bbo Blog The Organisers of Life
By  Beata Bochińska

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.

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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.

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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.


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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!