Pracht und PrinzipBas van Beek
In Pracht und Prinzip the designer Bas van Beek combines the design principles of the Bauhaus (1919-1932) and the Wiener Werkstätte (1903-1932) with the collection of the Van Abbemuseum. Van Beek sees the Bauhaus school, with its total commitment to the industrially manufactured product, and the Wiener Werkstätte with its more frivolous, more craftsmanlike and smaller scale approach, as the cradle of contemporary design. He redesigned the series of designs and patterns of the two schools – some of which had never been executed – and adapted them when it was necessary. He then combined these with works from the museum’s collection, such as those of Donald Judd and François Morellet. He used the results with different products, such as wallpaper, a carpet, clothes and a wooden jigsaw puzzle. Although the designs are more than a hundred years old, dating from about 1910, they are still surprisingly up to date, particularly now that they have been placed in the context of a contemporary museum.
The designs of Pracht und Prinzip can be seen in different places in the new building of the Van Abbemuseum from 24 September. They are also part of the programme of the Dutch Design Week (22 - 30 October).
Wallpaper and capes
The long wall in the passageway between the museum café and the museum is wallpapered with a Wiener Werkstätte pattern dating from 1914 in which visitors can discover miniature versions of the work Untitled (1961-1969) by Donald Judd in the Van Abbe collection. Judd’s actual works will be placed on top of this.
The walls of two galleries on the ground floor will also be wallpapered. The Cubist paintings by Picasso, Braque and Delaunay will have to hold their own against a background of the exuberantly playful Wiener Werkstätte iconography from the same period. Angular South European shapes versus frivolous Germanic patterns; it seems paradoxical. A wall in another gallery will be papered with a motif in which Van Beek adapted patterns of clothing from The Sound of Music and combined them with a work from the collection Album de 10 séregraphies sur 10 ans, Plura Edizioni, Milano (1952-61) by Morellet.
In addition there are special capes, with the same patterns as Van Beeks’ design for wallpaper, which visitors can try on - blend in with the wallpaper!
On the ground floor there is a carpet based on a Bauhaus design by the textile artist Benita Koch-Otte. There is a wooden jigsaw puzzle based on drawings from Wiener Werkstätte designer Midi Pranke. In 1920 she created a series of five jigsaw puzzle designs based on various fairy tales.
There is a special object on the first floor: a piece of furniture which Van Beek discovered in a darkroom in the famous Berghain nightclub in Berlin. This was given a makeover along the lines of the famous slatted chair (1922-24), by Marcel Breuers, considered to be one of the most important Bauhaus products.
On the second floor there will be mannequins wearing fabrics inspired by inspired by various Wiener Werkstätte designs dating from the 1920s. There’s also a reproduction of a model of the Temple of Light. This is made based on a photo of the original ceramic model dating from 1920/21 by Bauhaus architect Otto Lindig and the ceramicist Theodor Bogler.
Charles Esche, the director of the Van Abbemuseum, commented: “Using wallpaper as a background for modern art is a way to break the protocol of the white cube. In this way you also begin to see the works of art differently. They are no longer isolated autonomous creations and it creates a different atmosphere for the reception of a group of artworks.”
Bas van Beek
In his work Bas van Beek (born Nijmegen, 1974) criticizes market mechanisms, branding, impoverished conceptualism and uncritical designer cults. He often referred back to product designs from the past, and books and objects from the archives are an important source of inspiration for him.