The 1920s were a decade of both progression and backlash. A catastrophic World War followed by a pandemic with remarkable parallels to the current coronavirus crisis awakened people’s thirst for life. At no time in the 20th century was the desire for change more intense. Cities grew at breakneck speed and new visions were created. Conventional role models in society and the family were questioned and upended; disadvantaged social groups made their voices heard in culture and politics. Improved conditions for workers went hand in hand with a growing leisure industry. The spirit of innovation fed through directly into art, with experimentation in all disciplines. Remarkably, the products of this era have lost almost none of their relevance today.
Unlike many exhibitions devoted to the 1920s, this presentation places movements such as Bauhaus, Dada, and New Objectivity, as well as design and architecture icons in dialogue, revealing the formal diversity that characterized those transformative years. Visiting Berlin, Paris, Vienna, and Zurich, the exhibition covers all the prevalent mediums of the time, from painting, sculpture, and drawing to photography, film, collage, and furniture design. The result is an illustrative spectrum of some 300 works divided into seven narrative chapters, with a number of new figures appearing alongside the more familiar names. Some contemporary artists who explicitly engage with the formal language and themes of the 1920s bridge the gap to the present day. Aside from the pandemic and the economic crisis, the 1920s share many positive features with our 2020s, and a look back into the past therefore offers some encouraging and inspiring pointers to the future.
The exhibition is a cooperation between Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Kunsthaus Zürich
Curators: Cathérine Hug y Petra Joos
Exhibition design: Calixto Bieito, Artistic Director of Bilbao’s Arriaga Theatre