The main problem with the Bauhaus was that Gropius’ Social Idealism was almost fatally compromised by German patriarchalism, the Kinder, Kirche, and Kuche syndrome. Gropius’ 30 percent quota on women students, to neutralize his fear that the Duke’s old art schools would overwhelm his pristine plans for the Staetliche Bauhaus. And the ladies could only enter ladylike pastimes such as weaving.
No architects to be need apply! With supreme irony, as the architectural reputation of the Bauhaus sinks yearly deeper and deeper into the septic tank of scorn, those weavers (think Gunta Stoezl and Anni Albers) are now being finally hailed as the artists for the ages they always really were. Just last month the new female head of the Berlin Bauhaus Archiv, the Swiss miss Dr. Anni Ogghi, opened her first exhibition on the recently repossessed Afrika Stuhl, a Marcel Breuer/Gunta Stoezl collaboration of 1921, the first masterpiece of the Bauhaus, so to speak.
Now two bright young freshly minted Ph.D.’s in art history, Ute Maasberg and Regina Prinz, have pounded the final nail in the coffin of German patriarchalism with a brilliant show at the Klee/Kandinsky MeisterHaus in Dessau, “Die Neuen Kommen!: Weibliche Avantgarde in der Architektur der zwangziger Jahre”(Junius, 2004), 29 women who were carrying the load of creativity anonymously.
It wasn’t just Mies exploiting Lillian Reich or Corbu occluding the reputation of his “lady helpers or Moholy-Nagy implying that Luci was just a photographer. The Party’s over, for good now. It reminds me that Folkwang/Essen almost ten years ago assembled a galaxy of female 1920 photographers (all a girl needed to break free from the KKK Krowd was a Leica and a big heart).I knew only three of the 53 so celebrated—and I study photography a lot! So shamefully distorted has our patriarchal art history been.
If you want to see how prescient a Urfeminist like Dr. Marie-Elisabeth Lueders was about Mies, catch her 1927 “Form” essay about his Weissenhof warehouse, in which she posits how a mother with children should react to his Platonic joke of a domicile. (It’s reprinted in the Weimar Republic Reader, University of California Press). It took til December, 2003 for the Federal Republic of Germany to finally honor her by naming its new Bundestag Library, beautifully deployed along the Spree, after her.
She was the first Ph.D. in Politics at the University of Berlin (1905), she directed woman’s work and child abuse programs during the First World War, was elected to the Weimar Parlement, until Hitler gave her a Beruf Verbot (and jailed her twice, to boot), whereupon she ran a woman’s academy in Dusseldorf. Her memoirs are entitled “Never Fear!” What a lady. What a politician. What a visionary.
In this tradition Drs. Maasberg and Prinz are the newest, proudest arrivals. And Dr. Omar Akbar once again proves he’s the only Bauhaus leader now who really comprehends what Gropius meant by fusing art and technology to make better things for lesser people.