The Organisers of Life
Exhibition: The Organisers of Life. De Stijl, the Polish Avant-garde and Design.
Curators: Paulina Kurc-Maj, Anna Saciuk-Gąsowska
Catalogue: The Organisers of Life. De Stijl, the Polish Avant-garde and Design.
Exhibition is open till 25 February 2018.
Rietveld’s armchairs, reconstruction of Mondrian’s atelier, a model/design of Kobro’s preschool, Strzemiński’s armchair, Lachert’s desk, hundreds of drawings, interior magazines and an excellent film about the cooperation between architect and investor – all that and much more on an amazing exhibition in Łódź. A must-see. Avant-garde rules!
I am opening one of the Dorotheum’s (an auction house from Vienna) catalogues and looking a tan armchair that, just two days earlier, I had a chance to see up close in Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź. Before that, to see it, I would have to fly to New York to visit the Hewitt Cooper Museum. Well, a costly adventure – today available on the spot.
The famous red and blue armchair from 1918, designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, was bid for almost 128 thousand Euro in 2008. One armchair for the price of an apartment! Worldwide-known design icon nourishes our imagination. There are no delusions – that is the ancestor of later design icons. For years unappreciated, niche objects, before they reached the museum pedestals, have cleared the way for modern thinking about egalitarian art – art available to us all. Modern, simple, lacking historicising ornament and responding to lifestyle changes that took place in Europe at the beginning of 20th century.
In the very same museum hall, there are Władysław Strzemińki’s armchairs, Lachert’s desk. Next to them – a preschool design by Katarzyna Kobro (that will soon be realised in Łódź). And that’s what the exhibition is about. About putting together and showing that in different countries with different levels of civilisational advancement, there are similar art movements developing – ones that later influence the way how we perceive the reality.
A great infographic show how usual, personal contacts between individual artists have influenced information flow, common thinking and development of ideas. How in two different countries – Poland and the Netherlands, of different civilisational levels and in various ways people have reached the very same conviction that art and its message should have an impact on our surroundings. Artists had no doubts that art enriches, raises awareness, but also helps organise life that at the beginning of 20th century was getting more and more complicated.
The message of the Avant-garde was supposed to make life easier and more available for the inhabitants of developing cities. At the beginning there were manifestos, declarations, articles and knowledge promulgation on paper. Then houses, everyday objects, fonts and graphic design started to appear…
Objects bewildering and more signs in the space than comfortable and usable furniture have provoked hundreds of following designers and next generations for the development and gave an impulse to create the modern aesthetics of our houses.
Understanding the design of 50s and 60s is, in my opinion, impossible without understanding the avant-garde movements of the 20s and 30s. Those were the years that were the beginning of modernity – that’s the example that nothing comes from vacuum. There’s always something growing out of something else, even the opposition of what already was there.
Beautiful lamps, benches, armchairs, even a weaving machine, designed in the simple, minimalist style gives us an outlook of how our grandparents have imagined the modernity. And what’s most important, we can see that their beliefs, in many cases, have turned out to be correct.
What interested me most on the exhibition was the film that showed all errors and failures of Rietveld, who had the chance to meet a great and aware investor, that agreed to realise and finance his design of a modern house. Failures, experiments and changes give the opportunity for development and there’s nothing to be scared of – they’re the natural course of events. That film should be seen by all beginner designers and collectors to understand the process of reaching the final and widely accepted solutions.
It’s only that ideas have to break through generations before they become the canon.
I can highly recommend the exhibition that is only open up till the end of February in Łódź. And be sure to go to the second floor, where in the neoplasticism room, there’re even more objects by Kobro, Strzemiński and Stażewski. The exhibition is accompanied by a brilliant catalogue with texts written by the artists and very abundant photographical documentation.
My deepest congratulations for the curators and authors of the exhibition and the catalogue. That’s a world-class exhibition!