-garde artists, photography embedded in everyday life, science and technology, seemed to be something morethan just a new method of creating an image – it allowed them to change the paradigm of seeing and representing reality.New Objectivity has become one of the modern trends in photographic aesthetics, postulating an objective representationof the world and the „purity” of the visual language. However, serious changes in political, social, and technological life hadtheir shadows alongside the bright sides. Changing working conditions, the economic crisis, mass unemployment, andpoverty were reflected in photography, which on the one hand acted as a medium for shaping opinions, and on the otherhand, served for political propaganda manipulation.

This multi-layered narrative is reflected in the multiplicity of photographic genres presented at the exhibition in the form ofover 300 classic prints, but also books and magazines, because they shaped the imagination of the audiences in the 1920s.Visitors will have a chance to see the work of artists such as Martin Munkácsi, a master of press photography, known fordynamic photographic compositions, August Sander, author of outstanding sociological portraits, Albert Renger-Patzsch,leading representative of New Objectivity, Yva (Else Neuländer-Simon), famous for fashion photography, Karl Blossfeld,known for his precise photographs of plants, Alfred Eisenstaedt, the father of photojournalism, and the photographerLotte Jacobi from Poznań. Polish masters are represented among others by Aleksander Krzywobłocki, an artist specializingin surrealist photography, a champion of the avant-garde Janusz Maria Brzeski, the „Leica” expert Zofia Chomętowska, amaster of portrait photography Benedykt Jerzy Dorys, the doyen of Polish pictorialism Jan Bułhak, and Henryk Poddębski,an outstanding reporter and chronicler of the Second Polish Republic.

Masterpieces of the classic authors of the German Weimar era photography will feature next to pieces by artists whosework can be a discovery for the Polish audience – such as Kurt Kranz, who is associated with the Bauhaus, or Hans Bresler– representing the phenomenon of workers’ photography, which manifests to the mass appeal and democratization ofphotography.

The exhibition comes as a result of a long-term partnership between the ICC and the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR)in Bonn, thanks to which two exhibitions were presented to the Polish audience in previous years: Hunting down Modern-ism. Prohibited Arts in the Third Reich (2011–2012) and Max Ernst. An Ornithologist’s Dreams (2016). The latter celebratedthe 25th anniversary of the ICC, while More than Bauhaus accompanies the Centre’s 30th jubilee. It is also another in aseries of exhibitions at the ICC Gallery dedicated to the art of German artists, with earlier shows such as: George Grosz.The Berlin Years (1992), Otto Dix. The Early Years (1993) and the Bauhaus 20–21. On Ongoing Legacy (2009), organisedfor the 90th anniversary of the founding of the most famous school of design, bringing together outstanding architectsand designers of the 20th century. The present show is also a part of the series of ICC exhibitions devoted to photography,including: Made in Hungary. Hungarian Photographers 1919–1956 (2000), Andreas Feininger. New York, 1940s (2010),Istanbul. Two Worlds, One City (2018), Photobloc. Central Europe in Photobooks (2019-2020).

ORGANISED BY: International Cultural Centre, LVR-LandesMuseum in Bonn, Deutsche Fotothek in Dresden, F.C.Gundlach Foundation in Hamburg

CURATORS: Lothar Altringer, Dr. Adelheid Komenda (LVR-LandesMuseum, Bonn), Dr. Jens Bove (DeutscheFotothek, Dresden), Sebastian Lux (Stiftung F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg), Natalia Żak (ICC)

ABOUT  THE VENUE: The International Cultural Centre in Krakow is a national institution of culture specialising in the issues of culture and heritage of Central Europe.The idea for the Centre was first put forward by the government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki in 1991. It was founded by its long-term director, Professor Jacek Purchla. The institution he developed has from the very beginning concentrated in its research on issues of broadly understood cultural heritage in an active dialogue with Poland’s neighbours and the world.


May 8, 2021
August 1, 2021
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